Members of the Unity Labour Party took six hours during the March 24, 2022 sitting of Parliament, to shower praises onto themselves for twenty-one years of governance.
It was unprecedented and was seen by many as an abuse of parliamentary privilege. For most Vincentians, there isn’t anything to celebrate, there isn’t anything to smile about. What we have is a country that has retrogressed under the ULP.
The ULP came to power with grandeur promises. For instance, in its 2001 manifesto, ten policies were outlined to guide what the ULP promised to implement: “making job creation, especially quality jobs and sustainable economic development our main priority; being tough on crime and the causes of crime; moving resolutely against corruption in government; deepening political democracy, strengthening individuals rights and freedoms, and upholding the law and the constitution; modernizing and reforming government to better and more efficiently deliver all the services provided by the government and developing as never before in our country, sports, culture and the arts.” After twenty-one years, Vincentians are still waiting on these policies to be implemented.
Vincentians are still waiting on the jobs that were promised. Thousands of young people are home, unemployed after graduating secondary schools, colleges and universities, and they are often referred to as lazy by members of the ULP. Where are the jobs? The ULP has failed miserably in creating jobs. Our country is grappling with a high rate of unemployment. The worst it has ever been since conquest and settlement. In a recent IMF report stated that 46 percent among the youth (15-24 years of age) were unemployed. We believe it is more than the figure which was stated by the IMF.
The ULP government has failed to adopt the principles of good governance. Over the years, there have been allegations of corruption in a number of government ministries. The alarming lack of accountability for the use of public resources, the construction of the Argyle International Airport, Petro Caribe and PDV SVG Ltd. The nation is yet to receive an appropriate and responsible response from the then Minister of Finance to these concerns. And the government admitted to spending over EC$100 million without the approval of the parliament. Calls have been made repeatedly for the government to adhere to basic constitutional requirements for accounting of public monies through the channel of parliament.
There is the serious problem of the overdraft account not being able to be reconciled between what the bank says and what the Accountant General says is the amount. Over the period 2010 to 2015, there was an amount of about $95 million difference between what the bank said was withdrawn as part of its overdraft account, and what the Accountant General can present to the Director of Audit as the state of the overdraft account.
Poverty has increased under the ULP government. They have hidden the Poverty Assessment Report of 2018. They are ashamed to publish it. But, we got hold of it. It painted a damning picture of poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The report concluded that poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is worse than when the ULP gained power in 2001. It stated that poverty in St. Vincent and the Grenadines had moved from 30.2% of the population in 2008 to 36.1 % in 2018. The indigence level had moved from 2.9% to 11.3% in the country of 110,000 people.
It took less than twenty-one years for the government to destroy the agricultural sector. The ULP administration dismantled the Banana Growers Association and took full control of it, and subsequently removed the credit system from the farmers. The government refused to incorporate the established banana facilities overseas to expand the national diversification efforts; thus, creating severe hardship for the farmers. The end result was that most farmers abandoned their farms and began to seek employment elsewhere mainly as security guards. The hard working farmers have felt the full weight of the ULP government. And, they have failed to successfully implement the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) project.
Tourism has performed poorly. For instance, in 2006 there were 97,432 stay over visitors; by 2016 the number had declined to 75,395. In other words, we had lost over 22,000 of such visitors. Instead of increasing the number of people in our hotels and guest houses, we lost over 22,000. Do you know how many jobs were lost as a result? Even after five years of operation of the Argyle International Airport, the number of stay over visitors remains low. When the poor performance of the tourism industry was highlighted by a young bright Vincentian, an island scholar, he was fired from his job.
Then, the cruel, evil and vindictive act by the government where it instituted its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, requiring police officers, teachers, nurses and certain other government and state entities to take the COVID-19 vaccine, as a standard of qualification for work. And, dismissed hundreds of state employees including sanitation workers who refused to be vaccinated.
The economy has been performing poorly. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is at the bottom of the OECS as it relates to economic growth. Budget deficits are the order of the day. The capital budget is stymied by the absence of counterpart funding for projects identified. The recurrent expenditure for health has been reduced, leading to serious deterioration in that sector. Less funding has been allocated to BRAGSA and the tourism sector.
The health care system has also suffered under the ULP government. Vincentians have been complaining vehemently about the poor health service in this country. They have been complaining about the lack of basic medication at the clinics and hospitals, mal-functioning and absence of critical equipment to perform important tests at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital. It has been twenty-one years of severe hardship for most Vincentians.