My government will therefore continue supporting households, in particularly vulnerable groups, by subsidizing essential goods like flour, rice, and cooking gas. Acting Governor General, His Excellency Cyril Errol
Underlying the significance of the theme: “Securing the Pillars for Sustainability”, Acting Governor General His Excellency Cyril Errol Charles delivered the annual Throne Speech to an eager audience of government officials, opposition representatives and the wider Saint Lucian society, Tuesday.
On the opening of the Third Session of the 12th Parliament of Saint Lucia, acting GG Charles touched on several critical issues prevalent in the country at this juncture in its overall socio-economic development.
He stated that having stabilized the country’s public finances, government is bent on providing additional and special attention to the safety of citizens, improvements in the delivery of health care, and support for the vulnerable.
“The pace and effectiveness of improvements in these areas will be buttressed by sustained economic growth, which is already showing encouraging signs. Barring major natural or man-made disasters, this new fiscal year should provide growth in all major sectors of the economy,” declared Charles.
The acting governor general noted that over the past year or so, government has made fundamental constitutional changes and adopted “a bold legislative agenda to create the legal enabling environment for the implementation of remedial and developmental policy measures”.
He listed major upgrades, including; the enactment of new legislation, amendment to existing laws to enhance citizens’ security, reform income tax administration, improve health care delivery systems, enhance the ease of doing business, strengthen community economic empowerment, promote good governance, and creation of the Youth Economy.
Charles noted that the administration made “a significant and progressive shift” in enhancing access to justice for people of the country by replacing the Judicial Committee of His Majesty’s Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as Saint Lucia’s final Court of Appeal.
He concurred that this latter development has helped Saint Lucia deepen its participation in the Caribbean regional integration process and has further consolidated its political independence and confidence in the jurists of the region.
Citing the appointment of a Deputy Speaker to the parliamentary chambers after about a five-year absence during the reign of the United Workers Party (UWP) regime, he said, government will continue to agitate for constitutional reform for the restoration and maintenance of good governance in Saint Lucia.
Said Charles: “The need to make our Constitution truly reflective of the ideals and aspirations of our people will be continued this year through the activation of a committee to review Parliament’s consideration of the recommendations of the Constitutional Reform Commission Report.”
“Imported inflation has been impacting the ability of our people to provide for themselves and their families,” cautioned Charles. “My government will therefore continue supporting households, in particularly vulnerable groups, by subsidizing essential goods like flour, rice, and cooking gas. In addition, my government will continue to assist the most vulnerable through its public assistance programme,” Charles said.
The acting governor general lamented the worrisome and devastating impact that the scourge of violent crime has continued to inflict on the country and its citizenry.
“It is of no comfort that this surge in crime has been affecting the entire Caribbean region,” he noted. “The seeds of violent crime have been incubating for years and have now grown into a despicable and shameful image of disregard for human life. Those shocking images of gun violence must end, and my government is determined to do so within the ambit of the law”.
In the persistent fight against crime, he said, government will continue to provide the police with all the required equipment for the effective execution of their duties and remains committed to providing the necessary assistance to the police until the scourge of violent crime is brought under control.
“The Police will continue to work closely with and within communities, by engaging meaningfully with community leaders and civic groups in the fight against crime,” he added. “In support of a multi-disciplinary approach to crime fighting, a National Security Council will be re-established to coordinate crime reduction efforts undertaken by government agencies, the private sector, and the Police Force.”
In the overall thrust towards the enhancement of the citizenry, Charles explained, government plans later this year to move on with construction of the Halls of Justice, which is expected to be completed within a 30-month period. The upcoming development is cited as part of several initiatives aimed at addressing the backlog of cases that are currently impeding the administration of justice in the country.
“This new facility will consolidate the magistrate’s court, the family court, the commercial court, and the High Courts, and other administrative support services, including the civil and criminal registries,” he said.” Several other initiatives aimed at reducing the backlog of cases and reduction of the remand population at Bordelais will be continued this year.”
On the issue of improvements in healthcare services as a major priority undertaking, the acting governor general informed that work is progressing on the St. Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project, and that government “is confident that the people of Saint Lucia and especially residents in the south, will be given the long overdue St. Jude Hospital before the end of this Parliament”.
Additionally, he explained, government remains committed to improving the public health infrastructure at both the primary and secondary levels by equipping the Health & Wellness Centers Island wide with advanced technologies and improved medical resources.
“The pursuit of universal health care coverage remains the framework within which my government seeks to provide quality, affordable, accessible, and equitable health care,” he stressed.
Over the years, regional governments have been beset with the troubling issue relating to Regional Air Transportation. In a bid to address the situation, the acting governor general says government intends to play a leading role at the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) level to improve traveling among countries within the sub-region.
“We believe that the sustainability of regional economies depends very much on the ability of our people and goods to move across the CARICOM economic space,” he noted.
As a result of the effectiveness of changes in Income Tax system mechanisms, the acting GG noted that, government remains committed “to restoring our country’s financial health through prudent financial and fiscal management, fueled by economic growth and diversification”.
Towards this end, he said, government will continue to create the enabling environment to facilitate business development for the youth, women, and communities across the country. Also, it will continue to facilitate the development of tourism products and services aimed at spreading the benefits of the tourist dollar.
With focus on other key sectors, acting GG Charles underlined the implementation of initiatives, such as, the establishment of the Youth Economy Agency (YEA). He described the venture as creating “a space for young people in the economic landscape of Saint Lucia. Access to economic opportunities for young people is now real, with more grant and loan funding being made available in this fiscal year”.
He noted that, “Young entrepreneurs now have a realistic chance of providing for themselves by monetizing their talents in popular areas like sports, music, the arts, and information technology.”
On the issue of Agriculture, the acting GG notes that “diversification efforts have been aimed at food security, reducing our import bill, and securing new regional markets for our agricultural products.” In addition, he said, government intends to provide fuel relief for fishers’
livelihoods. Charles notes that , “our economic sustainability depends very much on the management of our coastal waters, and so my government shall provide the necessaryThe ‘Blue Economy’ concept is being increasingly touted across the region as a means for persons to acquire sustainable assistance to the relevant agencies in the management of Soufriere, Anse La Raye, and Canaries, Vigie Peninsula and Pigeon Point coastal areas.”
And now that the strains of the Climate Change phenomenon is impacting countries, globally, and especially within the boundaries of Small Developing States, like Saint Lucia, he said, government remains committed to the gradual move from fossil fuels to renewable energy and will be accessing climate financing, now being provided by the German government.
“Efforts to encourage the shift to Electric Vehicles have started,” he added, and government “will further incentivise the transition to electric vehicles, and the establishment of the necessary infrastructure”.
Also, he noted, during the year “it is expected that an enabling environment will be created for the supply of renewable energy with the amendment of the Electricity Supply Act.”
Noting the significance of Legislative Changes to stir the mode of progress in the land, the acting GG disclosed that in addition to the Tourism Development Bill and Electricity Supply Act, government has identified 14 other Bills for consideration for this new session of parliament.
He added: “There are no challenges we cannot overcome if we remain together as a people. Our politics should be seen within the context of different routes but to the same destination: a peaceful and happy place to work and relax. So, let not party politics divide us, because its divisiveness will weaken all of us.”