ON Friday, November 28, 2014, the Saint Lucia Labour Party celebrated three years in office. Whereas election anniversaries went unnoticed during the 2006-2011 period even by those who were in office at the time, one cannot help but reflect on the anniversary of positive change in Saint Lucia under Labour.
Three years ago, Saint Lucians decided to replace selfish and corrupt governance with people-centred, accountable and transparent governance. Having experienced the almost daily embarrassment brought upon Saint Lucia by the United Workers Party, the population decided the country would be better with Labour. The people were of the view they needed a government which was focussed on the people rather than on avoiding explosions within those charged with the responsibility of leading our nation. The people became satisfied that in order for this country to be rescued, sound, tested and proven leadership was the way to go. And so they returned to Labour which had so well represented them between 1997 and 2006.
Considering the disaster which passed for governance between 2006 and 2011, perhaps anything would be considered an improvement. But Labour is never about settling for the ordinary. Labour is about solid achievement and promises kept.
During the 2011 campaign, the SLP promised to return STEP and to establish an employment initiative to help citizens weather the difficult economic tides. Three years later the people of Saint Lucia can celebrate these as achievements. Prime Minister Anthony wasted no time in making good on his campaign promise and even before a Cabinet was constituted it was announced the Short Term Employment Programme would return in time for Christmas 2011. A prospective gloomy Christmas under UWP was immediately transformed into a brighter tomorrow under Labour. Today, even as there is still room for improvement, our communities are cleaner and many who had no hope before now have a means through which their bills could be paid, their children could be taken of and their dignity had been restored.
Then there is the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE), a success story if ever there was one. To date, nearly 4,800 people have been directly employed under this programme. And what about the elderly who have toiled selflessly to develop this country, but were left to survive under unsanitary conditions? The UWP certainly didn’t care about them and it took a government of compassion, a Labour government, to say thank you! Our elderly now have the benefit of being cared for by trained individuals who bathe them, cook for them, clean their homes and administer their medication. Importantly, the NICE workers provide much needed company for our elderly at a time when they would otherwise be left to their own devises, all alone.
Today, thanks to the NICE programme, there are citizens attending to and maintaining previously neglected playing fields. There are those who are employed at our schools and other government offices. These formerly forgotten people are now empowered and making solid contributions to their country’s development. These employees who previously did not know where their next meal was coming from have renamed NICE “Now I Can Eat”.
To date, the Government has spent $47.0 million of the promised $100 million to create jobs. There is another 453.0 million to go.
As if all this was not enough, earlier this year another employment initiative to train and place young people in non-utility jobs in the Cruise Ship sector, was introduced. The response has been overwhelming with former Caribbean Hotel Association president, Independent Senator BerthiaParle, calling it a tremendous initiative which will redound to the befit of Saint Lucia’s tourism industry.
“Grant funds belong to all the people of Saint Lucia and not a select few!” were the words of the Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, Dr Kenny D. Anthony, at a public meeting in the village of Anse la Raye on November 6, 2011. The then Leader of the Opposition promised once elected to immediately regulate how the Taiwanese funds were received and used by the Government. Under the former UWP regime, secrecy was the order of the day and contrary to our financial regulations, that money never made it to the Consolidated Fund. Kenny D. Anthony promised to reverse the trend of stealth in government spending and pledged to ensure all grant funds were properly accounted for. Kenny and Labour kept their word and every cheque handed to the Prime Minister is promptly and publicly given to the Accountant General in fulfilment of the country’s finance laws.
Today, 239 projects around the island, in every single constituency whether government or opposition represented, bear testimony to Labour’s belief that more and better could have been done for the people of Saint Lucia, if there was transparency and accountability in the handling of the Taiwanese funds by the UWP. We can only begin to imagine how better positioned Saint Lucia would have been if the UWP, between 2006 and 2011, had followed Labour’s principled position since 2011.
