On 5th December, 2019, the New Democratic Party (NDP) celebrated its 44th anniversary. It is the oldest political party in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The NDP governed St. Vincent and the Grenadines for seventeen years. During its tenure in office, the NDP transformed St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The main objectives of the NDP are, to raise the standard of living of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines through the development of the economic resources of the country in a manner that provides equal opportunity for all; to ensure the highest standard of rectitude in public life; to guarantee the maximum expression of democratic liberties by all citizens; to lead in the building of a dynamic society and to encourage the organization of citizens into responsible groups for the advancement of their causes.
The founding father, Sir James Mitchell, led the party to victory in general elections of 1984. Vincentians said ‘Enough is Enough’ to an oppressive and corrupt Labour government. The impressive team NDP and a message of hope propelled it to victory in the general elections of that year. They met a country in shambles and set out to fix it immediately.
With well-defined objectives, a clear vision, effective policies, astute leadership and sound financial management, the NDP governed St. Vincent and the Grenadines from 1984 to 2001. Having won general elections in 1984, 1989, 1994 and 1998. In 1989, the party won all fifteen seats. However, a grave injustice was done to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, when the life of the NDP government was cut short by the ‘Road Bock Revolution’.
During the period in office, the economy was booming. There was an average of 5% economic growth annually. All the productive sectors contributed significantly to the economic development. Agriculture played the dominant role, in particular the banana industry. In 1990, St. Vincent and the Grenadines earned $120 million, and in 1992, $112 million also from bananas. Vincentians enjoyed an improved standard of living. A middle class was developed and unemployment was at its lowest.
The flag ship of the NDP was its land reform programme; where lands were given to the landless. For example, Rabbacca, Colonaire, San Souci and Diamond estates were distributed to the poor and working class.
There were also major developments to the infrastructure of this country. We saw the construction of hundreds of miles of feeder roads which the farmers used daily. Vincentians showed great appreciation and welcomed the development of the village roads which the Labour Party called ‘gouti track’. And there was a marked improvement to housing stock.
Vincentians saw the transformation of the Central Water and Sewage Authority and the St. Vincent Electricity Services. When the NDP left office, 90% of the country had electricity. The NDP provided electricity to the villages north of the dry river and built the main road from Fancy to Georgetown. Some of the other accomplishments of the NDP are, the Financial Complex, Little Tokyo, the Cruise ship berth, vegetable market, traffic lights, Ottley Hall Marina, Sion Hill intersection, reconstruction of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, construction of airports in Canouan, Bequia and Union Island and the Canouan Development Project which presently employs hundreds of Vincentians.
Women made significant advancement during the period. Among other things, the NDP established the Gender Unit and the Department of Women was created. It was the NDP that cleared the obstacle of unequal pay through the passage of the Equal Pay Act which allowed women and men to be paid equally. Women were also recipient of lands at Orange Hill. As a matter of fact, 38% of lands distributed at Orange Hill was given to women. The NDP also repealed the Coutts Agreement which required female teachers to resign upon pregnancy. And married women started to file income tax Return independently.
Extensive work was done to develop the education system. It was clear that the structure of administration and management of education was as irrelevant and outmoded as was the antiquated Education Act of 1937 and related regulations which were guiding the system. The following necessary and urgent steps were taken immediately. The combined posts of Permanent Secretary and Chief Education Officer were separated. A Chief Education Officer was appointed, an Education Planner was chosen and a Planning Unit created. In addition, a Curriculum Development Officer was appointed and a Curriculum Development Unit was established and with a keen eye on evaluation the ministry set up a Testing and Measurement Unit.
Among the earliest results of the work of the new Education Planner was the startling revelation that 60% of our school plant was grossly overcrowded. It is now history the NDP government implemented a shift system in schools to facilitate an on-going rehabilitation and expansion of schools programme without having to close any school. The result of the exercise was the rehabilitation of 40% of the nation’s schools by a committed NDP government. It is even more remarkable to note that the NDP government rebuilt/refurbish 40% of the island’s school plant. It must be mentioned that the NDP began paying the Economic Cost for all students attending the UWI, introduced the Student Loan and the constructed phase one the Community College.
On our 44th anniversary, we salute our leaders, Sir James Mitchell, the Hon. Arnhim Eustace, and Dr. the Hon. Godwin Friday. To our members, supporters and all those who have contributed and worked tirelessly to build the party, we express our sincere gratitude to you.
As we look forward to once again take the reign of governance in this country, let us redouble our efforts to the cause. We are inspired by the quality candidates that the party continues to attract and enthused by the mass movement of persons from all strata of society especially the youth who are joining the party. The NDP will make SVG work for all Vincentians.