Prime Minister Tells SLP Conference.
PRIME Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony says Saint Lucia is beginning to look good again. The Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) said his Labour Party has delivered on its campaign promises and aims to do better.
Dr. Anthony made the remarks in his one-hour-long address to the party faithful last Sunday at Phillip Marcellin Ground in Vieux Fort at the party’s 65th anniversary celebrations. He prefaced his party’s plans for the future by recognizing its past: a party emerged from the early days of the island’s trade union movement and led by Sir George F. L. Charles.
The SLP, the island’s oldest political party, Dr. Anthony said, has become a symbol of those who strive for better.
“It is a party grounded in the philosophy of social democracy,” Dr. Anthony told the huge crowd. “It is a party borne out of the struggles of the working class, the have-nots, the oppressed, the exploited, the ambitious and bold.”
Dr. Anthony said the state of the economy when the SLP assumed office in December 2011 could best be described as “epic fails” on the part of the former United Workers Party (UWP) government’s term in office from 2006 to 2011. Labour, he said, faced an uphill task in turning things around.
“The first step towards better days was having to stop the days from getting worse,” the Prime Minister said. “And now our nation has been stabilized, poised for economic growth and prosperity once again provided, we continue to do the right things.”
Former Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, spoke before Dr. Anthony, telling the crowd that given the global pressures, Saint Lucia – like the rest of the Caribbean – faces the daunting challenges of getting more out of limited options.
“That feeling is most pronounced in the sphere of the region’s economic affairs for all across the Caribbean it is as if a vase has been broken,” Arthur said. “Not only because of the distressing state of the performance of the economies but more so because of the drastic change in the circumstances that constitute the environment within which we, the world’s smallest and most vulnerable group of societies, are now required to operate.”
Arthur said that within a short period, Caribbean nations had become the most heavily indebted countries in the world. The region, he added, faces the prospects of not having viable economic systems, resulting in a unique dilemma.
“On one hand, the economic sectors which have traditionally been the source of livelihoods in the region, such as bananas and light manufacturing, have gone into rapid decline,” Arthur explained. “But while this has been happening, those economic sectors, such as tourism, which were intended to be the new sources of growth and livelihood, have been losing market share in the global economy.”
Arthur, Barbados’ longest-serving Prime Minister (1994 to 2008), said the scope of adjustments needed to stabilize Caribbean economies is greater and more imposing than anywhere else in the world. An additional burden, he said, lies in the risk of prolonging and deepening recession and eroding social capital should such adjustments not be managed properly.
Arthur described Saint Lucia’s close to $2 billion debt as being “moderate” compared to other Caribbean nations. He also cautioned Dr. Anthony against conceding to pressure to either reduce or eliminate the Value Added Tax (VAT), saying that any such adjustment can lead to further financial instability.
“Those that call for the abolition of the Value Added Tax in Saint Lucia and its replacement by something else are part of a political game that can and should be ignored,” Arthur warned. “These calls are made to enable the government to be condemned for not doing that which in all wisdom and financial prudence cannot be done.”
Just over a week ago, the SLP celebrated its fourth year in office. However, Dr. Anthony told the party faithful on Sunday that Labour will continue to deliver on its promises.
Dr. Anthony said Labour has spent the last four years “cleaning up” the state of the economy. He chided the opposition whom, he said, feel the need to “dabble in the art of deception by deflection.”
“You see their problem is this: There is a solid record of performance these past four years. We defied odds,” Dr. Anthony said.
The Prime Minister also outlined various projects the government intends to undertake in its next term, including the construction of a major road linking the north and the south that would run along the east coast. The road, Dr. Anthony said, would cut the travelling time between Castries and Vieux Fort by half.
Dr. Anthony also named three candidates who will vie for seats now held by the UWP in the next general elections. They are Herbert Roserie (Micoud North), Jerome Gideon (Dennery South) and Joachim Henry (Castries South-East).
With four years out of the way, the SLP said it intends to spend the next year of its term creating job opportunities for Saint Lucians and attracting foreign direct investment while ramping up its political campaign for the next general elections.