$900,000 FOR STEP!

A worker who just started with the STEP program.

The Short Term Employment Program (STEP) was officially implemented on Thursday 15 December 2011 in keeping with a campaign promise made by Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony. Speaking at a victory rally held at the Beausejour Cricket Stadium, Dr Anthony pledged to return the STEP program at least for one week leading up to the festivity of Christmas. That pledge was fulfilled when the prime minister charged the St Lucia Social Development Fund (SSDF) to implement the program which would provide employment for over 1000 unemployed St Lucians.
The executive director of SSDF, Joachim Henry in a press conference explained how the program was implemented. “We have attempted to have a number of persons employed over the island,” he said, “this first week of STEP is basically a beautification initiative where we are going to do some clearing of debris and debushing of areas that need this work.”
According to Henry, persons employed with STEP will receive an estimated EC$65 per day and each person will be placed in groups with a supervisor for each unit. In an attempt to get as many persons employed, Mr Henry contacted each parliamentary representative who assisted in providing names of persons within their respective constituencies who are unemployed and willing to sign up for the program.
The SSDF has in the past implemented a similar program called Holistic Opportunities for Personal Empowerment (HOPE) which has been quite successful. It would appear that such success has convinced the new prime minister that SSDF is well equipped to handle the delivery of his first promise.         But unconfirmed reports have indicated that the prime minister has appointed Menissa Rambally to lend support to the SSDF in a capacity that remains undisclosed. Rambally, who has acquired enough experience during her tenure as the Minister for Social Transformation in the SLP administration prior to their defeat at the 2006 polls, was seen going around ensuring that the program got underway successfully.
Although Mr Henry has dismissed speculation of the program being politicized, many are still of the view that only SLP supporters are the beneficiaries. One worker stated that this was not a party program, “we should not make this a political issue and let’s leave all our colors at home because elections are over,” he said. Ironically, the gentleman was wearing a red t-shirt with a star while urging others to put party colors aside. Nonetheless, Mr Henry explained that every attempt was made to contact representatives of both parties and all responded well including the opposition.
The STEP program will run for one week and an estimated EC$900, 000 is expected to be spent in salary imbursements at the end of the program. No word was given with regards to the continuity of the program but sources working closely with the Minister for Social Transformation, Harold Dalson, say the program will continue at the start of the New Year.

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