With general elections mere months away, the government of the United Workers Party yesterday tabled in parliament an EC$1.6 billion budget plan for the 2021/2022 financial year that could have consequences for two important pillars of the society, namely healthcare and education.
While major details of the plan were not forthcoming prior to press time yesterday, His Excellency, Sir Emmanuel Neville Cenac, Governor-General of Saint Lucia, gave some insight into the plan during his delivery of the Throne Speech at yesterday’s joint sitting of the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament.
Cenac, who in his introduction called on Saint Lucians to show every reserve of talent, innovation, initiative and unwavering determination to overcome, noted that they would have to seize opportunity out of adversity and re-create normalcy from the chaos created in the wake of COVID19.
Identifying frontline workers as being the bedrock of Saint Lucia’s response to the pandemic over the past year, Cenac said they were selfless in their service to the community.
“Daily, they left their families, and endured long hours to deliver essential services during a frightening and precarious period. This is beyond bravery. I can offer no words of value or weight commensurate with their contribution and ask, humbly, that they accept my simple ‘thank you’ on behalf of the people of this country whose very survival they secured,” he said.
His Excellency also thanked entrepreneurs for sticking it out despite their businesses having been ravaged by COVID-19. He stated that the Saint Lucian spirit is in its greatest manifestation and the basis on which we can look to the future with confidence!
He said that government’s agenda for 2021 would be to focus on people as the heartbeat of national development,
“My Government will seek to consolidate achievements made thus far and add impetus and urgency to critical initiatives designed to further develop our human capital, while continuing to promote economic and physical investment.
“We do not know what the future impact will be of COVID 19, but as we stand today at a crossroad, my Government is committed to apply lessons learnt, take advantage of new opportunities and propel our country towards global excellence,” Cenac said.
On the subject of healthcare the Governor-General said his Government will continue to ensure the effective implementation of the National Healthcare Quality Policy, as well as the National Chronic Disease Policy which has as a target to lower premature death due to National Chronic Diseases (NCDs) by 15% by 2025.
“The National Health Sector Policy will be promoted, paving the way for a health care system that is accessible, affordable, equitable, sustainable and of the highest international quality standard. Similar attention will be given to the National Human Resources for Health Policy that will guide and influence decisions of both public and private sector health organisations relating to strategic human resource initiatives and investments,” Cenac said.
“Further, and critically, my Government will consolidate ongoing work towards broadening access to affordable health care, by means of the National Health Insurance System, which will reduce or eliminate out of pocket expenditure for a number of health services. In this respect, new legislation will be necessary to govern the administration, operation and management of the health insurance fund,” Cenac asserted.
With regards to education, Cenac intoned that government’s aspiration is to improve the quality of, and access to, education.
“During 2020, with the forced closure of schools and the need to switch to alternative means of learning, due to COVID19, the ICT Integration project was put to a rigorous, unexpected test. My Government has used this opportunity for reevaluation and adjustment, as this initiative and the related E-books programme, continue.
“Given the close nexus between education and employability, my Government will take measures to strengthen the Technical Vocational and Education Training (TVET) programme in order to enhance our country’s responsiveness to changing labour market needs. We will seek to build the resilience of our human capital stock by promoting more and higher quality technical and socio-emotional skills and provide support to unemployed workers, the youth, women and marginalized groups,” Cenac said.
According to the Governor-General new initiatives to be pursued by government during the coming year will include: curriculum review to incorporate a focus on Special Needs Education; the development of a policy and strategy for the prevention and reduction of alcohol and drug use among school children; the introduction of the Education (Early Childhood Education Services) Regulations for the standardization of learning outcomes for Early Childhood Education; and a review of the Education Sector Plan.