Budget Day One: Opposition MP says ‘People are bleeding!’

Dennery North MP and Deputy Speaker of the House Marcus Nicholas opened the floor for the second reading of the Appropriations Bill on Monday saying his government is a caring government as evidenced by the allocations for the Constituency Development Programme.  He emphasized the government’s vision for the country which is to empower its people by alleviating the level of poverty on the island through community development.  Nicholas supports the proposed EC$10million allocation, especially in light of his constituency’s need for employment.  He went further to endorse the proposed youth agricultural initiative by the Prime Minister in The Budget Address.

Soufriere/Fond St Jacques MP Harold Dalson expressed his concern about the equitable distribution of funds for the Constituency Development Programme.  He asserted from his experience that opposition MP’s and their constituencies seem to be shunned by the ruling party.  He labeled himself as the beggar for his people.  Following Hurricane Tomas, Dalson claimed government gave him EC$100,000 to aid his constituency.  However, the local government council got EC$400,000 from the government for relief.  He believes it was unfair and inappropriate.

Stating the current budget is unrealistic, Dalson went on to say, “They’ve killed the living soul of this country.  The people are bleeding.  Even the Permanent Secretaries are crying.  It is not the drought and Tomas that caused the country’s problems.”  The problem he states is from poor government investments such as the Daher building acquisition, the relocation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry to the Baywalk Mall and the lavish sums given to the Minister of Tourism to invest in failed ventures.

According to the opposition MP, the country’s ills also stems from unfulfilled promises over the past four years.  He referred to the 2008/2009 Budget Address where the Prime Minister promised the redevelopment of the Castries business district, the expansion of George F L Charles Airport and the privatization of WASCO.

Dalson asked the Prime Minister to make Soufriere/Fond St Jacques a priority area for rehabilitation following the devastation of Hurricane Tomas.  He chastised the government for allowing the copra factory to become defunct thereby causing the level of unemployment in the Soufriere area to rise, adding to the problems already facing the community.  He appealed to the Minster of Communications and Works to fix the treacherous west-coast road properly.  Further, Dalson appealed to the government to rationalize housing development in the country in order to properly manage the affairs of the country and to deter developers from defrauding the government and people of St Lucia.

Anse La Raye/Canaries MP and Minister for Health, Wellness, Gender Relations, National Mobilization, Human Services and Family Affair-Keith Mondesir-boasted EC$20 million dollars was spent to upgrade his constituency.  He began his presentation by listing a number of projects that were undertaken in those communities over the past three years he has been in office including the construction of a fishing complex, jetty, water treatment plant, drains, walkways, bus shelter and the upgrading of the water system.

Regarding his portfolio, Mondesir said there is a need for more resources in health hence the national strategic plan for health where the main goals will be keeping people healthy and treating people.   Mondesir announced there will be an increase in child protection services.  Additionally, there has been a focus on an adolescent and men’s health program, trying to provide affordable medication to patients suffering from non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension and the expansion of dialysis services island wide.

Currently universal health care would require an additional EC$40 million and that is being reviewed.  Some of the achievements Mondesir outlines are the completion of the New Beginnings children’s home, wellness centers around the island, the completion of the nation hospital between April and June 2012 and the completion of reconstruction on St Jude Hospital by September 2011.

Micoud South MP and Minster for Education and Culture-Arsene James-rejected Dalson’s assertion that the government is using natural disasters as an excuse for poor performance.  He referred to the 2001/2002 Social Economic Review where the Labour Party Government said the economy contracted because of a drought and the effects of World Trade disaster on September 11.

Moving to his presentation, he reported that the CXC/CAPE pass rate is between 41 percent and 100 percent-the lower average representing the Mathematics pass rate for the island and by extension that of the OECS.  In general and technical subjects, St Lucia recorded a 73% pass rate.

Further, physical education, music, theare arts and swimming classes have been added to the primary school curriculum.  James announced that every primary school will have access to the necessary number of computers.  Environs will have access to these computers to encourage them to be computer literate.  As James tells it, this project will work hand in hand with Michael Walker’s In Time project.

Vieux Fort North MP Moses Jn Baptiste told the House that “government has seemingly privatized the affairs of this economy.”  He went on to say the government is insensitive as evidenced by the neglect of the St Jude fire victims.  The opposition parliamentarian made a point that the government has a habit of giving ball park figures instead of giving the upfront cost of a project.

Jn Baptiste stated the budget did not cater enough to the creative industry and youth.  “All we need is EC$2million from the tourism budge to help refine our artists,” he said.  He believes there should be more emphasize and education on climate change in the budget for example, building sea wall facilities, higher capacity drains, retrofitting for buildings, investing in renewable energy and embarking on public awareness campaigns.

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