PRIME Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony made a last ditch effort to secure the support of voters in yesterday’s election with a Sunday night address to the nation in which he pleaded for an opportunity to “complete the job that I started, and to secure the fortunes of our economy and our people”.
He also attempted to portray the opposition as being unequal to the task of governance.
The following is an edited text of that address:
The din is over. The loud, blaring and sometimes, intimidating music, has come to an end. All is now peaceful and quiet.
This signals that we have come to the conclusion of an intense election campaign in which all contending parties have put their case and their arguments to you in what they believe to be the most convincing way possible.
Despite some ugly incidents, the campaign was relatively peaceful.
Now, in the next few hours, I hope that all of us will reflect in the quiet of our conscience on the comparative records of the two main parties and think about the future that you want for yourselves, your children and your community.
NO UNKNOWN QUANTITIES
There are no unknown quantities in this election. You know them ALL.
You have seen the UWP in power without the vision and the guidance of their historical leader, Sir John Compton. You will, I believe, recall the infighting, the fragmentation, and the blatant and unchecked corruption that marked that dark period.
You have also seen the SLP in power over the past four and a half years. You can judge for yourself the difference that we have brought to the leadership of our country.
On Monday, you will go to the polls to choose the candidate and the Party that will lead our country for the next five years. This is an important responsibility; one that I know you cherish and take very seriously.
In your decision to re-elect our Party on November 28, 2011, you sent a clear signal that you were tired of the almost daily scandals of the former UWP administration. You expressed your frustration at the constant infighting of the Stephenson King government. You were dismayed that for five years during the last UWP reign, our country had gone backward in every aspect of its development, destroying systematically the important gains we had made and the strong, prospering and stable country that they had inherited from us in 2006. You voted to return stability, respectability, unity, and progress to our country.
MOVING FORWARD AGAIN
I am proud of the fact that on every count, our Government has delivered.
We put an end to the embarrassing scandals and the “boldfaced corruption”. The ministers of the Saint Lucia Labour Party government are respected at home, within the Caribbean and internationally.
For the last four and a half years, our government has been entirely focused on putting our country back on a firm footing and creating new opportunities for ALL Saint Lucians. Our country is moving forward once again. The challenging times, the years of sacrifice, are now firmly behind us. We are on a clear path of sustained growth, employment generation and development. This is what you voted for in 2011, and this is what we have worked hard, against all odds to deliver, and believe me, the environment has been very challenging.
ONLY PARTY WITH A PLAN FOR JOBS
Now, as we seek a renewal of your trust and confidence on Monday, we have, once again, come to you with a real plan to make our country better. Together, I know we can!
In our Manifesto, which we presented to you last Wednesday night, we indicated that our continued preoccupation will be the creation of more jobs. You will remember that in the fourth quarter of 2015, we created 5,220 new jobs.
In this campaign, we are the only Party presenting you with a coherent plan for creating more jobs; a sensible and practical plan. We propose to attract $3.5 billion dollars in new investment, undertake a massive construction programme, and continue to transform the way we do business.
Our goal is to drive the unemployment rate down even further, to the point where every Saint Lucian who is looking for a job, has an opportunity to get a job. Remember, we did it before. In 2006, we brought unemployment way down – to 13.6% and it was heading to even lower levels until the UWP took over. By 2011, after their mismanagement and corruption, it had skyrocketed to an all time high of 24%. We had to start all over and already, in this term, we have succeeded in reducing unemployment again, from that unacceptable 24% to 20.5% by the last Quarter of 2015. I am confident about reducing unemployment even further because several new investments are lined up, for example, in the re-energised hotel sector and under the Citizenship by Investment Programme. This is just the beginning. There is much more to come. Recall, that under the last regime, not one new hotel was built under then Minister of Tourism Allen Chastanet.
Government’s fiscal position has improved. We made the tough decisions when we had to.
I will always be grateful to you for walking down the road of adjustment with me, even when you were scared and uncertain. Our economy is now, once again, on a firm footing. Investors trust us. Ours is a government without even a whiff of corruption and that also inspires trust. Incidentally and rather Interestingly, did you notice that corruption was not an issue in this election campaign?
This is what has caused investors to regain confidence in Saint Lucia and to feel safe about investing their money in our economy. Remember, investors refused to invest under the last regime and these are the same persons coming to ask you for their vote once again. While not even a single new hotel came to Saint Lucia during their reign, already we have new hotels under construction.
Our Manifesto shows clearly how we will continue to grow all aspects of our economy so that we can reduce unemployment, particularly among our youth.
A SERIOUS PROBLEM LOOMS
There is a very serious problem that has recently arisen and is facing the financial sector in our region. It is called the Correspondent Banking problem and it involves the decision by the big banks in the United States and Europe to stop doing business with banks in the Caribbean. If this happens, our financial sector and our economy will collapse. Our Manifesto sets out a clear plan for how we intend to deal with this problem when we get back into office. The UWP is not even aware this problem exists and its manifesto does not contain one single word about it.
I could cite many other examples where our Manifesto articulates a coherent, workable plan for dealing with a serious issue, while the Manifesto of the UWP is either silent or vague on the subject. To add to that, their Manifesto promises things that we have already accomplished. This demonstrates that they have not even been paying attention to the workings of government. For example, we already doubled the school feeding programme. In fact, that programme is now integrated with a spectacular ‘Grow your Food’ campaign in the schools, part of our successful Agricultural policy, which has reached new heights in diversification, including fisheries.
We have also already granted amnesties to those with high hospital bills who cannot afford to pay, not once, but twice.
