Speaking at an SLP press conference today, the Representative for Soufriere and Minister for Social Transformation, Hon. Harold Dalsan, announced one of the central themes of the next Labour Government: the development of the renewable energy, information technology and services sectors to ensure that Saint Lucia has a vibrant, robust and resilient economy. In short, the next Labour Government is committed to harnessing new economic opportunities in these future growth areas to create jobs for this country.
Since coming into office four and half years ago, the Labour Party Government has worked diligently to create new avenues of economic opportunity for Saint Lucians, particularly our young people. Nowhere has this been more apparent than the work we have done in the area of information and communications technology (ICT).
When Labour took office in December 2011, there was a large digital divide in our country. Communities on the west coast, like Canaries, Anse La Raye and Soufriere, alongside other communities like Dennery, parts of Babonneau and Gros Islet, were closed off from the digital world, with the lowest level of Internet and computer access per household in this country.
In order to bring Saint Lucia as a whole into 21st Century, and enable all of its citizens to interact and compete with the rest of the world, Labour knew this had to change. One of the key achievements of this Government has been the establishing of modern, fully equipped Information Technology Access Centres around this country: in Soufriere, Canaries, Anse La Raye, Vieux Fort, Garand, Monchy and, as of this week, in the village of Micoud. These centres have provided a place where local people can go for training, do their research, develop their business plans, and take their first steps to becoming digital entrepreneurs.
Labour did not stop there. Alongside these facilities, people must also be given the skills to use them. As such, this Government set up grants – funding that does not have to be repaid – for both individuals and companies to enable them to benefit from digital technology:
• For young people seeking training in technology-related areas, the CARCIP programme has provided grants worth over $1 million. Thus far, around 450 young Saint Lucians have received training; we anticipate that by the time this project is completed, as many as 1,500 trainees will be certified with new information technology skills.
• Thus far, fifteen local firms have received grant financing amounting to $779,320.20, to either establish themselves in the information technology field or expand their services using technology. When this phase of the project is finished, $1 million worth of grant funding would have been disbursed to twenty local companies, run by enterprising Saint Lucians.
Speaking at the press conference, the Hon. Harold Dalsan, whose constituency of Soufriere was the first community in Saint Lucia to get town-wide free Wi-Fi, vowed:
“These ICT initiatives will continue in our next term of office. We will use the ICT Access Centres around the island to provide free training to people who are looking to enhance their skills and become more marketable in this new knowledge-based environment. We will provide training in areas such as mobile app development, digital photography and videography, website development, use of Photoshop and other digital editing software, and social marketing.
“The Labour Party is confident that our people can be digital entrepreneurs to match the best of what the world has to offer and we are well on our way to providing them with the equipment, the access, the training and the opportunities to make this happen. We are focused on the future, and building the skills and knowledge required to make our country competitive in the 21st century.”
Opening Monday’s press conference to present the next set of Labour’s pledges, the new endorsed SLP candidate for Dennery South, Jerome Gedeon, announced that the next Labour Government will begin planning for a new dam on the Troumassee River as a priority. This is a major infrastructure project that will assure the supply of clean drinking water to the south of this country, from Micoud on the east coast to Laborie in the south, for decades to come.
When Labour took office in 2011, it found a water sector in desperate need of attention and a Water and Sewerage Company, WASCO that was on the brink of bankruptcy. Every month, LUCELEC was threatening to disconnect WASCO because it was unable to pay its electricity bills. The national water systems, which had been badly damaged by Hurricane Tomas, had received absolutely no attention from the UWP administration. The John Compton Dam was heavily silted and no plans had been made by the previous government to rectify this situation. All over Saint Lucia, residents were complaining about the inadequacy of their water supply. In the Dennery Valley and Vieux Fort, the problem had become endemic. It was clear that action needed to be taken.
Our Government immediately set out to address the many problems in the water sector. Water is life, and we knew that if we could not assure the people of Saint Lucia a reliable and safe water supply, we were compromising on the quality of life they enjoyed.
