The New Democratic Party (NDP) held its second major rally for the year on Saturday 18th November 2023, at the Campden Park playing field. The rally was dubbed ‘Hope for Youth’. Leader of the Opposition and President of the NDP, Honourable Dr. Godwin Friday addressed the rally. Other speakers include MP for South Leeward, Nigel ‘Nature’ Stephenson, MP for East Kingstown, Fitz Bramble and representatives from the Young Democrats. There will also be an entertainment package, which will feature local and regional artistes.
At the rally, Dr. Friday will announced a series of new policies to take the country forward and address the unacceptable high levels of youth unemployment. At the previous rally, Dr Friday stated that agriculture, tourism, the blue economy and the new economy are the four economic pillars that an NDP government will develop to reconstruct the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
We received tremendous feedback from our last rally, where the message of hope resonated with thousands of people across the country. We believe the time has come for a second major event to build on that message and outline in further detail how we will address the key issues that are affecting our young people, lack of jobs, low wages, high crime, among others.
The young people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are unhappy with the ULP government. Gonsalves and the government have lost touch with them. They need jobs. They need the opportunities to fulfil their dreams. The NDP is the alternative. The NDP offers hope to young people. An NDP government will ensure that the policies that are outlined by Dr. Friday at the rally will be implemented to provide the opportunities for the young people of this country.
The blue economy is one of the economic pillars, which the NDP will develop to create jobs for Vincentians. In recognition of the importance of the fishing industry to our plan to grow the economy, we will create a separate Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Conservation to manage the transformation of the sector in a sustainable way. Our goal is to move rapidly from subsistence fishing to thriving businesses for our fisherfolk.
An NDP government will partner with existing local and international experts and stakeholders to redevelop our fishing sector to produce a sustainable, high quality supply of seafood for both local and external markets. This will create economic opportunities and well-paying jobs. We will use technology such as fish finders and online markets to assist fisherfolk in their jobs. An NDP government will help to find and keep markets for our seafood and benefit our fisherfolk.
We will also work with European regulatory bodies to lift the ban on our fish products. This will create more opportunity for our fisher folk through legitimate trade in fish, conch and lobster, and gain access to markets in Martinique and Guadeloupe and other European countries.
In August of this year, the NDP launched its cost-of-living tracker to monitor the price of foodstuffs in the country. This became necessary because families have been experiencing severe hardship with the increase cost-of-living. And, the ULP government has not implemented any measure to ease the financial burden of families to cope with the rising prices.
In our recent update of the cost of living tracker, which was presented by the Parliamentary representative for East Kingstown, Honourable Dwight ‘Fitz’ Bramble, showed that the cost of basic foodstuffs has increased over the last months. Bramble said, “Our tracker shows that cost of living continues to increase for ordinary families. These foodstuffs are staples of everyday life. While inflation may be partly driven by global forces, the ULP government has completely failed to support families. Ironically, the government is the biggest beneficiary of the cost-of-living crisis. Last month, the government reported that revenue had increased by 9%, off the back of increased returns – this money should be ring-fenced to support families in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Bramble noted, “The upcoming budget offers the government a chance to address its failings and really support our people. We are calling for specific support to be implemented to cover foodstuffs, back to school items and electricity.”
We remind Vincentians of our plan to ease the cost of living burden: reduce VAT from 16% to 13% and ensure that the savings are passed on to ordinary consumers. This will help everyone across the board. Increase the number of zero-rated VAT items. This will reduce grocery bills for everyone. Repeal the Customs Service Charge increase to reduce import costs; increase support for lower income families by expanding existing support programs and ensure that the support is distributed based on need and not by political favour. Also, provide import duty concessions for the transportation industry, which is to say minivans, buses, and taxis, and end the unlimited and increase in the VINLEC bill by putting a cap on the fuel surcharge and improve efficiency.
We recall Dr. Friday’s comments when he addressed the nation on this critical issue of the rising cost-of-living in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He stated, “The government has a duty to do everything it can to cushion the blows of rising costs on households and protect our communities. Further delay in taking relief measures will only cause more pain and suffering for Vincentians. Across the OECS and the wider Caribbean, governments have cut fuel taxes, reduced import charges, controlled the prices of basic goods, increased direct supports to those most in need and helped with utility bills.” We are calling on the government to act now to ease the cost-of-living crisis in the country.