The leader of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), Dr. Godwin Friday, has welcomed the announcement of the November 5 date for the general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, saying the party had been waiting five years for the opportunity to remove the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) from office.
“It is time for a change, my people. It is time to give me and the New Democratic Party and this outstanding, unprecedented team that we have put together to represent our people and to form government and deliver our people,” Friday told an NDP virtual public meeting.
“It is time for a change and time for us to plant the seed for a better future for you and your family. Our country urgently needs the biggest job creation programme ever in the history of our country to deal with the current unemployment crisis that we have in this country — over 36 per cent of our people are without jobs. For young people, it is over 50 per cent,” Friday said in a speech delivered shortly after Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced the date for the polls.
Gonsalves is seeking an unprecedented fifth consecutive term in power and has already indicated to political parties that they should be prepared to “take their licks like a man.
“I have served you with immense caring, dedication, commitment, hard and smart work and, above all, with a profound love for my country, our people and our Caribbean civilization. I have been with you joyously at the mountain tops of achievements and together we have accomplished mighty things for our nation. And together again, we will talk about more progress and prosperity for St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves told party supporters.
But Friday, who is leading the NDP into a general election for the first time, said the November 5 poll is “important” insisting that change is necessary if the island is to progress into the future in a changing global environment.
“In the NDP, we have a clear plan, and a determination to build a better St. Vincent and the Grenadines for all our future. As we have said over several months of this campaign, our priority is to create jobs for people. We want, imagine this; we want to build a St Vincent and the Grenadines in which everyone who wants to work has an opportunity to do so.
“Those who want to work can work here in our country, creating better conditions which mean that our young people will want to stay and build futures here, raise their families, use their talents, their entrepreneurship, their drive, to build our country,” Friday said.
The 61-year-old NDP leader reminded supporters that their ballot matters “because it will decide what sort of country we will be and what kind of future you and your family will have.
“Don’t kid yourself. The choice in this election is stark and it is very clear. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for change and for a better tomorrow for us here in St. Vincent and Grenadines.
“And the choice, very simply, is this: more broken promises more complacency, more self-interest and nepotism, more victimisation under the ULP, or a new beginning for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a new beginning with a plan going forward for jobs and growth and a better future under the New Democratic Party.”
In the last two general elections, the NDP lost by a single seat for control of the 15-member Parliament, with the NDP still before the courts challenging the results of two of the seats won by the ULP in the last general election.
Friday told the NDP virtual meeting that the government has no plans for the future success of the island.
“There is an abandonment of any serious planning going forward to develop our country. There is a dereliction of duty and a confirmation that they, that is, the ULP, they take the Vincentian people for granted. They think they could do as they like for as long as they like.”
He said that 20 years of ULP governance has resulted in a lack of economic opportunities for many Vincentians.
“Our young people, in particular, they leave our shores, they go abroad, they tell you this, [they go] further afield to Canada and the United States, but also here in the other OECS countries that are doing much better than we are in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We all know people who have done this,” Friday said, adding that the brain drain “leaves us here ill-equipped to grow our economy and to prepare for a better future.
“That is why we are in the mess that we are in now in this country. … Our cost of living has been rising. Everybody knows this. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
“Our people suffer because they can’t get jobs, especially our young people. They need to earn a better living to provide for themselves and for their families. There is serious concern all over this land as to what the future holds for us here in this country, what are the prospects for people.
“So, my dear people, there is a clear choice in this election, you can vote for more of the same with the ULP or you can vote for a better future for your families with the NDP, because the NDP presents the real alternative to the people of this country,” Friday said.
He said an NDP administration would “set ambitious goals for people and for country. Goals that will deliver the investments and resources and the production that we need to transform this country.”
He said that a strong economy would encourage local investment.
“It will also attract more foreign investors to come and invest in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In doing so, they create jobs. They bring better wages for all Vincentians. And without a strong economy, we see what we get now in this country,’ Friday said, promising that his administration there will be significant employment opportunities.
“You should see the state of the jetties in the Grenadines; our hospitals our airports — you should see the state of the Bequia airport, you should see the state of the roads throughout mainland St. Vincent and Grenadines and the state of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
“Without a strong economy, we can’t improve these things. That is why my government, we will focus on building the economy, strengthening the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, using the talents and resources of our local private sector and foreign direct investors who wish to come here.”
Friday said that a vote for the NDP is a vote for jobs and economic growth.
“Do you know under this ULP government last year in 2019, that is, before COVID-19 struck, the economy of this country grew by 0.4 per cent? That is no growth at all. We didn’t grow.”
He said that at the same time, the economies of countries in the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) grew at an average of 2.7 per cent.
“We got 0.4. That is why we can’t find jobs. That is why this country is so hard for so many people,” he said, promising to work with the private sector to further develop the economy.
“We are not going to be competing against business. We need them to succeed to make our country succeed. We will make sure jobs are created in every part of this country, not just in a few pockets, so that your growth and prosperity will be spread all over St. Vincent and Grenadines because we are one nation,” Friday added.