February 17th 2017

 From a dream to reality

Introduction

They cursed it, they wanted a tsunami to wash it away, they said that it will be used to plant peanuts, they further said that it will be a golf course, and they called Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves a certified crazy man; all that and more, to say that the international airport project at Argyle, was an impossible dream. The Ralph haters did all that they could to stop the project, but in the end they failed.

On Tuesday February 14th 2017, Vincentians turned out in their thousands at Argyle, to celebrate their Valentine gift, a brand spanking new airport. The impossible dream became possible, and the leadership of the ULP, was confirming that the level of trust demonstrated by the voters of this country, when they returned the ULP to office for four straight terms, was not misplaced. Indeed it is being said, with a high level of justification, that only Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP could have constructed the international airport.

On Tuesday people lifted their voices in joyous accord, praising the airport, and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. They lifted their voices in prayers of thanksgiving, for there were many who were skeptical about the project. And they lifted their voices in praise, because as a nation, St.Vincent and the Grenadines had achieved something that many thought was impossible.

The Collective will of the People

 Beyond the physical buildings and facilities, the construction of the airport defined the quality of leadership within the ULP. From the conception of the idea to the execution and delivery stages, the ULP never wavered, never doubted and always stayed the course. The ULP provided the leadership and direction for those Vincentians who understood the importance of the project, and wanted it to succeed.

To be sure the project faced many challenges just like any project of the same magnitude and scope. First there was the issue of relocating over one hundred and forty families from the Argyle area, a task which was accomplished without any fuss. Then the IADC had to tackle the earthwork required for the runway and terminal buildings. This was not an easy exercise, given the topology of the Argyle area, but the Chatoyer-Che contingent, comprising Cubans and Vincentians, did a commendable job, all things considered. The IADC also had to consider some special interest issues, such as the removal of the Catholic church and cemetery in the area, and the preservation of the petroglyphs. These were not easy decisions and a lot of consultation was required before action was taken.

At the end of the day, the completion of the project sends a strong message to the rest of the world, that we as a people, can achieve, once we apply a collective will and work together. There were tremendous criticisms, lies and half truths about the AIA, mainly by persons associated with the opposition NDP. Today, the rest of the region is paying tribute to the Vincentian civilization, for the completion of this wonderful world class facility. As a people we must be proud of the AIA and make it work for us.

Without wishing to single out anyone, the people in the communications department of the IADC, must come in for tremendous praise for the work done, in keeping Vincentians informed, about the project. Other media houses and media professionals went looking for faults, but the IADC folks worked hard to ensure that we always got the true picture.

Making it work

Now that the celebrations are over, and we have had our tours of the AIA, and so forth, we must settle down to make our international airport a success. We must first of all dedicate ourselves towards the care and protection of the airport. In all our activities at the new facility, we must keep this in mind, always. The people who use the airport, primarily our visitors and travelers, must be accorded all courtesies. We expect that immigration, customs and security officers will do their jobs in a professional manner.

At all times the public will expect our international airport to be clean and tidy, and we need to develop an excellent reputation in the region, and among travelers. The restaurants and shops at the airport must be part of this process, and generally speaking we expect all our workers, to lift their game, and welcome in a new philosophy in relation to service.

The AIA ushers in a new era in terms of the socio-economic development of the country. The ministries of tourism, agriculture and economic planning will execute plans and programmes to take advantage of this, but it also requires the participation of our farmers, fisher folk and craft persons. The situation also cries out for new private investors to partner with the government, if this is required, to produce and distribute goods and services.

The AIA will bring opportunities for travel and leisure, for partnership in areas such as ICT, and the provision high quality goods and services. We must take advantage of this situation to provide jobs for our people. The Argyle International Airport is also critical for our future generation, so it is important that we preserve it for them.
                                                                                  
Conclusion

As a people we have done well to construct the AIA. While we celebrate the opening, we must say thanks to those persons who were critical to this project. There are a number of Vincentian professionals who were trained during the construction period of the project, and these skills will become important as we move forward.

Long live the Argyle International Airport.


The Argyle International Airport: Making it work

Introduction


The Argyle International Airport will be a hive of activity this week end, as organizing committee make their final preparations for the events to mark the opening of this all important project. This week we present an excerpt from the 2017 Budget address of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, in relation to Argyle International Airport.

“Argyle International Airport: Making It Work


The Argyle International Airport (AIA) is scheduled to be opened on February 14, 2017.  This project is one of four major initiatives in the field of civil aviation undertaken by the ULP government since 2001 to address the critical developmental socio-economic issue of air access.  The other three are: The saving of LIAT and its on-going restructuring, and development; the establishment, in conjunction with the five other independent states of the OECS, of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) as a Category One Civil Aviation Jurisdiction; and the construction of the jet airport at Canouan.  Each of these has been contributing positively to the socio-economic development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and will continue to do so in the future.

The fourth civil aviation pillar, the AIA, holds out immense development possibilities. Even the admittedly conservative projections  by the 2015 Staff Report of the Article IV Consultation of the International Monetary Fund, estimated at least a 1.5 percent increase in our country’s GDP in the medium term from the operation of AIA. We must thus all make the AIA work for our nation’s further development.  I have every confidence that the AIA’s management, under the Chairmanship of Garth Saunders, working in tandem with the SVG Tourism Authority and all other relevant stakeholders, would make a success of the AIA.

AIA a National Symbol

Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to be detained today by providing rebuttals to the mountain of falsehoods, unwarranted, negative, and even unpatriotic, statements made against the construction and operation of the AIA by minority elements, largely stuffed with political prejudice.  Even at this very moment, some of these jaundiced political elements, spurred on by the “dog whistle” utterances off some more supposedly respectable opposition personalities, are willing the AIA to fail or are wishing it a tsunami of harm, for no reason other than the celebrated fact that the Unity Labour Party government has accomplished a veritable miracle by turning a long-held dream of a hopeful people into an historic reality.

The AIA is not only the largest capital project, by far, ever to have been constructed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  It is also a metaphor, a symbol, an alive testament to what a determined people, properly led, and supported by a wave of principled internationalist solidarity of friends and allies, can achieve.  The construction of the AIA, amidst all the topographic, financing, managerial and resource challenges, is one to be recorded with justifiable approbation in the annals not only of Vincentian and Caribbean history, but in the developmental story of disadvantaged nations across time.

Now, all of us must make the AIA work to the benefit of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at home and in the diaspora.  It is our patriotic duty to ensure that this happens.

Capital Resources

In the Budget for 2017, capital resources of $31.5 million are allocated to make payments related to the completion of the construction of AIA, and the acquisition of furnishings and equipment for its operation.  Additionally, as anticipated, there is a temporary subsidy for its operation.

Mr. Speaker, one significant operational cost of the AIA is that of electricity.  As Honourable Members are aware, over a year ago, at a public signing ceremony at Argyle, I signed with the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) a soft-loan agreement of just over EC $2 million to fund the first phase of a solar energy project for the AIA.  VINLEC is executing this phase of the project in the sum of $2.4 million.  Additional grant resources for solar energy at the AIA are available to supplement this allocation.  The initial phase of this project is for the installation of a 300 KW Solar PV system.  The targeted aim is to secure, in the shortest possible time, solar capacity at AIA of some two megawatts. We are seeking to obtain the bulk of the funding for this strategic venture through grants.


