The debate on crime has intensified following the historical walk by the New Democratic Party (NDP) for jobs and against crime.   And, there have been continuous reports of shootings, attempted homicides, wounding, burglary, praedial larceny, and rapes. Yet, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, has failed to outline an effective strategy to successfully tackle the scourge of crime that is affecting the nation. We continue to hear the usual rhetoric from a Prime Minister who has definitely lost touch with the people.

At his recent press conference on 2nd October, Dr. Gonsalves continued his tirade and at times rambling through his four-hour press conference and failed to adequately address the critical issue of crime. Dr. Gonsalves wants Vincentians to believe that increasing police wages, building new police stations and replacing police officers who either resigned or retired are crime-fighting measures. The time has come for Dr. Gonsalves to acknowledge that there is a serious problem of crime in the country which needs urgent attention.  The NDP reiterates its call for Dr. Ralph Gonsalves to formally address the nation on government’s plan to deal with the worsening crime situation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The detrimental effects of crime and violence in a country are well-documented. A high crime rate, especially violent crime scares away investors and hampers economic development. It drives citizens away from our shores to seek safer harbor in other countries.  These persons tend to be well-educated and so more mobile.  This too has a negative impact on national development.

Further, as a country dependent on tourism, we are particularly vulnerable to the problem of violent crime. As word spreads now at internet speed about an upsurge of crime in the area, visitors tend to plan to vacation elsewhere. This is particularly damaging to our yachting sector, where word of crime against fellow yachters can spell real problems for businesses who provide services to that market. As word of another yacht robbery and injury or death to the occupants spread through the network, other boats sail past us.

The most obvious effect of crime and violence is, of course, social: the pain and suffering caused to victims and loved ones; the health care cost in treating victims; the loss of family income as affected persons are unable to work. These are some of the effects that are all too familiar to us.  It is an awareness of them that leads to us to action and that we hope will create greater urgency in addressing the problem.

Creating opportunities for our youth through IT

The New Democratic Party understands and accepts that technology is not something in our future; it is here and it is now and we need to put it to work for our development, today. An NDP government, in collaboration with already-identified world-class partners, will embark on an ambitious technology agenda that will adopt and adapt technology as a way of life for Vincentians, thereby transforming our economy in every sector and attracting technology businesses that will create employment for our nation’s youth.

The NDP will attract new, IT-based businesses to St. Vincent and the Grenadines and provide hundreds of new jobs.  The NDP will aggressively pursue new business ventures in ICT using our existing legislation to attract ICT businesses to our shores. We will also turn St Vincent and the Grenadines into a free wireless hotspot. Free wireless internet connectivity will be available to residents and visitors, in town and country, in offices and at tourism sites.

We will also set up community-based smart labs. Existing learning resource centers will be transformed into smart labs where information can be accessed by citizens as required. Manned by tech-savvy young people, these centers will allow, for instance, the farmer who needs information about black Sigatoka to walk into a smart lab, ask her questions and get the answers. The smart labs will also connect to users via SMS and other messaging services to provide valuable information to citizens.

Furthermore, invite technology leaders to use St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a growth and mentorship hub. The NDP has already connected with top international tech achievers, who have agreed to establish their businesses from this country. During that time they will train and mentor our interested youth in technology-based entrepreneurial development. Also, enable capacity building in a hands on environment and mentorship by some of the world’s top innovators and will become a reality in the new St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The NDP will implement a coherent, improved programme for ICT in education. Without a well thought-out and implemented ICT in the education programme, giving laptops and other devices to students and teachers will not have the required impact. The NDP will work with service providers and educators regionally to implement a programme that will, among other things, provide access to secondary school textbooks in digital form where possible, which will directly reduce the cost of education for those families with secondary level students at home.

And make Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education a priority. The NDP believes that a key factor in the country’s development in the 21st century will be the creation of a new generation of citizens with at least a basic grounding in Science, Technology. Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). We feel it is important that the citizens and students of St Vincent and the Grenadines should not be simply passive consumers of technology, but also originators and creators of technology. Education curriculum reform must therefore aim to bring the teaching of relevant subjects (including app development and coding) to the primary and secondary schools.

The NDP is committed to an increasingly knowledge based economy in an effort to create jobs. We will place great emphasis on the IT sector particularly to tackle youth unemployment.

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