Labour said too, that Post Tomas rehabilitation would commence immediately. Not even the UWP, with its head buried in the sand, can deny or dispute this government’s record in Infrastructure. This is one instance where the Creole adage “hayichyen di dan’yblan” truly applies. Even the government’s greatest detractors have to admit that Labour’s three year record in infrastructure has surpassed the five years of UWP. Sixteen bridges have been built since 2011. The Soufriere, Bonne Terre, Bois d’Orange, Dubonaire, Grande Riviere (Dennery Valley), Rounaire, De Mailley, Aupicon, Derriere Morne, Mocha, Cresslands, Ravine Claire, Deville, Fond Assau, Canaries and Piaye bridges are testimony to Labour’s commitment to improving Saint Lucia’s infrastructure.
Our communities are connected once again and our roads are safer. The Barred’Isle is brand new and the “balconies” are no more. The roads in the city of Castries have never been in a better condition and Vieux Fort can boast of a brand new Clarke Street and Vieux Fort/Laborie Highway. Labour has delivered the people of Fiette, Morne Jacque, Balcar and Daban from the horrors of unsafe and terrible road conditions. Above all, integrity has been restored to the bidding process and the procedures for granting contracts. Quality and honesty are at the centre of the operations of the Ministry of Infrastructure. A ministry which previously was considered a den of iniquity has been transformed into a beacon of achievement. That is worthy of celebration!
Building on its history of “Education for All”, the Saint Lucia Labour Party has delivered on its promise to provide laptops to all students in Form Four. Another promise kept was to make available financial assistance of $500.00 to all students transitioning from Grade Six to Form one. Moreover, four schools have benefited from renovations whilst an additional four are currently being refurbished. Three years into a Labour government, the education sector has been transformed beyond the recognition of the former government. No wonder no one remembers who preceded Robert Lewis as education minister!
Labour, with reduced sums, has been able to achieve in three years what Allen Chastanet with massive allocations could not do in five years. Under Labour tourism arrivals have broken records in successive years and Saint Lucia is at present experiencing its highest visitor arrivals ever and record visitor spending in 2013. All of this was achieved without the minister incurring $100,000.00 monthly telephone bills, $1,000,000.00 salaries to tourism consultants who did not deliver and without having to pay $2,300,000.00 to rent a tent for three days. Tourism has a minister who recognizes the treasury is not his personal bank account and the country’s money is now been spent with prudence and efficiency. Airlift has increased and new markets are being explored. Jazz and Arts have been returned to the people of Saint Lucia and an avenue has been established for the development of the Creative Industries. Marchand, the capital of Castries, saw the return of the opening of Saint Lucia Jazz with crowd attendance at record levels. Promises made and promises kept by Labour!
Remarkably, Government has delivered goodies that were not promised on the campaign trail. Financial assistance to replace school supplies lost or damaged in the 2013 Christmas Eve trough, a twenty five percent increase in public assistance, the construction of an infant school for the children of Micoud are but a few of these pleasant and welcomed surprises.
Government has also commenced delivering on another promise made, that of island wide wi fi.
Certainly, this anniversary calls for celebration as a country and not only a party. Saint Lucia has been the greatest beneficiary over the last three years. Unlike the grab for personal wealth of the last government, Labour’s focus has been the land, the people and the light.
I salute the Government for the selfless manner in which it has conducted the business of the people. No constituency has been neglected. All have benefitted. I congratulate the people of Saint Lucia, who having seen the avarice which took place between 2006 and 2011, once again placed their confidence in a leader who has proven to be fully committed to a better Saint Lucia and a party which has demonstrated its compassion to the disadvantaged and less fortunate among us.
No government is perfect and yes there are issues remaining to be resolved. However, even in the midst of the challenges, if the question “Would you trade today for Tuxedo Villas, Black Bay Saga, Daher Mall, Taiwanese Funds Scandal, A &M or a tent which cost Saint Lucia millions of dollars?” were posed, the response would an emphatic and unambiguous “NO!”
Our country is certainly better with Labour, a party which keeps its promises!
BY STEPHEN LESTER PRESCOTT