ECCAA Approval

Mr. Speaker, the AIA has been granted appropriate certification or approval as an international airport by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).  As I had indicated hitherto, both on account of the requisites for the publication of the civil aviation charts and procedures of the AIA and the very workings of international airlines themselves, regularly scheduled international flights will not be available in the first few months of AIA’s operations.  However, LIAT and other intra-Caribbean carriers, regular charter flights from and to international destinations, and cargo aircraft, will immediately enhance air access to and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines for passenger and cargo traffic.  I am sure that the operation of the AIA will prove the politically jaundiced doomsayers wrong again.

Cost of the AIA

The estimated cost of construction and equipping of AIA is approximately EC $700 million.  The actual estimated value of the construction is in excess of EC $1 billion, much more than the actual construction cost, given the in-kind assistance provided by our several partners.  The debt on the AIA is approximately EC$400 million, most of it (over EC $300 million) in “soft loan” terms, mainly from ALBA, Petro Caribe, and Taiwan.  Assets, mainly property owned by AIA (but not including the airport itself), the IADC, and National Properties Limited (for IADC), amount to over EC $400 million.  In short, there are enough assets available to pay for the debt at AIA.

I invite all of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including our Diaspora, to celebrate when the AIA opens on February 14, 2017.  The AIA is a magnificent accomplishment.”


Feb 3rd 2017

 Love is in the Air

Introduction


In the next ten days the International airport at Argyle will be officially opened and all incoming and outgoing air traffic, into, and out of the mainland, will use this spanking new facility. All is set for two days of celebration at Argyle, first the Monday February 13th 2017, for the opening exercise, and then the following day, February 14th, Valentines Day, for the celebration rally. It will be a big event, a day of love, and many Vincentians will gather at Argyle to celebrate a dream come through.

Over the last two weeks Vincentians have been flocking to the airport site to participate in guided tours. It is estimated that some 25,000 persons flocked to the Argyle airport to get a firsthand look at the facilities, and there has been an outpouring of love and patriotism. Love for this new facility, because they as Vincentians, are proud to be the owners of a facility that is on par with the best airports in the Caribbean. Patriotism, because as Vincentians, they want to be identified with this dream, this achievement, and this heralding of a new economic development era.

Indeed, love is in the air as Vincentians demonstrate their love for the ULP administration, and its leader, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who provided the visionary leadership for the construction of the airport. Despite the obstacles, the dirty attacks and lies from the opposition NDP, and the problems created by the global economic and financial crisis, the ULP administration was able to deliver a state of the art international airport to the people of this country.

ULP in love with Vincentians

The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines trusted the ULP administration to deliver on this all important project. They returned the ULP to office in 2005 when Prime Minister Gonsalves announced his plans for the construction of the airport. This was followed by election victories in 2010 and 2015, a clear indication of the confidence placed in the ULP.

The ULP has responded with an amazing outpouring of love. No sector of the economy suffered from this project, and the ULP did not withdraw its financial support of critical sectors like education, agriculture and health. If anything, the budgetary allocations for these sectoral areas increased over time.

The construction of the international airport is an existential dream come true. The largest capital project ever in the history of St.Vincent and the Grenadines was conceptualized, fashioned and constructed in a most extraordinary and creative way. This has moved the member of Parliament for Central Kingstown, St. Clair Leacock, to declare that the work is “a miracle”.  What all others thought was impossible, the ULP made it happen. Only the ULP government possessed the capacity to make this work for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This project has attracted the personal attention of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. Back in 2005, when he addressed the nation about the airport project, he said “Personally, I have been tireless in my efforts on the International Airport Project. I have spent countless man-hours on this Project at home and abroad, and in divers lands. I am fully satisfied that the government’s decisions on this matter are correct…”

The NDP’s response


The opposition NDP is truly an amazingly unpatriotic party. With the airport on the verge of its official opening, they are caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to determine how to respond to this situation. Their party’s spokespersons on radio continue to badmouth the project, to the dismay of many of their supporters. They are trying all sorts of strategies to stop the opening from coming off. The News newspaper of January 20th 2017, even quotes the leader of the NDP, Lorraine Friday, “as appealing to the tower to have the flights aborted, as there is no justification for such form of opening”.

This of course is an incredible statement from a man who wants to take his party into government. Here is a project, beloved by Vincentians, at home and abroad, for the future development of the country, and Lorraine Friday has nothing good to say about it. And he goes as far as to call on the tower to turn away charter flights on February 14th 2017. Simply incredible and unbelievable!

One the other hand, St. Clair Leacock, the member for Central Kingstown, speaking in Parliament on January 30th 2017, said “Mr. Speaker, I just rise to offer an unconditional congratulation to the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the pending opening of the Argyle International Airport. We on this side have had much to say Mr. Speaker, but I conclude by saying that a generation unborn would ask, what were we quarrelling about?”   

What were we quarrelling about? That is a question that the NDP must now answer in relation to a project which is central to the future development of the country. As Leacock tries to imply, our young people will reflect on the attitude of the NDP to this project, and wonder how that political party could oppose something that is good for the country. History, and the electoral process will judge the NDP harshly in the future.

Conclusion

Without a shadow of a doubt, February 13th and 14th will go down as very important days when the history of the country is written. Vincentians will flock to Argyle on those days, to celebrate the opening of their beloved international airport. 


January 27th 2017

The Argyle International Airport: the Leadership factor

Introduction


It is an accepted fact that the construction of the international airport at Argyle, is the largest capital project ever attempted by any administration in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The scope of the project, the cost of the project, the mobilization of the resources, the vision provided and overall, the leadership which ensured that the project was completed, despite several hiccups.

It is this leadership factor that is being addressed in this ULP article for the week. To be sure, this project required strong leadership skills from the very inception. The ULP formulated its approach to the problems associated with air access to and from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as far back as 2001. The election manifesto then, elaborated on plans to build an international airport on mainland St.Vincent.

At the same time, the ULP implemented relevant public policies on air access and development. We must remember the establishment of a hub at the Hewannora International Airport in St.Lucia, and the role played by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in keeping LIAT in the skies. We must also remember the practical work done to streamline and upgrade the airport facilities in the nation, including the construction of a jet port at Canouan, and the rehabilitation of the ET Joshua airport.


The Leadership factor

The leadership of the ULP administration clearly outlined the issues related to the international airport in a clear and concise manner, so as to erase the doubts in the minds of some Vincentians. At the onset, the question on the minds of most Vincentians was “do we need an international airport, and can we afford one?” (If the answer is in the affirmative). Having studied this issue for some years, the ULP administration answered the question in the affirmative. It was abundantly clear to Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the leadership of the ULP that the full realisation of the potential of the country’s growth and development, hinged on the presence of an international airport, among other vital considerations.

The leadership determined that the country’s tourism potential could not be fully realised without an international airport. Indeed the integration of the economy of the country, with CARICOM, Latin America, the USA and Europe, was being affected because of the huge restraints in air access. This situation also created a brake to the movement of nationals in North America and Europe, in that they could not travel to their homeland as frequently as they would like.

On the issue of affordability, the ULP leadership recognised that, given the costs involved, there was a need to find creative means to finance the project. Almost immediately, the ULP leadership understood that it would be foolhardy to borrow the seven hundred plus million dollars to finance the project. First the ULP would have to find a suitable credit facility to provide this money. Secondly, the debt servicing required, would affect other critical areas of the economy, as the money for interest payments in particular, would have to come from money already allocated for government projects and services.


