DR .GODWIN FRIDAY Leader of the Opposition

We are joining hands together for our country, in common cause against: crime, poverty, economic hardship, political division and social strife in our homeland, St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Most of you are my supporters, supporters of the New Democratic Party (NDP). Thanks again for being here. But, I hope as well that we have been able to bring out others, who may not yet be NDP supporters, but are ready to listen and share ideas in a genuine effort to learn from one another so that we can work effectively together to build a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
I know we share a common vision of One People, One Vincy! We can only succeed as a people by believing together, and even when we have differences, by genuinely working together. For too long, Vincentians at home and abroad have been pulled apart by the politics of pull-down and hate. The divide and conquer politics practiced by those now in power in St.Vincent and the Grenadines can only lead to chaos and hardship. Today, to get ahead in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it matters which party card you hold and the colour of the shirt you wear; specifically that they are ULP and red! It should not be that way; it does not have to be that way! Truly, that is not our way, not the Vincentian way.
My friends, let us embrace a better way. We must look out for one another, even when we have political differences. A friend recounted to me recently her recollection of how politics once was in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, in the 80s and 90s. Of neighbors supporting different political parties during elections, but after the vote was counted and the winners declared; NDP won in those days, they returned to their normal lives of sharing breadfruit and other produce with one another of being good neighbors and looking out for one another. In other words, they understood that what bound them together as people and as Vincentians was far more important than what separated them. They did not just believe it or profess it; they practiced it. So should we!
It makes good sense to do so. It makes sense not only because it is in keeping with our Christian values; it makes sense also because in practice it helps our country to work better. I believe this fundamentally. It informs the way I practice politics in St.Vincent and the Grenadines; it guides me in how I do my job as Representative of the Northern Grenadines, as Leader of the Opposition and as President of the New Democratic Party. My colleagues in Parliament and our other candidates in the various constituencies all work very hard to represent the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines in this way. When our people change the government, that is how we will govern St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Economy
In relation to the general economic situation: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its report released last December that economic growth in St.Vincent and the Grenadines has been stagnant since 2009, at an annual average of 0.2 percent up to 2016, and the future does not look much brighter. The unemployment rate in our country stands at 25 percent (IMF). This is worse than it was in 2001, when the ULP came to power. At that time, it stood at 20.9 percent. Today, the youth, 15-24 years unemployment rate is estimated to be a staggering 46 percent. The national debt has gotten much worse. In 2001 our debt-service ratio was below the Eastern Caribbean average. Today it is higher than that average. In fact, it is the highest in the Windward Islands and the highest in our country’s history. And the massive public spending by this government without accountability has imposed an oppressive debt burden on taxpayers, with little benefit to them. Our people are paying more taxes every year to pay the growing government debt and are getting less for their sacrifice. We have the highest taxes and the lowest wages in the OECS!
Crime and Violence
Crime and Violence, or violent crime is rampant in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. It is a crisis in our country. Year after year we break records for the number of homicides taking place in our country, 39 in 2016 and 40 in 2017. As of today in 2018, the number is 25. It could have been more, as we consider the circumstances of the latest shooting death. Shoot out in Paul Avenue last night; four persons shot, one died as a result. More people could have died! Such events are far too common in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Every weekend we wait to hear news of the latest shooting or other form of killing. Weekends have become dangerous times in St.Vincent and the Grenadines; ordinary people are scared. The fear is real. In a recent edition of The Vincentian newspaper ordinary residents of Lodge Village community speak of this. Also, rape and sexual violence against our women and children are out of control. A rape culture has grown up in our country.
In today’s papers, the acting commissioner of police is accused by another officer of sexually assaulting her. He denies it. But nevertheless, this is serious stuff, especially as it comes from a police officer! On that basis alone he must step down or be put on leave until the matter is properly investigated. Moreover, as head of the police services, he can’t be in charge of an investigation in which he is the accused. I am calling on the acting commissioner to step down, and if he does not, I call on the Minister of National Security to remove him from office until the matter is properly investigated.

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