The Labour Party releases Manifesto

Better days are coming was the mantra for the occasion as Thursday, November 17 saw the launching of the St Lucia Labour Party’s manifesto. Hours after nomination proceedings concluded that same day, candidates representing various constituencies had their turn at the microphone and looking on, one couldn’t help but notice a very subdued and careful Labour party. There was hardly any maypwis tossing, something signatory to meetings of either of the island’s largest political parties. But was there really anything new or dynamic in the manifesto? After all, this was a party headed by a leader that had been tried and tested in a time when the world was on a much better economic footing. Did Dr Anthony and his team believe the same approach would work? The audience listened attentively and as the party’s “Blue Print For Growth” manifesto was presented.
When she spoke, one of the issues highlighted by SLP’s candidate for Gros Islet Emma Hippolyte was that her party, if elected would implement universal health care and would also encourage private health providers through tax incentives to provide complimentary health services at all levels.
She spoke of improving the capacity of the Director of Public Prosecutions Office to prosecute crime and of a new police act, within which one of the focal points would be an independent tribunal to investigate police officers accused of wrongdoings. This was nothing new however as the public and the police have been crying out for this type of tribunal to no avail.
In this political season there have been calls by nearly every single political party for public sector reform to increase efficiency. In an address to the Chamber recently Prime Minister Stephenson King focused heavily on the reform of the sector and his government’s own plans in that regard. He even admitted that all politicians had been paying lip service to doing something about the efficiency of civil servants. For her part, Hippolyte spoke of the establishment of an accredited Public Sector Academy responsible for providing employees in that sector with skills to function in “an ever-changing external environment.”
Second deputy leader Alva Baptiste noted the Labour Party would pay closer attention to environmental issues if elected.
“Our party believes our national development programs must be based on a platform of environmental sustainability,” he told onlookers. “A sound environment is necessary for the obtainment of economic and social growth.”
Baptiste said a SLP administration would put an immediate end to the sale of the Queen’s Chain that he referred to as “The people’s chain.” He said “an SLP government will protect all special places of natural and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of all citizens” and would take steps to “reverse land degradation and soil loss” and other issues.
Recycling, energy efficiency, restoring the quality of the water supply post Tomas, establishing a major reservoir in the south, improvements to the Dam and the revitalization of critical water catchments were all issues touched on by the candidate for Laborie.
“We would put a stop to all activities, developments and alterations that negatively impact rivers and water sources and tackle water supply problems on the East and West coast,” Baptiste stated. “We will prepare our country to deal with the issues climate change will bring.”
Next up was deputy party leader for the SLP Philip J Pierre (MP for Castries East) who started things off on a tourism note. Pierre felt the industry had to be a vehicle to reduce poverty—something everyone could benefit from and he spoke of modernizing framework that supported the industry by enacting a new St Lucia Tourist Board act after discussion with industry partners.
According to Pierre, if elected the SLP would improve the Tourism Incentives act and provide additional incentives to small hotels and guesthouses he felt were struggling.
“Right now our small hotels are dying,” he said. “We will assist the sector with a special marketing fund to assist with promotional activity.”
Pierre spoke of a Tourism Development Agency for the overall improvement of the island’s tourism product and a Yachting act that would allow for the development of that sector.
Providing “land to the landless” Pierre said was something that could help revive the agricultural industry to meet the goal of establishing an “agriculture green belt.” According to Pierre an SLP administration would look in the direction of creating a “land bank” to provide young farmers with suitable land to engage in modern and efficient crop production. Pierre felt special attention needed to be paid to banana farmers to help them make money from the industry and he brought up the need to repair farm access roads around the island.
Party leader Kenny Anthony (Vieux Fort South) focused on three major themes: Putting citizens back to work, how to make the country safer and thirdly, rebuilding after Hurricane Tomas.
Anthony spoke of an unemployment rate that stood at over 20 percent in St Lucia and told the expectant crowd: “In office, our number one priority will be jobs, our number two priority will be jobs and our number three priority will be jobs.”
For the first time ever Anthony said his party wished to create a special agency within government with the sole purpose of “identifying the jobs, administering an employment program and “delivering bread on the table of St Lucians.”
The prospective program would be called LEAP: Labour’s Employment Activation Program. Already people have started questioning the name of the program, posing the question “Why Labour?” via news broadcasts wondering whether the initiative will be unjust to ‘non Labour’ party supporters.
“We have said that we will inject 100 million into the economy to stimulate job creation in the short term,” Anthony said on Thursday evening. “While we work at bringing investors back to our country, which will take some time, we have to get St Lucians to return to work. We have to get our country back to work and no government can do it alone. We can only do it if we can excite our private sector.”
Anthony spoke of giving the business sector new life and proposed to reduce the rate of corporate tax for large businesses from 30 percent to 25 percent so they could use the reduction to create jobs. For small businesses the tax rate would be reduced from 30 to 20 percent. If elected, Anthony said the Labour party would increase the threshold for the payment of income tax from $18,000 to $21,000.
“You’ll have to earn that amount annually before you have to pay income tax and we will do so over a five year period because we have to nurse our country back to health and cannot do it in one shot,” he explained.
On the issue of land and house tax legislation Anthony said his party would not impose house tax on small properties valued up to $75,000.
Still on the topic of taxes, Anthony said his government would pass legislation for two years tax free for new companies that employed at east six persons who were paid over $24,000 per year. Companies that employed at least 10 persons who were paid over $34,000 a year would be offered three tax-free years.
Once again, Anthony promoted the much maligned Step Program for “people who could not get a job and would not get a job from any other business” and said he understood that the program needed to be reformed and the skills component improved.
The United Workers Party is set to launch their manifesto this Sunday.

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