(Excerpts of Ben Exeter’s presentation at a virtual Meeting)
Tonight, is about the empowerment of our people. Tonight, is about how Dr Friday and the New Democratic Party (NDP) plan to empower you, the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. We believe in policies that would teach a man to fish, so that they could be fed for a lifetime. This is the philosophy of the NDP; one which seeks to empower and uplift its people. We are true to our motto of One Nation, One People, One Vincy.
The NDP is not simply focused on building concrete structures, but rather, to build communities, and build lives. The NDP plans to build the lives of the people of Central Leeward through the development of the blue economy. Our blue economy plan is designed to exploit our more than 200 nautical-miles of fishing zone, and gives our fisher folk, women and youth the kind of hand up that they need to live to their full potential. Our people are not lazy. Our people do not want to wait around at the end of the month to collect public assistance. Our people need hope and a government that cares. They need support to get back on their feet.
Our blue economy plan will see the expansion of our fishing industry which will result in jobs and wealth creation for the people of Central Leeward. We will also make substantial capital investment by upgrading landing sites and the fishing plant in Barrouallie. Further, we will utilize technology to aid in catch management where we will be able to understand the demand for fish production and analyze the expected catch. By doing this, our fisherfolk will be better positioned to participate in our tourism and export markets in a meaningful way.
The worldwide estimated annual sale value of fish is over US$140 billion. We deserve a piece of that pie. Our people have the necessary skills needed to be a part of this lucrative market. And for those who do not have the skills, our blue economy policy will make available technical assistance, including training, scholarships and exchange programs to ensure that we are more efficient, more productive, more competitive and more successful. An NDP government will provide much needed financial injection through low-interest loans and grants, concessions, and incentives for our people to purchase or lease vessels and power business start-up which will result in expansion and rapid growth.
The NDP will build a fishing industry that will enable our people to do more. We will build an industry where people are empowered to create wealth for their families. We are promoting policies that are transformative and not transactional. Central Leeward, they will come saying that we are dreamers. Tell them yes. Tell them that we are dreaming of a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We are dreaming of the day when St. Vincent and the Grenadines returns to a prosperous nation. Tell them yes, because dreams of freedom and equality are what spur revolutions. People of Central Leeward, we say dare to dream. We are about to have an empowerment revolution. A revolution where our people are given the support they need to live their true potential.
It is no longer good enough for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to have a catch-up plan. We can’t be looking to catch up to other neighbouring islands. We need to surpass them. In 2107, fishing accounted for 24.52% of Grenada’s export; for St Vincent and the Grenadines, it was a mere 4.78%. St Vincent and the Grenadines imports twice the amount of fish than we export. Meanwhile, Grenada exports twice as much as they import. Something is seriously wrong here. This must change.
Our food security depends on a robust fishing and agriculture policy. We need bold innovative plans that will see us leapfrog over other nations. We have been there before. We can do it again. This new bold vision for us, is one which technology is infused in every aspect of our lives—from government to tourism, education, health care, farming and fishing. Let’s make fishing and farming exciting for our young people, one where they could apply modern technology to their craft, for ultimate productivity and enhanced livelihood.
Grenada, St Lucia, Barbados, and Turks and Caicos Islands have Fish Fry festivals. What about us? A Fish Fry festival in Central Leeward would help to make Barrouallie a tourism destination for international guests, and attracts locals from the Windward side and provide much needed economic spinoff. We can seize these opportunities for growth and empowerment. Central Leeward will experience a revitalized economy, higher levels of employment and wealth, and pride of its people. This might be a dream now but it will only remain a dream if this administration is permitted to remain in power. When the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines stand up for equality; stand up for democracy and stand up for empowerment, then this dream shall be realized through your next representative for Central Leeward, Benjamin Exeter.
People of Central Leeward, hard workers of Central Leeward, single mothers of Central Leeward, youth of Central Leeward, dream big, make a difference. Our time has come. Change is on its way, from South Leeward, throughout Central Leeward to North Leeward, we hear the chant for change. We hear the cry for change. I say to you that my NDP brothers, Roland Patel Matthews, Nigel, ‘Nature’ Stephenson and I hear your cries. We feel your pain, and we say that change is on its way. If you are over 18 years of age and you have not registered to vote, I urge you to go out and get registered and vote for the NDP so we can make St. Vincent and the Grenadines working again.