Outlining the emergency measures undertaken by this Government to rectify the ailing water sector, Jerome said:
“This Government fixed WASCO. It saved it from bankruptcy. As an immediate priority in office, the Labour Government cleared most of WASCO’s debt and put it on a firm financial footing, allowing it to not only meet its monthly electricity bills but also to start paying down on its large arrears to LUCELEC. After this, this government then undertook a comprehensive study for desilting the Dam. With the help of the Caribbean Development Bank it was able to secure the funds for this crucial desilting, and an announcement will soon be made regarding the contract for this massive and very important project. These actions were vital to securing water security for our citizens.”
Addressing water supply problems in this country, in Dennery village, Babonneau, Cas en Bas and Vieux Fort, as well as establishing for the first time in many years a 24-hour supply of water to residents in the city of Castries, has been one of the proudest achievements of this Government. In particular, Jerome, who is a resident of Dennery South, highlighted that “With the help of the Mexican Government and the Caribbean Development Bank, this Government has secured $24 million for the redevelopment of the water supply and distribution system for the Dennery valley, and over $65 million for a new water supply and distribution system for Vieux Fort.”
These projects will be transformative for the residents of both areas. However, in the longer term, more will need to be done. The new Vieux Fort water supply and distribution system will meet the needs of Vieux Fort and environs until 2033, but beyond that, a more permanent solution will be required.
Therefore, in our next term of office, this Labour Government will commence preliminary studies on the construction of a new reservoir and a dam on the Troumassee River, which will ensure that Vieux Fort and the southern villages and communities, from Micoud to Laborie, will have a sufficient supply of clean and safe drinking water for decades to come.
For us in the Saint Lucia Labour Party there is no problem that is too big to fix. Our work in the water sector is another example of our commitment to improving the quality of life of all Saint Lucians. We are the party that plans for the future of our country.
Under this Government, Saint Lucia has become a globally recognised pioneer and leader amongst the Small Island Developing States for its approach to sustainable development. In the final presentation by candidates at a press conference on Monday, the Representative for Dennery North, the Hon. Shawn Edward, announced one of the flagship policies of the next Labour Government, which will redefine the energy sector in this country forever: a complete transition away from fossil fuels for electricity generation, with a goal of 75% renewable energy by 2035.
The energy sector lies at the heart of Saint Lucia’s sustainable economic development. Almost every productive sector depends on electricity for the product or service it offers to its clients. Fluctuations in the price in electricity, often as a knock-on effect from the volatile global oil prices, have a significant impact on every industry and sector, from hotels and manufacturers, to farmers and shopkeepers. Small and medium sized enterprises, those less resilient to such unpredictable price fluctuations, are particularly affected.
This is why we have moved so aggressively to reform and transform the energy sector in our country. In the short space of four and a half years, international organizations like the World Bank, the US State Department and the Organisation of American States are praising Saint Lucia’s approach to energy sector transformation as a best practice for Small Island Developing States. We have systematically embarked on a modernisation of the electricity legislation, undertaken major energy efficiency initiatives like the replacement of all street lights on the island with energy-efficient LED lights, installed solar photovoltaic panels on Government buildings, and sought to attract investment in renewable energy generation.
It is in this latter area that we have seen perhaps the most impressive progress. Plans are well underway for the construction of a 12 Mega Watt wind farm in the vicinity of the Bordelais Correctional Facility. This is a joint venture with a US-based company and when it is fully commissioned, this wind farm will generate 20% of our current peak demand for electricity. It will supply enough electricity to power a 19,475 homes in this country, and reduce the amount of diesel LUCELEC consumes by a 10%. These are staggering numbers.
Almost simultaneously, we are pursuing the development of a 3.2 Mega Watt utility scale solar plant in Vieux Fort South. This modern solar generation facility will be built by LUCELEC and already, thirty-five companies from the US, Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean have expressed an interest in developing this facility. This solar farm, which is expected to be the first of other such farms, will supply 5% of our current peak demand for electricity.