The Funding process

Out of this thinking came the term “the coalition of the willing”, a group of countries who shared the vision of the ULP, to construct the international airport, and who were willing to provide substantial assistance. At the top of the list were the countries of Cuba, Venezuela, Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago, who were early contributors to the project, as members of the “coalition of the willing”.

Later will come Mexico, Canada, and the local organisation called the “Friends of the Argyle International Airport. Every little bit of financing raised was critical to the project, including the well promoted “drop a dollar” campaign, fashioned by the Consul General to Canada, Fitz Huggins.

Meanwhile the ULP administration took the decision to vest some State lands in the IADC, the company that was charged with the construction of the airport. Government also sold some crown lands, particularly in the Grenadines, to raise further funds for the project.

One significant strategy must be recorded here. In the construction process, the IADC was required to remove a number of houses to facilitate the earthworks. This process was conducted with remarkable ease, based on the even-handed attitude of the ULP leadership. The IADC was generally open, fair, reasonable and progressive with the owners of properties, to the extent that they were provided with a re-settlement grant, and were allowed to remove any fittings, windows or roofing material that was salvageable, from their former homes. Most of them are settled in the beautiful Harmony Hall area.

Conclusion

The construction of the international airport at Argyle is truly a remarkable story. It shows the vision, leadership, the strength of character, project management skills and resourcefulness of the leadership of the ULP administration, in completing the largest ever capital project in the history of the country, in the face of some of the most vile and dirty criticism seen in a long while, by a group of unpatriotic Vincentians, many of them supporters of the opposition NDP.

The Argyle International Airport is also the story of the faith of the voters, the electorate of St.Vincent and the Grenadines. They clearly said that only the ULP could build the international airport, and returned the ULP and Comrade Ralph to political power in 2005, 2010 and 2015.

Long live the Argyle International airport, and may it bring socio economic benefits to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.



January 20th 2017

 Why the NDP opposed the Argyle International Airport

Introduction


In less than a month, the government will officially open the international airport at Argyle. In fact this will be done on February 14th, 2017, Valentine’s Day. This is an event that many Vincentians have been anticipating, the day when the airport becomes operational. It has been a long road, with ups and downs, but finally, the ULP administration is ready to unveil the largest capital project in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Despite all this, and in the face of the evidence on face book, in the local media, and on the API television programme, the NDP continues to “badmouth” the project. Despite receiving an invitation from Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to attend the opening exercises, the opposition continues to “badmouth” the project. And there is no end in sight. Readers can remember the infamous “find it where” comment by Arnhim Eustace during his interview with Jerry George, a clear signal that the NDP, despite its posturing and attempts to be relevant, was opposed to the airport project.  

Opposing the project

On August 8th 2005, when Prime Minister Gonsalves announced to the country, that his administration was going to embark on the airport project, the NDP went into a tailspin. They asked themselves a number of questions. Did the ULP possess the project management skills to supervise such a project? Where will they get the money from? How will this affect us politically, if the ULP is successful? The answers to these questions forced the NDP to mount a programme of opposition to the project. They designed a mountain of lies, half-truths and “commess” on the airport project, while offering nothing substantial in return.

Nothing was spared, and every event associated with the construction of the airport became a problem for the NDP. Their talk show hosts went to work on the site for the airport, the arrival of the equipment from Venezuela, and the subsequent procession to Argyle. They talked about the wind at Argyle, and the wind studies programme. Every bill that the ULP took to Parliament in relation to the airport, and the functioning of the IADC, met resistance from Arnhim Eustace and company.

Members of the IADC Board of Directors came in for criticism, and they reserved their worst, for the Chairman and CEO Dr. Rudi Mathias. They called him all sorts of names, they claimed he was no engineer, and that he was out of his depth. At one point, they tried to start a rumor claiming that Rudi Mathias was engaging in land speculation around the project. All lies of course.

Above all, they recognize that they could not allow the ULP and Ralph Gonsalves to complete the project. The positive public relations from the project was too much for the NDP, and they knew that the ULP will reap great political support, given the elections in 2010 and 2015. At one point, in 2015, they announced that there was a company that was ready to come in to complete the project. This was aimed at scoring cheap electoral votes, and it backfired!

Now the project is ready for operations, they are trying desperately to find some weak points to mount more attacks. That is not going to happen. They are now remembering the advice coming from their former leader, Sir James Mitchell, that if they allow the ULP to build the airport, then “crapaud smoke their pipe”. They should have remembered the mantra of the ULP, that good policies make good politics.

The Operations

The stage is now set for the operational phase of the AIA. Key management positions have been filled, or are in the final stages of being filled. A policy making board under chairman Garth Saunders, is now in place to guide the process forward. During the period leading up to February 14th, 2017, the staff at the AIA will be involved in training and simulation exercises to become familiar with the operations at the AIA. There will be checks and re-checks, changes and adjustments as the process goes through meticulous fine-tuning.

This will be a great period of adjustment for the entire country. We will go to sleep on February 13th, 2017, knowing that when we awake, we must now go to Argyle for all arrivals and departures by air, from the mainland. Airport workers, customs, immigrations and security personnel, taxi drivers and other support staff, along with providers of services, must now go to Argyle, their new base of operations.
In some ways, this is like children attending a new secondary school, full of excitement, having to cope with new facilities, and making new friends.

Conclusion

And so we await that great day, February 14th, 2017 when we will travel to Argyle for the official opening ceremony. Those who can wear red, will do so because it is Valentine’s Day. Others will do so because they want to support their beloved party, and the leaders who kept the faith, and stayed the course, to provide the country with the largest capital project in the history of St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Still others will come in colours of their own choice, since this is an airport of all Vincentians. Many in the Diaspora are eagerly awaiting news of the charters which will land at the AIA on that day. Still there are others who will arrive or depart on LIAT, who are looking forward to the experience.

Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP family have done well. Let us celebrate the official opening of the Argyle International Airport in fine style. 



January 13th 2017

 First Anniversary of the Fourth term

Introduction


It’s January 2017, and the public servants, particularly those in the office of the Budget Director in the Ministry of Finance, are busy putting together the budget for the year. This follows a series of consultations with all the ministries and heads of department to determine the resources required to operate professionally. Here and there, there will be some changes and minor adjustments, to meet the changing demands of the government, and the development agenda of the ULP administration.

Over the last three weeks or so, the public servants have been presenting their programmes for 2017 to the Cabinet. Sometimes the discussions can be robust, as the government tries to get the best out of the allocated financial resources. This year the government will present the estimates of expenditure and revenue on January 25th 2017. The House of Assembly will spend the next two days debating the estimates. Then on January 30th 2017, the Appropriation Bill 2017, or the Budget, will go before the House. Before this, there will be the Throne Speech from the Governor General, Sir Frederick Ballantyne, to be followed by the Budget Address to be delivered by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

These are challenging times for small island developing states, given the current global economic conditions, and the climate change issues that have been affecting the country. In fact Prime Minister Gonsalves, in presenting his budget address for 2016, sketch out the situation in this way.

“Financing Budget 2016 will be challenging within the context of the limitations of the small, open economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; the persistent structural weaknesses of an uncompetitive economy with colonial and plantation legacies; the economic slow-down in our regional and international partners; the uncertainties in the global political economy; and the on-going fallout from repeated recent natural disasters.  Still, our country possesses a bundle of strengths and possibilities which ensure that we continue to meet the multiple challenges in our national condition with a solid measure of success.

