Labour makes $100 million-dollar promise!

Opposition Leader Kenny Anthony (C) with the Labour Party candidates.

As we get closer to the day when the St Lucian electorate will be asked to vote in what may well be the most important election in the post-Independence history of our country, the St Lucia Labour Party believes it is important that we share with our citizens, our policies and programmes for the development of our country,” Opposition Leader Dr Kenny Anthony addressed the press on Wednesday October 5.
The Leader of the Opposition revealed at his office in Castries that his party will be detailing its policies in its manifesto which “we will soon unveil and distribute.”  Meanwhile, he SLP will take to the airwaves twice weekly to release highlights of their policies.
For its first policy statement, the Labour Party pronounced that “the scourge of unemployment” is its first priority.  With the bleak employment prospects in St Lucia, the unemployment rate now stands at just over 24 percent of the country’s population.
“We will create a specific unit for the purpose of fighting unemployment,” proposed Anthony.  He explained, “The unit will advise Government on creating jobs, identify possible sectors for job expansion and the best policies to create new jobs in all sectors of the economy. We will call the programme LEAP, Labour Employment Activation Programme. This unit will create a comprehensive set of programmes aimed at causing immediate and long-term reductions in unemployment.”
In order to jump start the economy, the Labour Party proposes, “Immediately upon getting into office, we will inject $100 million into the economy to finance job creation activities throughout the length and breadth of the island. This will be in addition to the expenditure to be incurred in the reconstruction of the island. Once this programme is underway, the government will then divert its attention to creating more sustainable employment over the long term.”
Members of the press asked the SLP political leader where the money will come from to stimulate the economy.  He answered, “On the one hand some of it will have to be borrowed. We cannot tell you the exact amount right now but that is why I want to be absolutely frank with the public of St Lucia.  We have to get this economy on a growth path so initially, some of that will be borrowed but I am also very confident that the balance will be secured from friendly donors. I believe that once we have injected this amount into the economy to allow the economy to resume normal growth then we will be in a position to roll back on our debt.”
The question did arise, will a new Labour administration be imploring a supplementary budget?  Anthony answered, “It is difficult to say whether we would be engaged in a supplementary budget.  There is a timeline for elections sometime in November, early December and then budget is in March but there are some activities that this government will want to embark on almost immediately upon the assumption of office.”
Labour’s second priority should they assume office will be to create a single unified Office of Reconstruction to “guide and manage the reconstruction of our bridges and road network.”  Anthony assured that “this unit will be disbanded once all reconstruction activities are completed.”
There will be employment opportunity for all under a new Labour administration, according to the Leader of the Opposition.  He told the press, “STEP will be immediately re-introduced to provide employment for people who have difficulty finding employment in the established sectors. We will target in particular those communities with the highest rates of poverty such as Anse La Raye/Canaries, Vieux Fort South, Soufriere, Dennery and Micoud. This time we will ensure that there is a skills component to the programme. For example, we will also set-up a Home Help Programme for the Elderly to create new jobs for unemployed single mothers.”
Given the scandal involving STEP under his previous regime, the media was skeptical of the proposition.
Anthony explained that his team noted STEP needed to be redesigned as such, “One of the things we’ve noticed is that we need to introduce a skills component into STEP.  STEP was introduced to benefit the poor, primarily the persons who never had an opportunity to get an education or any skills training of any kind.
So this time around we will resume the program.  We will pay far higher wages than we did but at the same time, ensure that there is a skills training component so that some of those persons can move on to self sustainable employment in due course.”

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