On top of all of this, the project that holds perhaps the greatest potential to radically transform our energy sector and reduce the price of electricity is the development of our geothermal resources – harnessing the clean and sustainable power of the hot springs and volcanic energy that bubbles so abundantly beneath the surface of our island nation.
Speaking at the launch with his characteristic energy and good humour, the candidate for Dennery North said:
“We have partnered up with the World Bank, the New Zealand Government and one of the most reputable and successful geothermal development companies in the world to fully explore and develop Saint Lucia's rich potential for harnessing geothermal energy. The results so far have been extremely encouraging. They indicate a potential resource of over 60 Mega Watts, which would match the current entire peak demand for electricity in Saint Lucia.
What is even more encouraging is that this resource is located outside of the Pitons Management Area, which means we will not impact the UNESCO World Heritage Status that this Government had to fight so hard to keep from being danger listed, following the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of the previous administration.
When you consider the impact of these initiatives, together with our continuing work to install more rooftop solar panels on Government buildings, you will realize that our projection of 75% renewables by the year 2035 is actually a conservative one. Our Labour government is extremely confident that we are well on the way to making Saint Lucia 100% renewable in the generation of electricity in the not-too-distant-future.”
The Saint Lucia Labour Party takes the results of Election Polls seriously. We note that in the CADRES poll released by Mr. Peter Wickham yesterday, the lead of the Saint Lucia Labour Party over the United Workers Party was confirmed. The Saint Lucia Labour Party recently conducted two of its own polls with two different reputable pollsters and both of these polls indicate that the Labour Party is firmly in sight of an election victory on 6th June, 2016.
In our analysis of the CADRES poll, we observed some interesting findings that require further explanation. For example, the CADRES poll sampled 1,000 persons, of which only 14% said they do not intend to vote. However, voter turnout in Saint Lucia is traditionally 55%, which means that roughly 45% of our voting population does not vote. This puts Mr. Wickham’s figures at variance with historical trends, because it suggests an 86% voter turnout. The best voter turnout in the last thirty years took place in the 1997 General Election, and even then, voter turnout did not hit the 70% mark.
If the CADRES sample is only of likely voters and not total voters, then the 14% figure should not exist. So there clearly is a major discrepancy in the CADRES poll results and Mr. Wickham needs to explain whether his figures are based on likely voters or all respondents.
Secondly, in Mr. Wickham’s analysis, after he has taken the SLP, UWP and Other/Independent Voters into account, he refers to the remaining group of 30% as ‘uncertain voters’. However, in this category is a 10% group which the survey categorized as ‘Won’t Say’. This ‘Won’t Say’ category is not uncertain; it is certain but will not reveal its voting choice. Therefore, to use the 30% figure as his predictive is faulty and the results from that predictive are not accurate.
From a statistical perspective, even if the ‘Won’t Vote’ category is accepted, even when it should not be part of the analysis, then it should be removed from any further predictive analysis (since these people will not be voting), as should the 10% who know where they will vote but have declined to reveal this to the pollster. Therefore, the prediction of uncertain voters should be on an 8% sample and not 30% as Mr. Wickham claims.
Another curious part of Mr Wickham’s analysis is his conclusion on the change in support for the various political leaders. The CADRES poll states that presently, Dr. Kenny Anthony enjoys a 31% favourability rating, which is the same rating he enjoyed in October 2015. It goes on to reveal that Allen Chastanet currently trails Prime Minister Anthony, with a 28% favourability rating, compared to a 19% favourability rating nine months ago. Mr. Wickham’s shocking conclusion is that Dr. Anthony has lost more than half of his support, while Mr. Chastanet has doubled his support. However, this is not substantiated by the results. First of all, it indicates that Prime Minister Kenny Anthony’s support is unchanged from nine months ago, not diminished as suggested by Peter Wickham. Secondly, Mr. Wickham has not indicated whether the support that Allen Chastanet has appeared to have picked up in the current poll is support that nine months ago was going to Stephenson King.
Finally, Mr. Peter Wickham declined to discuss his predictive tool and how it is based, except to state that it is highly successful. This assertion, however, is not supported by Mr. Wickham’s recent track record.