In successive Budget speeches, particularly since the massive global recession of 2008 to 2011, and its continuing adverse consequences, I have, over and over again, highlighted the structural limitations of the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the harsh effect of the removal of the preferential market treatment for our bananas in the United Kingdom, the debilitating impact of the continuing turmoil in global monopoly capitalism and its material discontents, the devastating blows inflicted on our small-island state through the terrible manifestations of a deleterious climate change, and home-grown restraints occasioned by the anti-social or violent conduct, and unproductive work habits, of a small minority of our people.  I again reaffirm all of this as the composite core of the contextual weaknesses and limitations of our social economy.  Unless we grasp properly the full meaning of this contextual frame for St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it would be hardly possible for us to fashion an appropriate strategic path forward, having taken account, too, of our strengths and possibilities.

And St. Vincent and the Grenadines possesses strengths and possibilities, not only limitations and weaknesses.  It is central to the development of our economy, and nation overall, that, as far as is humanly practicable, we reduce our weaknesses and limitations, and enhance our strengths and possibilities.  The core of our strengths and possibilities resides in ourselves, the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at home and in the diaspora. We are, increasingly, and largely, a skilled, industrious, and sophisticated people who are capable of running modern, competitive economic enterprises.  To be sure, there are gaps in the adequacy or sufficiency of our trained personnel, but such gaps can be, and are being, filled through prudent acquisition of the skills from abroad and by enhanced training of our nationals, concurrently.

Further, we are blessed with the bounty and beauty of our landscape of 150 square miles and our seascape of 10,400 square nautical miles.  Our land acreage though small, is fertile with an abundance of quality fresh water.  In our land, too, is the presence of substantial energy resources of hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar.  Our seas are full of a diversity of productive marine resources.  Our country’s geographic location and its tropical climate are bonuses, overall”.


Budget Direction

The election manifestos of the ULP, from 2001 to 2015, all contain the detailed policies and programmes of the government. The 2017 budget is grounded in the 2015 manifesto of the ULP, and shaped within the framework of the National Economic and Social Development Plan of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, 2013 to 2025. There are many regional and international initiatives which will also be included in the 2017 budget. Overall the budget will address the people-centered approach of the ULP in terms of the socio economic development of the country.

So on January 25th 2017, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves will outline the fiscal situation of the country, and the plans for the development of the country going forward. We will also hear the plans of the individual ministries as these pertain to the sectors of health, education, agriculture, social development, forestry and energy.

2017 looks like a good year for the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, given the new projects to come on stream, or to get their official opening and ground breaking ceremonies. Vincentians can hardly wait to see the good things in the 2017 budget.



January 6th 2017

Moving forward in 2017

Introduction


By all accounts, Vincentians have had an event filled 2016. Apart from the weather related events in November 2016, the machinations of the opposition NDP, the unfortunate loss of life from criminal activities, and the industrial issues at Buccament and Ottley Hall, the country has done pretty well over the last twelve months.  Naturally there is a lot to look forward to, in the New Year, and Vincentians are all excited following the official announcement from Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, that the international airport will be opened on February 14th, Valentine’s Day. Daily on Face book visitors to the project have been posting great photographs showing the outstanding work that has been carried out at Argyle.

Clearly from that date, February 14th 2017, a new developmental era will be ushered in. The international airport will take the economic development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to a new level. There are immense possibilities for tourism development, and investors will be happy that this project is now operational. Farmers are already looking forward to a new and faster way to get their produce to international destinations like New York, London and Toronto.

Our regional and international visitors will welcome the opening of the international airport. International visitors will of course be happy that they can fly from international destinations without having to use the gateways in Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. LIAT pilots will be happy with the fact that Argyle eliminates the issue of the downwind take off at E.T Joshua, and the difficulties when the wind speed is high. Of course, Argyle is designed to facilitate take off and landing in any direction.

2017

The public servants are in the process of preparing the estimates of revenue and expenditure for the 2017 budget exercise, but there are several projects which have already been earmarked for this year. The geothermal project will get rolling this year, and there will be significant activity in the north east area of the country, as construction and drilling work gets underway. This project will be a game changer for the economic development of the country, in terms of providing for a reduction in the cost energy, and being an alternative source for businesses and industries.


Now that the construction work at Argyle is closing down, the ULP administration will embark on a major road construction and repairing exercise. The plan is to use the equipment from Argyle to build and repair these roads as quickly as possible. Several roads have already been earmarked for attention, including the Belmont/Ginger Village road, and the roads in the Congo Valley area.  Already the Minister of Works, Senator Julian Francis, has announced that the stone crushing plant used at the Argyle project will be located in the north west area, probably around Richmond Vale.
                          
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has already informed the nation about the funds which will come from Kuwait, etc., for the road programme in 2017. Expect to hear announcements about further funding to repair infrastructure damaged in the heavy rainfall in November 2016. Expect to hear more from the Zero Hunger Trust Fund as activities expand to reduce the level of hunger and poverty in the state. Expect also to hear more about the new city at Arnos Vale, as activities shift to the new international airport at Argyle.


The Construction Sector

While the Tourism sector will continue to play an important role in economic development in 2017, the construction sector will still play a critical role in terms of a stimulus for the economy, and the creation of employment. The Mt. Wynne/Peters Hope project comes to mind in this regard. When construction begins in 2017, the investors will be looking for labourers, carpenters, masons, plumbers and electricians.

There will be jobs in store for the skilled workers from Central, South and North Leeward constituencies. And to think that there are persons who want to stop this project, and deprive Vincentians from this part of the State, from earning a living. How unpatriotic!

The truth is that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is poised for a construction boom, perhaps the greatest in living memory. It will be supported by an array of equipment from the international airport project, to include concrete batching plants, stone crushing facilities and an array of heavy duty equipment; along with a number of skilled technicians and professionals.

Let us remind you that in 2017, work will be done on the expansion and relocation of Port Kingstown and the Cruise Ship pier and terminal building. And to this list, we must add work on roads and bridges, river and sea defences, the continuation of the housing development programme, and infrastructure development by state agencies like Vinlec, the NIS, National Properties and the CWSA.

Conclusion 

All this is being pulled together by the leadership of the ULP, under the careful watch of Comrade Ralph. While the opposition NDP is floundering under its self imploding leadership crisis, and the sabotaging of their vice president, St. Clair Leacock, the ULP continues its impressive programme of economic development.

The new leader, Dr. Godwin Friday, has a leadership style that is already obsolete, and he is no match for the ULP, and the young brigade of Saboto Caesar, Camillo Gonsalves and Luke Browne, among others. The people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have placed the future development of their beloved country in the hands of the ULP, knowing that the ULP has been tried and tested, and that the party will deliver.


Dec 16th 2016

First Anniversary of the Fourth term

Introduction

Last week the ULP administration observed the first anniversary of the fourth term in office in quiet reflection and introspection. There was no big celebrations, given the situation with our brothers and sisters north of the Rabacca river and in North Leeward. Still December 09, 2016 is a significant date in the history of the ULP, for we must remember the “shenanigans” of the NDP, and the claims that the government will not last two months in office, and that Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves could not present a budget in 2016.

