We see the talent and energy of the country’s youth as pivotal in the effort to move our beloved country forward. In diverse areas across the board, the New Democratic Party (NDP) will provide the youth with the opportunities, support and facilities they need to succeed and to help build a new St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We will ensure that our young people have the opportunities to succeed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, without having to leave our shores.
The NDP has stated that its major priority is to create the environment to provide thousands of sustainable jobs for the youth of this country. We will implement a number of novel and innovative programs and policies that will create an enabling environment for thousands of jobs to be created. For example, the implementation of the Citizenship by Investment Program will be an instant game changer for economic growth and development and job creation.
We will continue to provide the opportunities for higher education for more young Vincentians to obtain degrees at home and abroad; create a diversified scholarship portfolio by providing incentives and scholarships for youths who excel in sports, the arts and extracurricular activities. We will also ensure that meaningful employment is created for these youths after they have completed their studies.
We will also focus on the development of sports. Vincentians have seen the decline in this area since the ULP took power in 2001. It is the intention of the NDP to revive this crucial area of development, so that our youth can benefit. The NDP will restructure the schools’ curriculum so that sports education can again be a priority. More hard courts will be constructed, enclosed, lit and properly maintained to facilitate various sporting disciplines, and at least one playing field in each constituency will be lit to encourage more participation in sports.
We will encourage a culture of youth entrepreneurship and provide the environment for them to grow. Young people who are involved in the private sector will benefit tremendously. We will establish a National Development Bank, to eliminate the credit problem and make financing more accessible and more affordable for local business people, especially small businesses. Our youths will benefit immensely from this bank. This bank will also provide training and technical assistance in agriculture, tourism, fisheries, small business development and human resource development.
The NDP 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. Therefore, we have identified Information Technology as an important area that will provide opportunities for our young people. We will place tremendous emphasis on Information Technology to tackle the unemployment situation which exists among our youths, in this country.
In our 2020 manifesto, we have stated that we will reduce the student loan interest rate to 4.5 percent. Our interest rate for student loan of up to 9 percent is one of the highest in the region. We will enable the Development Bank to support students with cheaper loans, with an interest rate of 4.5 percent. This will be possible because of our plan to bring in new investment through our Citizen by investment program.
We will reinvigorate the YES program to train the young person with job-ready skills in the private sector. We will work with the private businesses by offering incentives for them to take on new workers, by subsidizing their wages, with a contribution from the business. By doing, so we will significantly increase the monthly stipend for YES workers.
We will have also implemented and promoted a wide-ranging suite of awards for youth achievement, to serve as inspiration and motivation for other youth. These include: the National Environment Youth Award – a new national program that would have recognized young people across St. Vincent and the Grenadines for projects and activities that demonstrate their commitment to the environment; The Youth Minister’s Positive Image Awards – a program to be implemented under the auspices of the minister responsible for youth, to recognize the many people in St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are working towards promoting a more positive image of young people within their schools and communities; the International Award for Youth – an internationally sponsored award for young people between the ages of 14 and 25 years; and the Wave Makers – a program to be administered through the Youth Department.
Moreover, we will work to rehabilitate and reintegrate young offenders into mainstream society. An unfortunate mistake made by a young person should not be a life sentence that condemns him or her to hopelessness. Under a new program to be developed by the NDP, young offenders will be offered a second chance through targeted programs of technical and vocational training, counselling and rehabilitation.
Also, tackling the problem of youth offenders and the plight of children on the street, the NDP will work to improve the ability and capacity of the Social Welfare, Liberty Lodge Boys’ Training Centre and the Family Court systems to identify and intervene to assist children and youth who are at risk, before their situations become hopeless. Support for this effort will come through the Social and Spiritual Redemption Charter, which, among other things, will provide youth organization, Girl Guides, Boys Brigade, etc. with financial and other material support, to develop and administer program that would divert the energies of youth into productive areas.
The Unity Labour Party government has damaged the economic prospects of the country and has increased unemployment and hopelessness among our youth. But, there is a brighter future for our youth under an NDP administration. We offer hope and have a plan to create the opportunities for them.