Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday has told Vincentians in New York that St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is “headed in the wrong direction” and outlined his New Democratic Party’s (NDP) plans to turn things around.
He told the NDP’s “Hope for Home” town hall meeting in Brooklyn that the plan includes members of the Vincentian diaspora.
He said the NDP needs the help of the Vincentian diaspora to transform the country and make it more prosperous and a better place for every Vincentian to live.
“We need your intellect; we need your training; we need your skills, you experience to make every aspect of our economy and society work better,” he said.
The opposition leader said he knows that many New York-based Vincentians yearn for the opportunity to take what they have earned and learned in the United States back to SVG and put it to work for the country and themselves.
“I want to make that happen. But we must do it, not in an ad hoc manner but in a systematic way that gives the widest scope for harnessing that which you have to offer and applying it effectively in the cause of national development,” said Friday, who lived in Canada for years before returning to SVG to get involved in politics two decades ago.
“In other words, a structure must be put in place to make it work. We will work on that in collaboration with you in our diaspora.”
He said the NDP would explore ways that the New York diaspora can aid businesses in SVG to gain access to markets in New York and other parts of the United States.
“I urge you to continue to support your families and communities and your favourite project in SVG. The things you send home go a long way in making lives better in our country. Really, thank you very much for your generosity,” the opposition leader said.
He said that SVG faces many challenges in addition to the ones he outlined to the audience at the first of two town hall meetings, the second of which takes place in Toronto on Sunday.
“There are challenges, but there is also hope,” Friday said, adding that the NDP has a plan “to deliver progress and a brighter future for SVG.
“This plan will create new jobs, raise wages and the standard of living, provide safer communities, provide better roads, ensure a healthcare system that we can trust, and build an economy that provides opportunity for all Vincentians, no matter their background or politics,” he said.
He said that the NDP is rooted in the fundamental value of creating a country that is safe for everyone to live in, without fear of walking the streets or sending their children out to school or to play.
“We believe in a country where all young persons have the skills and opportunity to thrive in SVG, rather than having to leave in search of work abroad because there are no opportunities in SVG.
“We believe in and will create an economy that will provide opportunity for all so that everyone has a fair chance to succeed and improve their standard of living,” Friday said.
“We believe in and will create a healthcare system that we can trust to enhance the wellbeing of our people, that takes special care of our elderly and that helps those who need support. Build more care facilities and provide more care workers.
“We believe that our economic development and general progress require sound infrastructure—roads, bridges, seaports, airports, public buildings—and, so, we will invest wisely and effectively in our country’s infrastructure.”
Friday spoke of the challenges that SVG faces, telling his audience, “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a wonderful country. We all know that. However, we are headed in the wrong direction.”
Among the challenges, he mentioned unemployment, which he said is higher than when the Unity Labour Party came to office in March 2001.
“Over 20 % of the workforce do not have jobs. This is among the highest unemployment in the OECS. And it is much worse for young people, who too often are forced to leave SVG to find work abroad,” the opposition leader said.
He said low and stagnant wages offer little hope that the nation’s youth can build a future and improve the quality of their lives.
“Crime has spiralled out of control, causing fear and frustration among our people, and at times touching those close to us. It happened to me earlier this year,” Friday said, referring to his cousin, who was murdered in their community of Bequia in January.
He said the healthcare system in SVG is in a state of disrepair, broken down so much that many of our people are afraid to use it and do not trust it.
“And this is not the fault of the doctors and the nurses. They can only work with what they have.”
The nation’s roads, bridges, jetties are in bad shape. “The roads, quite frankly, have become obstacle courses that you have to try to negotiate to avoid damaging your car or killing somebody, if you are driving. “
Despite promises at the November 2020 election, the ULP government has failed to make any real progress on delivering jobs, improving wages, or tackling crime, Friday further said.
He said the government lacks the energy and initiative and that their new promises are not believable and, quite frankly, should not be believed.
“Over two decades of power has given rise to complacency and arrogance, and they are no longer in touch with the real needs and concerns of ordinary people. They have simply been there too long! They feel safe and secure in their ivory tower and they drive through the streets and traffic parts like the Red Sea. And they simply do not feel what the ordinary person feels.”
He said SVG cannot afford “to stall” anymore or to drift any further, which is what another term of ULP government would bring.
“Our country cannot afford that. This is not about ambition for me. This is about the future of our country.”
Friday said he and his colleagues in the NDP are doing their best to ensure that the UL:P does not win another ten in office.
“… that change will come and with it, renewed hope for a better future for our people.”
He said the NDP has set out five priorities for a brighter future in SVG. They are: create more and better paying jobs; rebuild an economy that provides opportunity for all; make our communities and country safe from crime; ensure reliable and affordable healthcare we can trust; and improve our roads and infrastructure.