The New Democratic Party (NDP) wishes all Vincentians a prosperous and healthy New Year. We believe that this year will be a successful one for the NDP; as we continue to work assiduously with the people to bring about meaningful change to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Change that most Vincentians have been longing for. This is the year of change.
In his 2019 Christmas Message, President of the NDP, Dr. Godwin Friday, reiterated his commitment for change for the New Year. He said, “My commitment to every Vincentian in 2020 is to lead a process of change in our country, to unify our people and to work hard for their best interest. But, I cannot do it alone; none of us can. So, we must come together, banishing our fears and disappointments to the past and moving forward with joy and determination to achieve our many hopes and dreams. Our country needs your strength, your energy, your creativity and skills to build the nation promised to us by our founders so may years ago and which is still our destiny to achieve.”
It is widely anticipated that Dr. Friday will lead the change process in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in 2020. General elections are expected to be called during this year; the prediction is that the NDP will be victorious at the polls whenever those elections are called. The NDP is well positioned to once again take the reign of government in this country. For two decades most Vincentians have been suffering from the economic and social hardship from a corrupt and incentive Unity Labour Party regime. A regime whose leader is tired and has lost touch with the Vincentian society.
The NDP’s leader has already begun to build relationship with Caribbean and world leaders as he set the stage to govern St. Vincent and the Grenadines. And to implement the programme and policies that will increase the standard of living, improve the livelihood of Vincentians, create employment for the thousands of Vincentians who are unemployed and change the landscape of this country.
The NDP will introduce the Citizen by Investment (CBI) programme. A programme that our neighbours in the OECS such as, Dominica, St. Kitts, Antigua, Grenada, and St. Lucia have implemented and are successful. These countries economies are booming, while we continue to struggle. Undoubtedly, the implementation of the CBI will be a game changer for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The CBI will benefit Vincentians tremendously in a number of ways. It will attract foreign direct investment, ease the tax burden of Vincentians and create employment for Vincentians. Moreover, it will assist to improve and promote the tourism sector, support private sector and youth entrepreneurship, develop climate resilient projects, create constituency development projects and improve agriculture, fisheries and manufacturing sector.
Further, one of the most serious obstacles to development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is the lack or scarcity of credit. The commercial banks see most business ventures as too risky and more often than not say “No” to their loan applications. Financing is the lubricant that makes an economy move and credit is the most accessible form of financing, But, tell that to a farmer or fisherman, or small manufacturer or Agri-processor who has been turned away repeatedly by the commercial banks. They need a hand up.
The NDP will create a specialized bank, a National Development Bank, to eliminate the credit problem and make financing more accessible and more affordable for local businesspeople, especially small businesses. The main objective of the bank would be to promote economic development by fostering investment and business development in this country. Since the aim of this bank is not profit for shareholders, but to serve the national interest by promoting economic activity and business development, it will be able to provide cheaper loans to businesses. It will also provide financial and technical assistance in the areas of Agriculture, Fisheries, Tourism, Industry, Housing, Small Business Development and Human Resource Development.
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Development Bank will contribute immensely to the economic development of the country. Funding for our Development Bank will come from a number of sources including the CBI programme which we intent to introduce. This will keep the cost of borrowing down.
The main objectives of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Development Bank will be to: promote and develop Small and Medium sized Enterprises; assist with the development of Agriculture and rural development; further develop the Fisheries Sector; promote growth and diversification of the tourism sector; finance student loans and develop new areas of the economy such as ICT.
Vincentians are being taxed more and more every year. As the government’s debt increases, so too will taxes. The VAT, by various means, was increased three years in a row following the 2015 general elections. We have the highest taxes and the lowest wages in the OECS.
We can do better and will do better. To relieve the tax burden of people and free up cash in the hands of consumers, we will reduce the VAT from 16 percent to 13 percent. The poor and working class, taxi and bus operators, local contractors and the business community will all benefit from this reduction.
We will also design and implement a true low-income housing program that will provide quality houses at affordable prices; pay the fees for CSEC and CAPE exams; implement a National Health Insurance, construct a state-of-the-art hospital, revive the agricultural sector and tackle and reduce corruption and crime among things.
The NDP is committed to working with Vincentians of all strata of society to bring about meaningful change to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We welcome your ideas; we encourage constructive criticism but most of all we need your support. The NDP will make SVG work for all Vincentians.