As a unitary state comprised of many islands, we face special developmental and nation-building challenges. Despite these challenges, the Grenadines, as a vital part of our country, plays an important role in our economic development, particularly in the tourism industry. We must ensure that government services, health care services, employment and educational opportunities are equally available to people living in the Grenadines. Also we must develop rapidly the economic potential of the Grenadines to promote economic growth and employment opportunities for all.
Under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime, it is not so. The people of the Grenadines must suffer; the people of the Grenadines must die according to the ULP. The ULP regime continues to victimize, ostracize and neglect the people of the Grenadines. The neglect of infrastructure inclusive of port development, education, youth, roads, health facilities and the tourism sector is clear for everyone to see.
One of the major economic activities in the Grenadines is the tourism industry. However, nothing much is spent in the Grenadines from the revenue that government collects from the Grenadines tourism industry. Further, the Grenadines is heavily dependent on the yachting sector. This sector has been declining because of terrible regulations implemented by the ULP government. When the sector isn’t doing well, the restaurant operators, shops and groceries, including the market vendors do not do well.
Additionally, most tourists to the Southern Grenadines travel straight from Barbados or St. Lucia. The cost of travelling such route to the Grenadines is high. It costs about $1400 to travel from Bequia, Canouan or Union Island to Barbados or St. Lucia. On the other hand, travelling from Barbados to Miami costs about $960. It is cheaper to travel all those miles from Barbados to Miami, than to travel from St. Lucia and Barbados to the Grenadines. Flying the Grenadines is the highest cost per seat miles in the world. The number one factor to this is the high taxes imposed by the government, and the second contributor is that there is no competition. Recently, a local entrepreneur has also expressed similar sentiments about the high cost of airline tickets and the effect it has on his business. It must be noted that when tourism in the Grenadines is not doing well, it also affects businesses on the mainland.
Union Island was at one time a favourite destination for Trinidadians. In fact, Union Island airport was known to be the busiest airport in the Southern Grenadines, with daily flights from Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Barbados, Grenada and Martinique. The airport is now a shadow of what it used to be. It is now in a deplorable condition. I believe the Taiwanese would be ashamed to show anyone what they have built. On a number of occasions, the airport has to be closed either for the lack of maintenance or the malfunctioning of fire trucks. The same can be said about the JF Mitchell Airport in Bequia. When this happens, it does not only affect the tourism sector but also people’s daily lives.
Last year, the Hon. Terrance Ollivierre raised the issue of Salt Whistle Bay in the parliament. He informed the government that there was a possibility that the famous Salt Whistle Beach in Mayreau may be destroyed due to wave erosion and split the island. He advised the government to take corrective measure immediately. Today, nothing has been done by the government to remedy the situation.
The people of the Grenadines have long suffered with the issue of quality, reliable and safe water supply. During the years, the people of these islands have been forced to use pond, well, sand hole and other means of supply to do basic chores. We are in the heart of the dry season and the Grenadine islands are experiencing severe drought. The people of Mayreau are mostly affected. There is severe water shortage on the island and forced the school to close temporarily. It is extremely difficult to get water and the ULP government is not making any attempt to assist the people of Mayreau.
The New Democratic Party (NDP) is aware of the plight of the people of the Grenadines and will do everything possible to improve the lives and ease the pain of the people of the Grenadines. To achieve this, we will develop and promote water security. CWSA will be engaged to play a leading role in supplying a safe and reliable supply of water to the people in the Grenadines. In the meantime, tax concessions will be given to homeowners in the Grenadines to encourage the construction of larger water tanks.
Indeed, the NDP will introduce and promote effective and responsible local government. This will be done in the Northern and Southern Grenadines to promote more effective delivery of essential government services. In addition, improve administrative services such as birth certificate applications, making and receiving NIS payments and filing income tax returns will be made available in the Grenadines.
It is also the quest of the NDP to improve the quality of secondary education in the islands, making access and quality education a high priority. The intention is to create access to secondary education in Canouan and to improve of library facilities, comparable to the best institutions in the country. We will also provide assistance with housing and transportation for students from the Grenadines who attend secondary schools and the Community College on the mainland.
Any responsible government will ensure quality health care professionals and services for its citizens and the Grenadines will be no exception. Prompt and safe transportation to Milton Cato Memorial Hospital will be available in emergency cases. And we will ensure regular and affordable ferry service between the Grenadines and the mainland and among the islands of the Grenadines.
The NDP is committed to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and will make St. Vincent and the Grenadines work for all Vincentians.