We must also remember the protest actions of the NDP and the way they disrespected the office of the Supervisor of Elections, and the reign of terror they unleashed on the Ms. Findlay. We must remember their threat not to go to Parliament to take the oath of office. All of that came to nothing.

The NDP went to court to challenge the results of the 2015 elections in two constituencies, Central Leeward and North Windward. We all know the story of that attempt, and the ruling of Justice Cottle in that regard. We will hear more about this as time goes by, and we hear the result of the appeal mounted by the opposition.

2016

The ULP has made great strides in relation to its development agenda in 2016. Great work has been done in the health centre, particularly in relation to the construction of the polyclinics in Mesopotamia and Clare Valley, and the enhancements to the Milton Cato General Hospital. Plans for the start up of the Geothermal project in the north of the country are far advanced and work on this project should jump start early in 2017.

There is also the Mt. Wynne Peters Hope project, which has generated much debate in the media here. That project is ready for its ground breaking early in 2017, bringing jobs to the people on the Leeward side of the island in particular. Investment activities have proceeded apace in the tourism sector. Construction work on one hotel facility in Bequia is underway, and the marina in Canouan is ready for its opening ceremony.

Of course the major activity in 2016 was the efforts to complete the construction of the international airport project at Argyle. This delay is due to the adverse weather conditions which affected the country, and resulted in damages to the road network in the area. The Minister of Works, Senator Julian Francis is spearheading the recovery work in this respect, and we expect things to return to normalcy by the end of the year. In the meantime we encourage Vincentians to visit the terminal building to see the amazing changes as the IADC retrofits the arrival and departure areas for operations.

Expect the NDP to continue to be critical and bad mouth the airport project, since their opposition from 2009. They have said some of the worse things about this project, a project that is critical for the future development of the country. When it is completed and operational, the NDP will have some serious questions to answer.

In terms of infrastructural development, the ULP administration has secured funding for the development of major feeder roads in the State, and repairs to some critical secondary roads. This means that construction activity in 2017 will be heightened. Added to this will be the repair work to several bridges in the State, including the Spring Village bridge. The Mt. Young bridge is already being used by commuters in the north of the country, in a fortuitous way, after the bailey bridge was damaged by heavy rains.

The ULP continued its much talked about education revolution in 2016, as students vied for scholarships to pursue their tertiary education abroad. Again, we must be proud that two Vincentians became valedictorians at the University of the West Indies, a trend that is establishing itself. Our students are setting new goals in terms of their educational achievements, but here and there, some areas of concerns have to be addressed.

Finally one major project in 2016 which will impact the drive to eliminate dirt poor poverty in the State was the launch of the Zero Hunger Thrust Fund. This revolutionary move will attack the issue of hunger among persons who are dirt poor. The government has instituted a levy on mobile calls, to raise money for this fund, and to continue the war against poverty and undernourishment. The Zero Hunger Thrust Fund has already started the “adopt a classroom project” aimed at enhancing learning and skills development among children in areas affected by poverty.


Conclusion

All told, 2016 was a busy year for the ULP administration with a host of development activities, and 2017 shapes up to be an even more energetic year, given the list of projects coming through the pipeline. Additionally the government will continue to manage the fiscal conditions in the country with prudence and enterprise. In 2016, things have been fiscally steady, but we are not out of the proverbial woods as yet, and the leadership of the ULP will continue to consolidate the economic gains, without being reckless and extravagant.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has already outlined his transition plan for the ULP, even as the NDP struggles to come to grips with the fallout from their plan. With its “people-centred approach” the ULP will continue its work, bolstered by the fact that it is the party of choice of the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.




December 10th 2016

St.Vincent and the Grenadines has lost a great friend

Introduction

On November 25th 2016, the people of Cuba were plunged into a period of mourning and grief, when the news was announced about the passing of their beloved Commandante, Fidel Castro Ruz. Since then international leaders and governments have paid tributes to the former leader, who in his own way, led a process to unshackle his country from imperialism, to a just and inclusive society, in the interest of all Cubans.

History will record him as a visionary leader who worked extremely hard to ensure that a small Caribbean country, often regarded then as the resort for rich playboys, turned itself into an important country, and became a force to be reckoned with on the international scene.

History will record that Fidel Castro, together with his brother, Raul, led his revolutionary group, the July 26th Movement, in a revolution against the Batista regime. Batista was overthrown in 1959, and Fidel became leader of Cuba. This iconic revolutionary leader led the political process to unshackle the people of Cuba from a debilitating imperialism, and worked towards the establishment of an inclusive Cuban society, free of exploitation.

The international figure

Castro became an international figure through his leadership style, his successes in Cuba, and his internationalism and solidarity with the poor and the oppressed worldwide. His defeat of the South African armed forces at the battle of Cuito Cuanavale has been hailed as the crowning moment which led to the release of former president Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa. Indeed, during a visit to Cuba in 1991, Nelson Mandela credited the Cuban forces, by stating that the victory “marked an important step in the struggle to free the continent and our country of the scourge of apartheid”.

Fidel Castro also attracted international attention for his role in the missile crisis in 1962, between the United States and Russia. For Castro, that further attracted anger from Washington, and further tightened the trade embargo. Naturally, his efforts to keep the Cuban economy afloat, despite the embargo, have been praised by the international community.

The Bay of Pigs invasion, in which he defeated CIA trained forces, who tried to overthrow his government, brought him more admiration and support. The Cuban people revered him more than ever, because here was their beloved “Fidel” taking on the great United States, and emerging victorious. Cuba’s stature and position in the world soared to new heights.


Our Friend, Fidel

There can be no doubt that Fidel Castro was a friend of St.Vincent and the Grenadines, and of the current leader, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. Former administrations and leaders under the New Democratic Party and the Labour Party maintained diplomatic links with Cuba, and Vincentians benefitted from studies in that country.

That diplomatic relationship increased, and both countries became closer following the arrival of the Unity Labour Party in March 2001. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who regarded Fidel as a personal friend, has described him as “a warm and humorous person, a finished personality, full of a love for life and living”. A number of Vincentians have had the honour of meeting this great leader, and have found him to be a remarkable character.

Cuba has provided immense support for the country in a number of ways. Let’s go back to 2001 where the country endured a shortage of personnel in the nursing sector. It was to Cuba that the ULP turned to find trained nurses, to ease the problems created by the shortage. Cuba has responded magnificently to requests for assistance for Vincentians, from all walks of life. Remember the Vision Now programme which allowed persons to travel to Havana to address their eye problems? And what about the campaign to reduce energy costs by installing energy saving bulbs in households here? Do we remember those initiatives?

Perhaps the close relationship between this country and Cuba is demonstrated through the response of the Fidel Castro administration to the plans by the ULP, to construct an international airport at Argyle. From day one, Cuba has been part of the “coalition of the willing”, providing significant assistance in the construction of the airport. From the beginning of the construction, the Chatoyer-Che contingent, worked side by side in solidarity, Vincentian and Cuban workers, engineers and construction specialists, with one aim in mind - to complete this facility which will make a huge difference in the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cuba has opened its universities and specialist schools to Vincentians to pursue their tertiary level education in a number of areas. This has been so for a number of years and will continue, even though Fidel is gone.

Conclusion

Without a shadow of a doubt, Fidel Castro was an extraordinary and towering political figure of immense historical and global significance. In the struggle for people’s liberation, he ranks alongside titans like Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and Toussaint L’Ouverture. Like all human beings, he was not without fault, but these pale into insignificance when compared with the remarkable legacy he has left the Cuban people, and indeed, the rest of the world.