These findings notwithstanding, The Saint Lucia Labour Party is very much aware of the fact that General Elections are won on Election Day and we will continue our unrelenting campaign to convince Saint Lucians that the Saint Lucia Labour Party is the only choice for continued growth, stability and progress in our country.
Presented by Guibion Ferdinand, SLP Candidate for Micoud South
Pledge: The next Labour Government will introduce a programme to assist parents in meeting the cost of the fees for CXC exams. This programme will be based on need and performance and will come into effect in 2017
Education and human resource development have now become synonymous with the Saint Lucia Labour Party government. This is the government that eliminated the shift system in our school system. We constructed new secondary schools in Piaye, Anse Ger, Babonneau, Ciceron, Marigot and Gros Islet. We brought Universal Secondary Education to Saint Lucia to make it possible for every child in Primary School to get a secondary school education. It was a Labour administration that developed the Book Bursary programme for primary school students and introduced a text book rental programme in secondary schools.
The National Skills Development Centre was established by a Labour government in 2001 and through the NSDC, Learning Enrichment Centres were set up in several locations around the island.
Our administration understands that education must extend from toddler to senior. This is why we established the National Enrichment and Learning Programme to give adults an opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge.
In the last four and a half years we continued our focus on human resource development. We introduced a bursary of $500 to the parents of children who pass the Common Entrance examination. We provided a $700 Teaching Supplies Grant to teachers. Our government introduced the One Laptop Per Child Programme, so that every student in Forms 3, 4 and 5 now own laptops, which they use for research and learning. We refurbished the Saltibus Combined, Denierre Rivierre Combined, Dennery Primary and Desruisseaux Combined Schools. Additionally, our Labour government renovated the Vieux Fort Infant, the Corinth Secondary, Clendon Mason Memorial, Fond Assau Combined, Canaries Infant and Micoud Infant and Primary Schools.
In our next term of office, we will help those families who find it difficult to meet the costs of CXC examinations by introducing a programme in 2017 to assist parents in paying for these exams. The programme will be based on need and performance, and it will ensure that no capable, deserving child is left behind and no parent will have to suffer the pain and anguish of not being able to register their child for CXC examinations. This is the who we are – a caring Party that believes everyone must be given an opportunity to succeed and to excel.
Rumours that the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) will increase VAT to 17 per cent if re-elected are an absolute fabrication from the United Workers Party (UWP), designed solely to paint the SLP in a negative light. As a responsible party in Government, it is only right that we squash this untruth now.
This scaremongering by the UWP is not unexpected and typical of a party which is bereft of ideas and solutions. Pushing deliberately misleading information into the public domain is both underhand and irresponsible campaigning. Clearly the UWP is trying to distract from their complete lack of a sound economic policy. Allen Chastanet has still not explained how he intends to replace VAT despite repeated calls to do so. We can only assume that this is because he does not have an answer to this very straight forward question. In fact, Mr. Chastanet, despite his public pronouncements, just last week at a private indoor meeting Chastanet pronounced VAT as the best possible tax.
This is yet more evidence that Chastanet's irresponsible approach to our tax system will put our nation's economic recovery at risk. The people of St Lucia deserve better - they deserve a stable economic future with opportunities for the many not the few.
The Labour Party is with you, for you, for St Lucia.
At a press conference today, educator and former school principal, Guibion Ferdinand, the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s rising star and endorsed candidate for Micoud South, proudly announced that the next Labour Government will introduce a new programme to assist parents in meeting the cost of the fees for CXC exams. This ground-breaking commitment forms one of the Prime Minister’s ‘Top 15 Pledges’ launched last week ahead of the General Election on June 6, 2016.
Since 1997, education and human resource development have become synonymous with the Saint Lucia Labour Party government. This is the government that eliminated the shift system in the school system. It constructed new secondary schools in Piaye, Anse Ger, Babonneau, Ciceron, Marigot and Gros Islet. It brought Universal Secondary Education to Saint Lucia to make it possible for every child in Primary School to get a secondary school education. It was a Labour administration that developed the Book Bursary programme for primary school students and introduced a textbook rental programme in secondary schools.
