Saint Lucia
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SLP Administration Gives account of its Stewardship in its Two Years in Office

PRIME Minister Philip J Pierre
PRIME Minister Philip J Pierre

PRIME Minister Philip J Pierre, on Wednesday, presented a review on the stewardship and management of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration to mark its second year in office, since victory at the polls on 26th July, 2021.

He highlighted issues pertaining to a reduction in food imports, healthcare priority, the Youth Economy Agency (YEA) initiative, and plans to establish a Minimum Liveable Wage to provide an improvement in the quality of life.

 “Through prudent economic policies, we have slowly drawn our country from the abyss of financial mismanagement into which it had been thrust, restored financial stability, nurtured economic growth, brought unemployment down to its lowest level in ten years, and secured $340 million in new investments in the tourism sector,” Pierre declared.

He noted that Saint Lucia has had to combat “international crises” resulting in the economic downturn from COVID-19, the Russia – Ukraine War– with their consequences of international inflation, supply chain problems, and rising oil prices.

As a result, he said, government has had to move swiftly to try to provide a cushion to the burgeoning economic effects.

Consequently, said the prime minister, government has “provided massive subsidies to our people for basic food items, petrol, and cooking gas.” Additionally, he explained, the prices of other goods have been reduced “through the lifting of government service charges…with the removal of VAT on building materials, medical screening equipment, and sanitary items for babies, women, and senior citizens.”

The prime minister noted that tax penalties were waived “and interests of more than $500 million on taxes owed to the government.” Further, his administration provided the largest increase of aid, $25.9 million, to the poor and vulnerable by expanding the country’s social safety net programmes.

He said financial support has also been provided to pensioners and there was an increase in the supplies grant to teachers.

Added PM Pierre: “We have assisted parents with their children’s education by paying their facilities fees, CXC Mathematics, and English fees while also providing thousands of laptops to every secondary school student as we continue to modernise our education system.

“We are on course with our 1st generation scholarships by leveraging our diplomatic relationships and partnering with locally based universities.”

The Castries East MP stated that financial assistance has also been provided to “registered fishers by granting them a rebate of $2.00 per gallon on fuel purchased and are diligently working towards CARICOM’s goal of a 25% reduction on our food import bill by 2025 through our seven-crop programme.”

Noting that healthcare is a “priority area”, Pierre said, this year saw the launch of another phase of Universal Health Care “so that pregnant mothers and the elderly can benefit from free medical care. We have removed the VAT on the importation of vital medical screening equipment which we believe will result in a wider availability of critical tests and at more affordable rates”.

Pierre stated that reconstruction works has resumed at the St. Jude Hospital “so that it can be delivered to the people of the south and the nation in the shortest possible time.”

He anticipates that by next month, the  government will be in a better position to make a more definitive statement on the works being undertaken at the SJH.

The YEA received over $750,000 to enable it to turn their skills and talents into business enterprises. YEA has yielded fruit with more than 200 young people gaining access to grants and loans, technical assistance and motivational talks from some leading business persons.

In addition, he said, “an MSME grant/loan facility of $10 million was established for small businesses with recipients getting 70% of their funds as a grant and 30% as a loan.”

Pierre said there has been an “enthusiastic” response to this development, as government takes steps to build “a new class of entrepreneurs in Saint Lucia who can be the investors and economic giants of tomorrow.”

He said, in order “to reverse and end the malpractices in the governance of our country”, the SLP administration adhered to the rules and regulations in parliament by appointing a Deputy Speaker.

Also, to better monitor the state’s affairs, a legislation was enacted to appoint a Special Prosecutor, whose duty would entail taking action “concerning the reports of corruption …and to signal our intention not to book corruption in our government.”

Saint Lucia’s accession to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as the country’s final Court of Appeal, noted Pierre, is evidence of the country’s thrust to move away from the British Privy Council.

The prime minster asserted: “Our judges are not inferior to their British counterparts and we are proud of and have faith in our jurisprudence.”

PM Pierre said in recognition of the Emancipation Day celebrations, the festivities had been elevated to an Emancipation Festival. He added: “We elevated our observation of Emancipation from slavery, to a celebration that aims at rekindling our consciousness of our history and our heritage.”

Zoning in on the worrisome crime situation, PM Pierre noted: “The scourge of crime, and in particular violent gun crime, unfortunately, continues to bedevil our country but we are determined to bring it under control and our policies of support and strengthening of the police force and all other agencies involved in maintaining our national security will be unabated in the year ahead.”

He added that provisions have also been made for “restoration of the police training unit, and the procurement of over 40 vehicles, surveillance equipment, and protective gear have provided a once-neglected RSLPF with the basic tools to assist with citizen security.”

Also, he said, government begun construction of a $35 million Northern Divisional Police Headquarters, the renovation of the Southern Divisional Police Headquarters and the reconstruction of the Custody Suites.

In summing up the administration’s gains and achievements PM Pierre asserted: “We are resolute in our promise to serve our people and be their servant leaders by always putting them first.”