MARRIAGES OF CONVENIENCE
There are lessons from our modern political history that we must never forget. Our politics has taught us that marriages of convenience lead to very messy divorces. Our politics has also taught us that the quality of a government is first, about the strength of its leader, but equally important, it is about the competence of its team. A group in which people put one face to the public while privately stabbing each other is not a team. Our politics teaches us that deep divisions in opposition will become deep and dangerous fractures in government and it is the country and the people that suffer the most.
A BLEND OF TALENT
The team that I have the honour to present to you is a blend of experienced, dedicated and proven performers, together with new talent who bring their own record of accomplishment and service. Equally importantly, they are not people who have suddenly emerged overnight on the political scene from parts unknown seeking to represent people and places they never knew existed before.
The men and women who make up Team Labour are deeply rooted in the constituencies in which they seek your confidence and trust. ‘Yo tout sav kote lombwi yo tewe’. They speak your language; you have seen them grow up before your eyes; they have helped to build community; they have rejoiced at every achievement and experienced the pain of every setback in these communities that they seek the honour to represent. They all come from impressive backgrounds of service to the people of our country. They are qualified, competent and they are committed to working selflessly and untiringly to improve the lives of their constituents. I am exceedingly proud of the team we have assembled and presented to you in this General Election.
A CLEAR CHOICE
My fellow Saint Lucians, the choice in this General Election is CLEAR. There are two options in front of us. There are two roads we can travel. The good thing is we know where each of these roads leads us.
The road that the New United Workers Party would like to lead you along is a rough and rocky road, with many precipices, many scary corners, and many uncertainties lurking in the dark. We went down that road between 2007 and 2011. We know its dangers.
It is a road that is plagued with instability, political infighting, bitter public struggles for leadership, embarrassing scandals involving Government ministers, which even the Courts condemned, absolutely no fiscal discipline, no foreign direct investment, loss of respect for our country regionally and internationally, stagnation and eventual regression of our economic development, and the depressing squandering of the gains our country made in the last four and a half years. The players are all the same. Their deep divisions remain, despite how hard they try to cover them up. Why should we expect anything to be different this time around?
THE PATHWAY OF LABOUR
The other road is one that takes us on a journey of continued growth and development. It is the road of political stability and genuine development; and no infighting or leadership struggles. It is one where your Government ministers enjoy the highest levels of respect regionally and internationally and our new bright stars will add to this admirable record. It is an exciting journey with more educational opportunities for our young people; increased investment in our country, leading to more good paying jobs for all Saint Lucians; greater support for the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable; respect for the rule of law; protection for our women and our senior citizens; development in exciting areas like agri-business, information technology and renewable energy; and a promising future for our country. This is the pathway that your Labour Government has travelled with you for the last four and a half years and to which we have rededicated ourselves for our next term in office.
A WORD TO OUR YOUNG PEOPLE
In this campaign, I have had the opportunity to meet many young persons. They shared with me their frustrations, anxieties, concerns and yes, their hopes and dreams. Many too shared their talents in our individual campaigns. I am glad that cynicism is giving way to a more positive and engaging outlook. They will continue to be our focus, whether in sports, the Creative Industries, where we have given sterling leadership, in education or in new business activity, particularly in the services sector that is driven by information technology.
SOME HARD DECISIONS
My fellow Saint Lucians, the job of Prime Minister of Saint Lucia is one that I take very seriously. As a constitutional lawyer, I understand the importance of keeping government true to the prescriptions of the supreme law. I have had to make some hard decisions, some of which have not been popular, such as the introduction of VAT.
As I indicated previously, the alternative to VAT would have been, and still is, very deep cuts to the Public Service, as happened in Barbados. This is not a choice that I was willing to make because it would have caused even wider public distress and agony.
An offer has been put before you by the leader of the UWP: to reduce VAT by some still unknown figure and ultimately, abolish it. In truth, VAT exists in 140 countries in the world. Abolition of VAT, which itself is a replacement tax for several small taxes, means that we will lose $346.7 million dollars in revenue that we need to pay our debt, salaries and emoluments to civil servants, teachers, nurses, police officers, doctors, and to provide critical services to you. To this day, you have not been told how this lost revenue will be earned, except some vague, undefined notions of a “Sales Tax,” which has been tried before VAT by some countries and abandoned in favour of VAT. Former Prime Minister Stephenson King summed it up well when he described the proposals as “madness.”
We should learn from what has just happened in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, where they too, promised reductions in VAT and taxes at election time. The Opposition won on that promise but had to take it back. In Trinidad it resulted in higher prices on several items. The simple truth is that if you reduce VAT across the board, many items will increase since this Government ensured that over 70 items were tax exempt – you pay no VAT on them at all. The new UWP’s plan will cause a net increase in the cost of living. This will be a burden not just on the backs of the poor, but on businesses which depend on these basic items that are now VAT exempt, e.g. sugar, flour etc. for their inputs!
Remember too, that currently, we do not have VAT on water and electricity.
As we say, we have a ‘jab en sac’ on our hands, with the UWP proposal.
WEAKNESSES AND SHORTCOMINGS
As a leader I know that I have my shortcomings. I am never perfect. I cannot be.
However, there is one thing that I can assure you without hesitation. It is that I do what I believe to be best for our country and I have always sought to maintain the dignity of the office that you have given me the privilege to occupy. I have also held my ministers to that same high standard, because this is an important trust you have placed in us. Therefore, as I humbly seek your mandate on behalf of our Labour team, I ask that you judge me equally by what we have done as by what I might have failed to do.
I come now to you in the twilight of my political career and for me, this will always remain a memorable campaign. My mission is simply to complete the job that I started, and to secure the fortunes of our economy and our people.
My promise to you is that we will continue to work together with you, to make our country better and more prosperous and to ensure a bright future for our children.
God bless you all and God bless our beloved land, Saint Lucia.