To be sure, no other world leader has steadfastly stood up to the might of the United States, and survived. For almost fifty years, Cuba under Fidel Castro has survived under an illegal economic by the United States, and was still able to provide Cubans with a superior education system, and exemplary health care. The world will remember Fidel.

 


Dec 2nd 2016

THE COMPLAINING INDUSTRY

THE ISSUE


There is in the Caribbean, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a politically-partisan complaining industry of monumental proportions. This industry is not to be confused with that of reasonable, justifiable and legitimate queries about the delivery of public and private goods and services to the population.  The complaining industry is a structured apparatus of unproductivity.  It is based on politically-partisan talk-show radio hosts who are sponsored by or affiliated to opposition political parties.  In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, its headquarters is NDP-FM, otherwise mistakenly called “NICE Radio”.  The complaining industry has a veritable factory for the manufacture of complaints, mainly unconnected to truth or the real world; it thrives on the stylizing of facts, half-truths, untruths, innuendos, and specious falsehoods.

The complaining industry has paid producers of complaints.  They are supported by an informal network of distributors.  Indeed, some of them are own-account producers of a lesser order than those who reside at the Headquarters.  The complaining industry is intimately connected to the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP).  Indeed, this party’s leading members are among the principal contributors and overseers of the complaining industry.


TRIVIA AND THE COMPLAINING INDUSTRY

The complaining industry thrives on trivia.  Unable to attack coherently or at all the philosophy, central tenets, and overall performance of the ULP government, the complainers focus on trivial matters in which the proverbial dance can’t pay for the light.  To be sure, we must “get the small things right” as Comrade Ralph has pleaded.  But trivia and small things are different.  In any event, there are always small things to be put right in the nature of life and production.  At the same time, the big things must be accomplished for genuine development.  The complainers shy away from the big ticket items of the ULP in the same manner that jumbie avoids holy water.  The complainers tackle the big issues on such a low road that they demean themselves further in the process.

 
THE COMPLAINERS ARE FAILURES

The principal producers in the complaining industry are almost all failures.  And those who are not, have personal grievances against the ULP which they have sought to elevate into public policy.  They have entered public life for entirely the wrong reasons.

When you listen to, or read, the following from the complaining industry, do you know:
That one is a failed businessman, music entrepreneur and a one-time occupant of a foreign jail?
That a daily propagandist is a convicted felon who subsequently has been adjudged by the High Court in civil and criminal cases to be a purveyor of falsehood?

That one of them, a pharmacist, the less said about him the better?

That one, a self-proclaimed know-all has never succeeded at anything including his treatment of the English language?

That another has a height in inverse proportion to his intellect, unfit even for menial tasks at say, an insurance company or some such corporate enterprise?

That one a columnist, and lawyer by profession, has hardly even won a Court case, a total undisciplined waste of an intellect?

And so the list goes on!  The point is thus amply made.

 
COMPLAINTS AND LEARNED HELPLESSNESS

A hall-mark of the complainers is their sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  They speak and write mountains of words but no developmental narrative emerges.  They sup at the fountain of learned helplessness.  They follow their political leader, Arnhim Eustace, who never finds a single reason to do something but many reasons never to do anything.  They see only problems, not solutions.  Idleness and a lack of success in achieving anything paralyse them from acting positively.

They encourage their supporters to deny any personal responsibility for any difficulties they may face.  They blame it all on Ralph, Ralph, Ralph!  Anything which goes wrong in their lives, it is Ralph’s fault!  This nonsense has become a central doctrine of the complainers.


COMPLAINING AND PULL DOWN

The partisan complaining industry sets about pulling-down persons who do not join them in their folly.  So they verbally abuse pastors and priests, union leaders (Noel Jackson, Lloyd Small and Burns Bonadie), successful executives (Thornley Myers, Lennox Bowman, Joel Providence and Garth Saunders), high-ranking police officers (Keith Miller, Pompey and Lockhart), sports administrators, Ministers of Government, the Governor General, and above-all the Prime Minister.

Some have had to pay for their mouths in the Law Courts.  Others undoubtedly have their just desserts coming.

The complaining industry misses one central point:  Our people are essentially good-natured and do not like this pulling-down.  They may laugh at it, but they do not like it.

 
ASSOCIATES OF COMPLAINERS


The politically-partisan complainers seek out possible associates in civil society organizers.  Here and there a few unsuspecting ones join their bandwagon.  A few others with political axes to grind and personal vanities/agendas to accommodate jump aboard this disreputable train of complainers.  These are classic petit-bourgeois opportunists who are liable to jump anywhere at anytime and against whom a principled, progressive outfit like the ULP must be on the alert.

BELITTLING ACHIEVEMENTS


A core approach of the politically-partisan complaining industry is to belittle the phenomenal achievements of the ULP government.  So, they deny the existence of the Education, Housing and Wellness Revolutions.  They deny and distort the splendid economic record of the ULP government in creating more jobs, in reducing poverty; in consolidating and improving our fiscal condition, and in taking care of the elderly.  They treat the Canouan Jet Airport as no achievement and they down-play the massive significance of the International Airport being constructed at Argyle.

We say let the complainers complain.  The ULP will continue to deliver quality goods, services and projects to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Let them talk false words.  We would demonstrate truth in action.



November 18th 2016

False Flag activities; the NDP’s propaganda machine misfires

Introduction


The issue of false flag activities and propaganda has been with us for some time, but is receiving more attention because of the heightened usage of social media by Vincentians. False flag activities have their basis in military operations and espionage situations, but recently these have taken on a civilian approach, particularly by opposition political parties and non-government organisations.

Coming out of the political campaigns of 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015, and the referendum of 2009, the NDP has used a number of false flag operations to undermine the activities of the government, and by extension the ULP. Naturally these have been unsuccessful. False flag operations utilize a number of lies to create confusion, and give the impression that government officials are corrupt and full of deceit. Only truth and facts will defeat any false flag operation.

At the centre of these activities by the NDP, is a London based company called Strategic Communication Laboratories, the SCL. You will remember that the ultimate goal of SCL and the NDP is to try to control the minds of the Vincentian voter. In the previous election campaigns the messages from the NDP and the SCL were aimed at that purpose, to control the minds of Vincentian voters. They did this by developing a number of so-called conspiracies aimed at creating a negative impact on the ULP administration, and members of the ULP.


Conspiracies

Perhaps the best conspiracies developed by the NDP and SCL were those used during the 2009 referendum campaign. They raged that any support for the new constitution would mean that the picture of the current Prime Minister will replace the photo of Queen Elisabeth II on the face of the current EC$100 bill. Some enterprising NDP supporters actually went as far as to design an EC$100 bill with the picture of Ralph Gonsalves displayed on it.

Naturally, this created a stir in the public and generated some negativity for the referendum process. The NDP and SCL followed this up by claiming that Vincentians returning home from the United Kingdom will lose their pension payments, if the constitution is changed. Again, this provoked a negative response to the referendum.

Simply put, the NDP will release some false information about this or that project or strategy. When this information is corrected, they will claim that it is a lie, and move on to the next step, claiming that the government is not transparent, and that the ULP is fooling Vincentians.

