A MOTION calling on Parliament to authorize the Minister for Finance to borrow US$2.86 million from the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Special Fund Resources drew support from both sides of the House of Assembly last week Tuesday, a bipartisanship rarely seen in recent times.
The motion received unanimous approval for financing of a youth empowerment programme in communities in the Castries basin, Micoud, Dennery, Canaries and Anse la Raye.
But the support given to the motion came with criticisms from both sides of the House. Dr. Ernest Hilaire, MP for Castries South, appealed to House Speaker Leonne Theodore-John to use her good office to ask whoever placed trailer trucks on the playing field used by the youth in the Goodlands – an area in his constituency — to remove them.
He said the container trucks were first parked along the Banannes Road. However, an agency decided they should not be parked there and the trucks were later removed and deposited on the playing field.
According to Dr.Hilaire, the playing field was built by the people of Goodlands because of the need for one. His view was that if the government was true about its intentions to empower the youth, it would have seen it fit to have the trucks removed from the field.
For Shawn Edward, the representative for Dennery North, youth development cannot exist in a vacuum. He threw his support behind the motion, stating, however, that it will not solve all the problems confronting the country’s youth.
“What I would hate to see is that we approach youth development in a piece-meal fashion,” he said, noting that government has yet to present a youth development plan for the country that is holistic and incorporates the different projects under the youth empowerment programme for which the money is being borrowed.
Edward said that prior to demitting office last year, a comprehensive review of the national youth policy was commissioned and by the time elections were called there was a draft report. Despite his criticism of the government on how it is going about empowering the youth, he described the motion as “a wise development on the part of the government”.
Lenard Montoute, representative for Gros Islet, who is also the Minister responsible for Youth Empowerment, said the money being sought to support the youth empowerment programme will be money well-spent. He also sees the programme as an investment which he hopes would dovetail into other programmes for the youth.
But Moses “Musa” Jn. Baptiste wasted no time in criticizing the government on their idea of youth empowerment.
“The action of this government shows they are not interested in empowering the youth in St. Lucia,” the Vieux Fort North MP said.
The Motion presented in Parliament, he said, was nothing new.
“If you want to empower the youth, give them land,” Jn. Baptiste urged the government, referencing the major controversial project in Vieux Fort whereby government leased land to Desert Star Holding as part of its “Pearl of the Caribbean” development.
But for Guy Joseph, representative for Castries South East, the parliamentarians from the Labour Party were simply using the country’s youth as pawns in their political games. He said that not only did the government receive nothing from the last administration’s plans for the youth; their track record in that area was nothing to talk about.
“Your track record does not show you care about the youth,” Joseph said, adding that his government is creating meaningful employment and has a vision for the country. “Do not pretend you are concerned about the youth. You have been having this debate to score cheap political points — not to show you have an interest in the youth.”
Opposition Leader Philip J. Pierre challenged Joseph, cautioning him to not bring the issues confronting the youth down to the level of attempting to score cheap political points because the situation with the youth in the country is bad.
“That is the problem with those on the other side,” Pierre said. “Do the work of the people, forget the Opposition,” he said.