The achievements do not stop there. The National Skills Development Centre was established by a Labour government in 2001 and through the NSDC, Learning Enrichment Centres were set up in several locations around the island. The SLP understands that education must extend from toddler to senior which is why the National Enrichment and Learning Programme was established to give adults an opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge.
As a lifelong educator, Ferdinand proudly listed the impressive achievements delivered by the government in last four and a half years:
"We introduced a bursary of $500 to the parents of children who pass the Common Entrance examination. We provided a $700 Teaching Supplies Grant to teachers. We introduced the One Laptop per Child Programme, so that every student in Forms 3, 4 and 5 now own laptops, which they use for research and learning. We refurbished the Saltibus Combined, Denierre Rivierre Combined, Dennery Primary and Desruisseaux Combined Schools. We renovated the Vieux Fort Infant, the Corinth Secondary, Clendon Mason Memorial, Fond Assau Combined, Canaries Infant and Micoud Infant and Primary Schools. And, this is just the start. We intend to do more.
"This is who we are – a caring Party that believes everyone must be given an opportunity to succeed and to excel. This is why Labour is the only party for me, and the only party that puts the needs of the people first every time."
The scheme announced today, will help those families who find it difficult to meet the costs of CXC examinations from 2017 onwards. The programme will be based on need and performance, and it will ensure that no capable, deserving child is left behind and no parent will have to suffer the pain and anguish of not being able to register their child for CXC examinations.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party is preparing our children for a brighter future. More education priorities will be revealed at the SLP manifesto launch next week.
Hon. Emma Hippolyte, Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs, announced plans today to increase the personal Income Tax allowance from $18,000.00 to $30,000 for all St Lucians. By increasing the personal allowance by $12,000.00, an additional 3,500 persons will no longer pay Income Tax or be required to file a return.
The SLP’s record on delivering tax relief to those who need it most is proven. Earlier in the life of this administration the Government raised the Income Tax Allowance from $15,000 to $18,000, and today’s pledge will mean that the SLP has doubled the Income Tax allowance from the level that it inherited from the UWP in 2011. Policies like this make a real difference to people’s lives and their families lives.
At this morning’s Press Conference, Minister Hippolyte spoke of the many ways that the Government has found ways to ease the tax burden on the poor, the dispossessed, and the vulnerable. She said:
"We exempted or provided reductions for a three-year period to first-time home owners from the payment of Property Tax;
"We introduced a Registered Home Ownership Savings Plan, which made it easier for people to purchase and own their first home by providing an Income Tax deduction of $6,000.00;
"We abolished all taxes on gratuities and tips that were paid to hotel workers;
"We abolished the Entertainment Tax that people had to pay to Inland Revenue Tax Collectors every time they held a dance, a show or some other form of public entertainment;
"We increased the tax deductions on savings in Credit Unions from $3,600.00 to $5,000.00; and
"We abolished the need for an Exit Certificate from the Inland Revenue Department every time someone travelled out of Saint Lucia."
The SLP does not need to make wild claims and undeliverable promises, our record of delivery tells its own story.
Remarks by Hon. Alvina Reynolds, Minister for Health
Our government is extremely pleased that St. Jude Hospital is finally nearing completion. There have been many challenges in completing this hospital and I must admit that this process has taken much longer than we had originally anticipated.
Allow me to provide some background on this so that you may better understand.
Originally, the United Workers Party administration had decided to renovate St. Jude Hospital, and it spent EC$45 million on this exercise, before it realised that the problems associated with renovation were so significant that it would have been better to demolish the structure and rebuild.
Therefore, while some of the $45 million was used for the demolition of the old structure, it is clear that both time and money were wasted because of the original decision by the UWP to renovate.
When the decision was made to rebuild St. Jude, no source of financing was identified and the Government was hoping to finance this project from Bonds. It was not until Prime Minister Hon. Dr. Kenny Anthony visited Taiwan in November 2013 and met with then Taiwanese President Ma that any external source of funds for the construction of St Jude Hospital had been identified.