The NDP has targeted the International Airport Project at Argyle for a series of conspiracies, all of which backfired. Their main contention is that the airport would not get the necessary approval to commence operations this year. First of all the NDP is not sure who will provide the approval, claiming that it is the Federal Aviation Authority out of the United States. In fact it is the East Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority, ECCAA, which is based in Antigua. Both entities are members of ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Then there are the conspiracies in relation to the wind studies at the construction site of the project, the environmental impact assessment study, the economic viability studies, and the list goes on. The whole approach by the NDP tells the importance of the airport project to the country, and the political mileage to be gained by the ULP administration, when the project is operational. As such, they reserved their worse conspiracies for this project, but truth will also win out.


The defense

In the face of all these false-flag operations, the ULP is still able to maintain its position as the leading political party of the day. In fact, the ULP is celebrating a fourth historic victory at the rolls, “four in a row”, winning elections in 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015, all with the popular vote and a majority of seats. This is a clear indication that the unpatriotic machinations of the NDP have had little or no effect on the support base of the ULP.

In fact the voters of the country have seen the work of the ULP administration, and have developed a tremendous amount of faith in the leadership of that party, and in particular, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. In comparison, they have seen the work of the NDP, and the way they oppose everything that is good for the country, and have decided that they don’t want any part of Arnhim Eustace.

As mentioned before, truth is the factor that is responsible for the negation of the false flag operations of the NDP. To be sure, the NDP will continue their lying operations as acute desperation sets in. That desperation will come when they see the operations at the international airport get underway. The desperation will get worse when they see the operations at the new city at Arnos Vale, and the work on the geo-thermal project.


Conclusion

The ULP administration has delivered on its promises, and pledges to uplift markedly, the condition of life of our people and that of our nation. Undoubtedly we will face challenges, including those of Mother Nature, and the current global situation. But as a people, we are in love with solutions and we will find a way to rise above every crisis, and move forward, always offering continuing hope through our faith in Almighty God. No amount of false flag operations, lies and half-truths will deter the ULP administration from its people centered philosophy for the St. Vincent and the Grenadines.


November 4th 2016

Excerpts from the 37th anniversary of independence address delivered by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

Introduction


There were several important announcements made by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, as he addressed the nation at the parade to mark the 37th anniversary of independence. We present a selection from that address.
Appointment of temporary clerks etc.

First, the 110 persons who are employed as temporary clerks, some for several years, in the public service will be employed with permanent status from January 01, 2017.  This will provide them with the requisite job security and attendant benefits as public servants.

Second, on the basis of the 2016 CSEC and CAPE examinations 629 students who achieved the requisite standard will shortly receive a cash grant of $500 each.  So, too, would students who passed the Associate Degree programme at the required level at the SVG Community College.  This is a continuation of the initiative of our government.

Third, on the basis of the 2016 CAPE examinations, our government has awarded 16 scholarships, exhibitions, and bursaries for university-level study.  Of these, eight are National Scholarships, fully-funded for 5 years of study; five are National Exhibitions, fully-funded for 3 years of study; and three are Bursaries valued at $60,000 each for 3-year university programmes.  These awards cost in excess of $5 million in the aggregate.  Additionally, for the 2017-2018 academic year, the government will grant 70 tuition scholarships to deserving applicants for university study; further, it will continue to finance the economic cost for all eligible students at the University of the West Indies; and the state-owned Student Loan Company will continue to grant annually economically-disadvantaged student loans amounting to in excess of $4 million to eligible and deserving applicants.  All of this, combined with other university scholarships negotiated with friendly overseas governments and supportive institutions, continue to place St. Vincent and the Grenadines on track to have one university graduate per household, on an average, by 2030. 

Registered Nurses and Nursing assistants

Fourth, the relevant authorities in government, will shortly announce the 100 or so successful applicants in the aggregate for the coveted places, for the new academic year, in the Registered Nursing and Nursing Assistant programmes. The students in the Registered Nursing programme will continue to receive not only a free education but also a monthly stipend of $1,000.00.  I have been advised that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the only country in CARICOM with such a generous provision, a special initiative of our ULP government.  You may recall that last year, the positions for Nursing Assistants were made pensionable for the first time ever.

All these, and other compelling initiatives for the youths, the elderly, farmers, the working people, will continue to be honoured and implemented despite the economic challenges, with which we are confronted.

Early release from prison

Fifth, in another week or two, after a review is completed by the competent authorities, I intend to advise His Excellency the Governor General to order the release of some young men and women who are serving terms of imprisonment for relatively minor offences.  I consider that in all the circumstances that these young persons ought to be given a second chance.  This is the internationally-proclaimed year of Mercy by people of faith, and we ought to exercise it appropriately to these young persons and others.


Sixth, the annual duty-free concession for Christmas barrels will commence on Monday, November 14, 2016, and run to December 31, 2016.  Last year, there were some 18,000 such barrels.

Seventh, shortly, additional persons will be recruited for the Police Force, the Fire Service, and the Coast Guard.

Recognition for outstanding Vincentians

Eighth, I turn to the further recognition of those of our citizens, at home and abroad, who have made sterling contributions in the fields of sports, culture, education, health, public service, business, and community service.  Early in the New Year 2017, our government will announce the naming of various facilities in honour of our distinguished citizens, particularly those who have gone to the great beyond.  We must remember them as part of our exercise of nation-building and the further ennoblement of our Caribbean civilisation. Announcements, too, will be made for a few additional sporting and cultural ambassadors.

And my last announcement today concerns Haiti.  I have instructed the Director General of Finance and Planning to transfer an initial US $50,000 to assist the Haitian government in its relief efforts consequent upon the recent devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew.  The Haitians are our Caribbean brothers and sisters whom we love dearly. They are in our prayers.

Fellow-Vincentians, within a few weeks I will present to Parliament the Estimates for Revenue and Expenditure for the year 2017.  Thereafter I will deliver my Budget 2017 in the debate on the Appropriation Bill.  Please listen out for our government’s continued programmes and some fresh initiatives.

Fellow-Vincentians, as I conclude, I reiterate that today is a day for reflection of ourselves and our history; to think carefully about our past, our present, and our future which is the only time, that it is ours to desecrate.  We must truly get to know better ourselves and our history; to listen more to our parents and grand-parents; to shape a whole son and a whole daughter out of the compromises which history and contemporary circumstances have made us.

 In this process, renewals and rebirths are not only possible, but necessary and desirable.  As we learn from our past, we must not remain stuck in it; we take the present as we find it and make our future better from all our possibilities and strengths, despite our limitations and weaknesses.  We must discern truth from facts and let the real world validate the truth. 

We must not merely build monuments of the Right Excellent Joseph Chatoyer, our extraordinary National Hero, and other exceptional personalities in our patrimony; their heroic deeds and teachings are better remembered not in marble, stone or bronze but in our hearts and minds, recognising always that despite their greatness, that they are mortals with limitations and weaknesses.

And so, today, we renew individually and collectively our quest to uplift ourselves and our nation further. It is our duty to act in furtherance of this noble quest. 

 


October 28th 2016

We have done well in 37 years of Independence

Introduction

This week Vincentians from all walks of life, celebrated the 37th anniversary of our nations independence in a number of ways. Vincentians at home are proud to display their national colours, particularly on their cars and their houses. Many workers designed their own uniforms in the colours of the national flags, and wore these with pride.

