Notwithstanding the issues in the petitions mentioned above, today is a great day for us in the New Democratic Party. It is our birthday! We are forty-three years old today! We are by far the oldest and greatest political party in St. Vincent and the Grenadines!
The New Democratic Party (NDP) was founded by Sir James Mitchell and other stalwarts on the 5th December, 1975. That date must be noted as an important day, not just in the history of our party, but in the history of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
This is because the NDP is not just a political party; it is an important institution in nation-building in our country. We must always remember and duly appreciate the vision and sacrifice of those people who worked hard to create and build the NDP and through its work in Government and Opposition, to build our country.
We continue to hold fast to our vision for our country and as spelled out in the objectives we have espoused and pursued over the years, namely to raise the standard of living of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines through the development of the economic resources of the country in a manner that provides equal opportunity for all; to ensure the highest standard of rectitude in public life; to guarantee the maximum expression of democratic liberties by all citizens and to lead in the building of a dynamic society.
The NDP won consecutive general elections in 1984, 1989, 1994, and 1998. In 1989, the party won all fifteen (15) seats, the only party that has done so in this country and the only party that can do so in SVG.
During the period in government, the economy grew steadily at an average of 5% per annum. All productive sectors contributed to economic development. Agriculture played a dominant role, particularly the banana industry. In 1990, St. Vincent and the Grenadines earned $120 million, and in 1992, $112 million from bananas.
Vincentians enjoyed an ever-improving standard of living. The middle class developed, and people enjoyed the amenities that came with economic development.
A proud legacy of the NDP government was its land reform program. It was progressive and inspired as a developmental project! Through it, thousands of Vincentians gained access to land and to the means of their own economic salvation. “Land for the landless” was the joyful slogan! (Today it is land bank for government).
Several estates were bought by the NDP government, subdivided and distributed to ordinary people: Rabbacca, Colonaire, San Souci and Diamond are noted. No other government in this country has ever done more to transfer economic power to the people.
No government has since bought lands for the people. The present government has merely continued the process of distributing lands bought by the NDP government.
There were also major developments of the infrastructure of the country. These included the construction of many feeder roads which assisted farmers tremendously. Vincentians greatly appreciated the development of village roads which the Opposition Labour Party at the time sort to ridicule as ‘’gouti tracks’.
But they eventually realized that the term became a cherished household phrase, as people saw how those roads improved access to productive agricultural lands and helped in the process of economic transformation. The roads were an expression of the NDPs historic objective to focus on people and give them what they needed to transform their own lives.
Under the NDP, Vincentians saw the transformation of the Central Water and Sewage Authority and the St. Vincent Electricity Services Ltd. When the NDP left office, 90% of the country had electricity. Notably, the NDP brought electricity to the villages north of the dry river and built the main road from Fancy to Georgetown.
Some of the other major infrastructure projects of the NDP were: the Financial Complex in Kingstown, establishment of Little Tokyo, building the cruise ship berth, the Kingstown vegetable market, and the Ottley Hall Marina and shipyard, building the Sion Hill intersection, reconstruction of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, building or refurbishing airports in Canouan, Bequia, Mustique and Union Island and the establishment or rebuilding of many schools, including the nation’s premiere tertiary institution, the Community College at Glen.
Meanwhile, women made significant advancement during the period. Among other things, the NDP established the Gender Unit and the Department of Women was created. It was the NDP that cleared the obstacle of unequal pay through the passage of the Equal Pay Act which allowed women and men to be paid equally.
Women were also recipient of lands at Orange Hill. As a matter of fact, 38% of lands distributed at Orange Hill went to women, a recognition of their role as breadwinners. The NDP also repealed the Coutts Agreement which required female teachers to resign upon pregnancy.
Those teachers were able to continue their careers, and many became principals and senior officials in our education system.
These are but a few of the notable accomplish of the NDP in government. This is why I said earlier that the anniversary of this Party must be seen as an important date for our country, not just the party.
The NDP will continue to develop St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As a party in Opposition, we have fought hard and done well to represent the interests of constituents and the nation. We look forward to serving again in Government because that will enable us to do so much more to make our country better.
We will ease the burden on tax payers and invest strategically in capital projects through the implementation of a Citizen by Investment Program. Among other things, the NDP will:
- Make job creation a priority;
- Construct a new, well-equipped hospital;
- light playing fields around the country and build a national stadium to develop the talents of our young people;
- Revive agriculture;
- Develop the enormous potential of our fishing sector;
- Expand the cruise ship berth in Kingstown and construct another in North Leeward;
- Make the Ottley Hall shipyard and marina work for the nation;
- Tackle the scourge of crime and violence, including sexual crimes, that now plague our society;
- Establish a development bank to help local investors across sectors of the economy;
- Promote the local private sector by introducing a Ministry of the Private Sector as a one-stop shop to spur investment and entrepreneurship;
- Attract foreign direct investment in tourism and other productive sectors; and
- Expand opportunities for education for all, especially our young people.
As the NDP celebrates its 43rd anniversary, we salute our leaders. Founding father, Sir James Mitchell, esteemed immediate past leader, the Hon. Arnhim Eustace and all the men and women who have contributed and are still contributing to the development of the Party and nation.
To our members and supporters at home and abroad, we express our sincere gratitude and urge you not to give up or lose hope. Better days are coming. Believe it, for that is a promise we, the NDP, intend to keep.