The Unity Labour Party (ULP) celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary on Sunday 17th November, 2019. For eighteen of those years, the ULP has been in power. During these years, most Vincentians have experienced severe social and economic hardship when compared to the period when the New Democratic Party (NDP) was in office.
Under the ULP regime, the economy is in shambles, unemployment has skyrocketed, our health care system is in a mess, agriculture is nonexistence, manufacturing has disappeared, our roads are in a total state of disrepair, there is significant decline in moral capital, the government is riddled with allegations of corruption, crime has spiraled out of control, tourism is struggling and our democracy is under threat.
During the seventeen years of the NDP administration, there was a recurrent surplus of 5.28% of GDP. For their first 3 years, the ULP regime adopted the NDP’s policy, which allowed for a counterpart contribution for all capital projects. This in turn reduced the amount of borrowing this nation had to undertake. Since 2005 however, successive ULP administrations have applied a decidedly different approach. For instance, the recurrent estimates for 2018, the tax and nontax revenue was EC $621, 684, 138, and recurrent expenditure was EC$776,879, 739, based on those figures there was a massive deficit of $ 155, 195, 601.
Also, the Estimates for 2018 included an item called Other Capital Receipts with revenue of EC $ 160, 195,601. The fact is over the years the item Other Capital Receipts has yielded a yearly average of EC$2.8 m. That projected revenue is therefore a fiction. The real deficit has caused the government to transfer less funds to BRAGSA for infrastructure projects such as roads, less funds to the tourism industry for promotion and other activities, and less funds to Education for UWI students. This lack of cash has led also to increasing debt owed to the private sector for goods and services provided to Government, and significant job losses in the private sector. The lack of funds to the Capital Projects hinders public sector employment and economic growth.
Unemployment is a major problem. Thousands of Vincentians are unemployed. For example, overall unemployment rate is 25 %. The highest since conquest and settlement. This is higher than 2001, when the NDP was in office. At that time, the overall unemployment rate was 20.9 %. Youth, ages 15 – 24 unemployment, is a staggering 46 % and female unemployment rate is put at 30 % according to the IMF.
As a result, most Vincentians are experiencing extreme hardship. They are crying out loudly about how tough the country has become. Even ULP supporters are saying so. Many have admitted that under the NDP government, things were better for them. They were able to feed their families. They sent their children to school properly dressed and eager to learn. They fixed the leak in their house roof and bought tires or spare parts to keep their vehicles on the road. But all that has changed under an oppressive ULP regime. Life has become as tough as stone and there is no hope with this ULP government in power.
But some people are doing well, and ordinary folks see it clearly. It is as clear as daylight that some people are prospering; a special and fortunate few. And always it’s the same set of people growing fat from feasting at the national trough. Our people see that the country is not working for them. It is only working for one set of people, the ULP big shots and their families and cronies. No one else getting a piece of the pie. Many traditional long time ULP supporters say the same thing. In fact, they complain even more loudly than others, because they were expecting their lives to improve under their government. But, after four terms of ULP in power, they are still waiting for their fair share and they too are saying they will wait no more.
This country has loss millions from agriculture, more so the banana industry. Although there were some challenges on the European market in the 1990s for the banana farmers, quick intervention by the then NDP administration and the other governments of the Windward Islands to negotiate with the supermarkets and other stakeholders in Europe gave farmers hope to continue to produce. As a matter of fact, in 1992, St. Vincent and the grenadines earned $120 Million from the export of bananas. In 2001, when the ULP gained power, this country received $ 37 million from the sale of bananas. The last time we heard about sales of banana was in 2012, when it was said that $ 1.5 million was earned that year for banana. It must be noted that presently not a single box of banana is shipped to the Europe. What is being done by the ULP administration to revive the banana industry? There isn’t any major rehabilitation or replanting programme to revive the banana industry.
There are numerous complaints daily about the state of health care in this country. Complaints about the lack of basic medication at the clinics and hospitals; the mal-functioning and absence of critical equipment to perform important tests at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital and the deplorable condition of the clinics. One needs to take a close look at the deplorable condition of the clinics at Campden Park, Greggs, Sandy Bay, Owia, Lowmans Windward, Calder, Mayreau, Overland and Sion Hill and judge for yourself.
For the chief spokesperson of the ULP and the government to suggest that most Vincentians lives have improved and the country is prospering under the ULP regime is utter rubbish. Most Vincentians are suffering. The ULP regime is incompetent and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is out of touch with the people. The time has come for Dr. Friday and the NDP to manage the affairs of this country.