The truth is that as a country, we have made significant socio-economic and technological progress despite our geographical size, and our scarcity of natural resources. Much development has been accomplished and achieved in the face of unfavourable economic conditions. But much work still remains to be done.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines became independent in 1979, under the administration of Milton Cato of blessed memory. His labour party was in office for the period 1979 to 1984. This was followed by Sir James Mitchell and the NDP from 1984 to 2001. The ULP and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves assumed office from 2001 to the present day. It is this period of governance that has made many Vincentians proud.

What we have achieved

There is a general agreement that the level of education in the country has increased and improved, thanks to the Education Revolution. Our young people are more intelligent today than ever before, in the period leading up to our 37th anniversary. There has been an explosion in the ICT sector and many Vincentians have easy access to the internet and by extension to social media. Regionally, our country has gained recognition at the UWI campuses in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, an indication of the success of our students at the Community College. Our enrolment at these campuses has been staggering. And all this over a period of fifteen years.

The country now has a political leader who is revered and respected in the region and further afield. Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is now regarded as one of the leading Prime Ministers in the region, widely sought for his opinions and thinking on regional matters. The same cannot be said for the leader of the opposition NDP, Arnhim Eustace, who calls Vincentians a “wasteful lump of nothing”. How can you love Vincentians and refer to them in this manner?

Overall there has been significant developments in Health, Tourism, ICT, and Agriculture. Scholarships abound and our students are pursuing studies as far as Malaysia and Taiwan. In the area of diplomatic relations the ULP administration has developed new international relationships with a number of countries, particularly those in the Far East. This has resulted in benefits for the country particularly in the areas of geothermal energy and infrastructure development.
                                                            
Salaries have been increased and with the current low to zero inflation rate, many public servants, including teachers, nurses, and police officers, enjoy a comfortable standing of living. The government has made a significant dent in the poverty level, and with the Zero Hunger Trust Fund, this battle will continue.

Now the country is poised for further development with the imminent opening of the international airport at Argyle, the opening of the new city at Arnos Vale, and the ongoing work on the expansion to Port Kingstown. The opening of the international airport will bring investors to the State in large numbers, leading to more employment and wealth creation. Already the stage is set for construction work to begin on the Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope project, and tourism development in Bequia, Canouan, Mayreau and Union Island, are in train.

And so as we celebrate our 37th anniversary of independence we can look back at our achievements with a large degree of pride, confident in the ability of the ULP administration to deliver on its socio-economic goals. As a people we must take confidence from our leadership, knowing that the ULP administration is in love and communion with all Vincentians.

The Future

As we move forward, we must reaffirm the necessity to build a modern, competitive, post colonial economy which is at once national, regional, and global. In the process we must train our people to think in these terms, to acquire the required skills for this modern political economy, and to interface confidently with the region and the world. This is the only credible path to continued progress, prosperity and social and political stability.

Our nation’s small size imposes on us an obligation to interface in a meaningful way, with the region and the rest of the world, always in the interest of the development and upliftment of all Vincentians. Our people are overwhelmingly law abiding and non violent, but emerging is a unacceptably high incidence of violent crimes, committed by young men using illegal firearms. This is a worrying feature and the ULP administration is committed to reducing markedly, and then eradicating, these gun related, and other crimes of violence.

This is a task not only for the law enforcement agencies, but touches our homes, the schools, the churches and our communities. Indeed the media must be engaged in a focussed way to address this condition. Still for all this, our country remains safe, and the security of citizens, though challenged, remains sound.

Conclusion

We close by referring to the words of our National Anthem; “what ere the future brings, our faith will see us through”. We must recognise that Almighty God has been good and loving to us, and he has helped us overcome our limitations and realise a host of our possibilities.

 



OCTOBER 21ST 2016

Why the ULP is best for the country

Introduction

The two leading political parties here, the ruling Unity Labour Party, and the opposition New Democratic Party, have had to face the scrutiny of the voters of this country some four times over the last fifteen years. In each case, the voters have said that they want the ULP to administer the affairs of governance, and further, that they want Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to lead the country.

There is a lot of debate as to why this is so, even to the point where the NDP claims that the ULP stole the 2010 and 2015 general elections. In other words, the NDP has never accepted that the ULP is the better political party, and that the voters were right in casting their “x” for the ULP. Within their ranks, members and supporters of the NDP have come to the realisation that their party cannot win an election, once Arnhim Eustace remains as political leader. But the party lacks the political will to make the change in leadership.

The main differences

The ULP has a development policy based on the idea of a “people-centred development”. This means that the ULP has placed the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines at the centre of its vision and philosophy for social and economic development. All this can be seen in the programmes and the strategies of the ULP. First there is the education revolution which seeks to ensure that there is universal access to secondary education. The mantra here is that no child must be left behind, and that all children must get a secondary school education. Rather than supporting this policy, the NDP has sought at every turn, to “bad talk” it.

In the face of all this our young students have moved on to great achievements. Vincentians are regularly being selected as valedictorians at the various campuses of the University of the West Indies. A valedictorian is often the student with the highest ranking among the graduating class, so this must be something to be celebrated.

Instead what do we get from the New Democratic Party? An unwarranted attack on the accreditation process at the Community College, trying to put down our students, and our hard working teachers. Despite information from the Ministry of Education, the University of the West Indies and the College, the NDP persisted with their attacks. The rest is history.

Consistently, the NDP has opposed many of the projects and strategies implemented by the ULP administration. Consistently they have proven the point, that they don’t like Vincentians, and further, they don’t want anything that is good for the country. The project that has captured most of their attention is the international airport at Argyle. This project has attracted the most hate from the NDP, and the most hurtful and spite ridden criticism from their spokespersons on radio.

The truth is that many NDP supporters are happy with the international airport project. The only issue is that they feel that it is their party, the NDP, who should be constructing the airport. Clearly they feel that the NDP is the party who should get the credit for the construction of the project. They understand that good government and good policies make good politics, and will provide kudos for the political entity in the entire process.

The ULP administration has a genuine love for people as demonstrated by the projects which have been implemented over the last fifteen years. Take the Mt. Wynne/Peter’s Hope project which will bring jobs for the people on the leeward side of the island. It is unthinkable that the NDP will oppose such a project. This only sends a message that the NDP don’t like the people of south, central and north leeward.

And there is the matter of leadership, another major difference between the ULP and NDP. The current leader of the ULP, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, is intelligent, charismatic, has a clear strategy for the development of the country, loves Vincentians, especially the poor and the working class, and is not afraid to mix with the common man. Arnhim Eustace by comparison is aloof, has poor leadership skills, and is under tremendous pressure within his party to keep his leadership spot. Ralph Gonsalves has been tried and tested as a national leader, under some of the worse global economic conditions, and has proven himself. Arnhim Eustace has no track record, and his views on national issues are flawed. Eustace is timid, believes in learned helplessness, is pessimistic and has no faith in the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

Conclusion

The ULP has demonstrated over the last 15 years that strategic thinking and actions are its hallmarks. It is a general truism that if one seeks to cross the developmental divide with baby steps, the inevitable is that one would fall to the bottom of the widening gorge. Major leaps are required within a small resourced- challenged economy and society like St.Vincent and the Grenadines, for the realisation of genuine sustainable development.

The ULP boasts a record of outstanding and unprecedented achievements which have benefited every Vincentian family. The ULP offers continued hope for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In communion with all Vincentians, the ULP will move forward to achieve greater things, individually and collectively, for the betterment of the nation.​​


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