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Saturday, October 8, 2011


The following is the text of the Opening Statement by the Political Leader of the Saint Lucia Labour Party, Dr. Kenny D. Anthony on the launching of the SLP Policy Statements:
As we get closer to the day when the Saint 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 Saint Lucia Labour Party believes it is important that we share with our citizens, our policies and programmes for the development of our country.  These policies and programmes will be presented in detail in our Manifesto, which we will soon unveil and distribute. But we want to start the discussion on our proposals early so that you can have enough time to compare them with what our opponents have done over the last five years.  That is why, starting today, we will be releasing highlights of our policies and programmes twice weekly, until elections are called.
In developing our proposals for governing, we engaged in a thorough process of “visioning”, reflecting on what worked in the past, identifying the needs of our country, determining where our strengths and weaknesses lay as a people, and looking at the areas of opportunity for our country.  The Labour Party conducted several consultations and focus group meetings with people from all walks of life. We reviewed the many written submissions that we received from many concerned citizens, all in an effort to get a better sense of what we believed to be the most pressing development issues for our country.  Therefore, our policies and plans are the result of an inclusive and deliberate process, which was started almost two years ago.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party takes the responsibility of government very seriously. We are confident that you will see in our plans a reflection of your own dreams and aspirations for the growth and development of yourself, your family, your community and your country.
Our Party has a proud record of achievement in government.  In less than 10 years we were able to revive a failing economy and reduce unemployment from 25% to 13.6%. We attracted significant new investments, particularly in the tourism sector, and improved our Global Business Ranking to the point where we were ranked higher than Spain, Taiwan, Chile, South Africa, Mexico and France, among many others.  We built a Goods Distribution Free Zone to stimulate business activity in the south.  We modernized the roads infrastructure around the island and made unprecedented investments in world-class sporting facilities.
The government that I had the honour of leading, constructed several new secondary and primary schools, introduced universal secondary education and eliminated the shift system in our primary schools.  In the health sector, we constructed a new Mental Health Hospital, conceptualized, designed and secured funding for a new National General Hospital, started Universal Health Care with a pilot programme for diabetes and hypertension, and provided free eye care and surgery to thousands of Saint Lucians.
 In the social sector, we gave much-needed relief to vulnerable citizens through PROUD, BELFUND, PRF, STEP, and the Elderly Home Repair programme.  We built several new Police and Fire Stations, constructed a new Correctional Facility and a new Forensic Laboratory.   At the level of the environment, we secured prestigious World Heritage Status for our Pitons.  Our standing in the international community was so high that we even assumed the presidency of the General Assembly of the United Nations. 
This period of achievement under the SLP government contrasts sharply with the almost-weekly scandals that have plagued this Stephenson King UWP government and felt almost like a “five-year pox” on our nation.  Our country cannot endure more of this shame. We must set a better example for our people.  We must reclaim the respect and the standing that we had in regional and international arenas.  We have to put our country back on a path of sustained growth and development, where our people can have confidence in the future despite the turbulence around us. 
Most importantly, we have to demonstrate to our children that the values of this present UWP administration are not the values which we cherish uphold or want them to emulate.
The policies that we will present to you will demonstrate how we plan to work with you to make our country better. We will share with you our plans for re-energizing the economy and addressing our number one priority – Creating Jobs- through a new, comprehensive employment programme. We will also tell you of our exciting plans to create a new Creative Industries Sector and a new Renewable Energy Sector.
Among the plans that we will present to you are our proposals for making our country safer by strengthening the Police, improving our laws, and tackling the underlying social issues that allow criminal activity to take root and thrive. 
We will share with you how we intend to undertake an education revolution to improve our education system from the pre-school level to the tertiary/university level, and how we will implement Universal Health Care. 
Our Party will inform you how we plan to rebuild our country and its badly damaged infrastructure.
In the weeks ahead, you will hear of the wide range of Saint Lucia Labour Party plans for rescuing our country from the crippling stagnation that it is in and putting it firmly back on a path to sustained growth and development.  You will be invited to compare our plans with those of the other side, and our team with the group that is running against us.
We are confident that when you do, you will come to one conclusion: Better Days are Coming with the Saint Lucia Labour Party!
I am pleased to present to you our first policy statement – The Labour Party’s Plans for tackling the scourge of unemployment.
Unemployment in Saint Lucia has skyrocketed from 13.6% in 2006 to over 24% in 2011. It is a documented fact that Saint Lucia has the highest rate of unemployment among young people in the Eastern Caribbean. Only recently the Director of Statistics told us that by his estimates some 17,000 Saint Lucians were unemployed. That is why the number one priority for the SLP government will be job creation.
We will create a specific unit for the purpose of fighting unemployment. 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 (LEAP).This Unit will create a comprehensive set of programmes aimed at causing immediate and long-term reductions in unemployment.
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.
We will create a single unified “Office of Reconstruction” to guide and manage the reconstruction of our bridges and road network. This unit will be disbanded once all reconstruction activities are completed.
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.
 We will also provide an Employment Tax Credit for new companies that create a minimum number of jobs at a specified threshold salary level. For example, to encourage new investment, we will grant:
1. Two years free of tax for new companies that employs at least six people who are paid over $24,000 each per annum;
2. Three years free of tax for new companies that employ at least ten people who are paid over $24,000 each per annum.
Support will be provided to existing local companies to encourage them to expand and create employment by reducing the rate of Corporate Tax for large businesses from 30% to 25% and small and medium sized businesses from 30% to 20%. The objective is to encourage new investment by our private sector.
An SLP government will encourage new employment opportunities by exempting small and medium- sized start-up companies from the payment of tax for their first five years of operation.
Food security will be an important goal for our Party.  That is why we will establish a Land Bank to provide land for those young people who we will train to take advantage of lucrative opportunities in high value-added agriculture. 
Our strategic approach to the development of the tourism sector will allow us to direct our efforts at high growth segments like adventure, heritage, cultural, sports, health and conference tourism, all of which will open new employment opportunities.
A Labour government will introduce a grant programme for businesses to encourage them to provide on-the-job skills training for secondary school students. We will increase the availability of technical and vocational training in secondary schools and provide greater support for the Junior Achievement Programme and the Saint Lucia Youth Business Trust.
Three new sectors will be targeted for job creation – the creative industries, renewably energy, and information and communications technology. We are confident that these vibrant sectors will provide significant new job opportunities for our young people.
A Labour government will completely overhaul our investment regime and restructure the NDC so that we can stimulate greater inflows of foreign direct investment and more jobs.
Additionally, we will establish a National Job Placement Centre that will be responsible for matching available skills and human resources with local and regional demand for labour.
Better Days are Coming with the Saint Lucia Labour Party!

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