In October 2014, the Government of Saint Lucia signed a loan with the Taiwan Export-Import Bank for the reconstruction of St. Jude Hospital and the first set of funds from this loan was disbursed to the Government of Saint Lucia in January 2015.
There were also problems with the main contractor who had been engaged to undertake the construction. He experienced financial difficulties and had to be terminated in 2014, causing a further set back to the project.
When the construction of St. Jude Hospital is completed, which we anticipate will happen toward the end of this year, the residents of the south of the island in particular, and the people of Saint Lucia in general, will be extremely pleased and proud of the end product. We will have a new St Jude that is equal to the Owen King-EU Hospital. In fact, the expenditure on St. Jude Hospital, when it is completed, including furniture, fittings and equipment, will be close to EC$150 million. The expenditure on the Owen King-EU Hospital, minus furniture and equipment was EC$152 Million, with an additional 9 million Euros spent on furniture and equipment.
So, in effect, when you look at our work in the health sector in its totality, with the Wellness Centre, which was a product of the last Labour administration and the numbers of health centres we have either built or renovated, Saint Lucia will have the best health care infrastructure of any country in the Eastern Caribbean, and quite possibly the English-speaking Caribbean. All of this because you have a Labour Government that is dedicated to looking after the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
Hon. Alvina Reynolds, Minister for Health, Wellness, Human Services and Gender Relations, spoke with passion and commitment today at an SLP Press Conference as she described the SLP’s intention to create a Universal Health Care system that will provide high quality and affordable health care for all Saint Lucians.
Minister Reynolds said
"Universal Health Care has been our goal for years, and we are nearing the date when every Saint Lucian, regardless of economic means, will be guaranteed access to a basket of health services.
"Founded on the principle that no one should have to worry about their ability to pay for their healthcare, this system will be a profound expression of our values as a nation. Universal Health Care will provide for a professionally managed health fund that is contributed to by diverse sources of revenue. In particular, we will ensure a strategy for the growth of private health insurance that contributes to the health fund.
"The SLP is the party that cares for the people of Saint Lucia and we will not rest until every person has access to the diagnosis, treatment and care they need."
The Government has been laying the groundwork for Universal Health Care for many years. Between 1997 and 2006 it improved and modernized the delivery of health care by training over 75 doctors, refurbishing 15 Health Centres, and by eliminating Doctor’s Fees at all Health Centres. We also delivered free screening and free diabetes and anti-hypertension medication under a Pilot UHC Programme, and made it possible for over 2000 nationals to receive free eye surgery in Cuba.
This is a record of delivery that the SLP has built on further since returning to office in 2011. The SLP has created the best health care infrastructure of any country in the Eastern Caribbean, and quite possibly the English-speaking Caribbean. We have rehabilitated The Dennery Hospital and refurbished the Soufriere Hospital; we have completely renovated the Ti Rocher Wellness Centre and constructed the La Guerre Wellness Centre; we have refurbished health centres at Babonneau, Micoud, Etangs, and Castries, and we have expanded the hours of operation of the Gros Islet Polyclinic until 12am, and added a dental department.
Access to skilled professionals and medication has also improved under Labour. We have invested in our medical professionals by providing scholarships to 162 public officers to undergo specialised training in health services. We have made medication more affordable by providing free medication for diabetics and persons diagnosed with high blood pressure; by removing the VAT on medication; and by agreeing an amnesty to persons with outstanding arrears at Victoria Hospital and St. Jude Hospital.
The SLP is committed to caring for the people of Saint Lucia, and very soon, we will open and operate the modern, state-of-the-art Owen King-EU Hospital. St. Jude Hospital is also nearing completion meaning that residents of the south of the island will soon have a high quality hospital serving their needs and those of the people of Saint Lucia in general.
Universal Health Care is the next step on our journey to delivering a health service that supports every person in Saint Lucia. All of this is because you have a Labour Government that is dedicated to looking after the health and wellbeing of its citizens.