PRESS RELEASE – Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, other members of the Cabinet of Ministers and officials from the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) Project Unit, met with individuals employed under the employment initiative in two separate meetings this month.
On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, staff in the north of the island gathered at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School, while those who work in the south met yesterday, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, at the Vieux-Fort Primary School. In each instance over five hundred workers attended the meeting.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Prime Minister was joined by Hon. Philip J Pierre, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Port Services and Transport, Hon. Moses Jn. Baptiste, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Cooperatives and Food Production and Hon. Harold Dalsan, Minister for Social Transformation, Local Government and Community Empowerment, all of whom addressed the assembled workers.
During both meetings, the NICE workers were briefed on the current state of the economy and Government’s proposals to reduce expenditure. The fiscal deficit and the implications of the imbalance between government revenue and expenditure were discussed. The Prime Minister reiterated the importance of the program, given its social impact and the cushion it provided to many families who are now able to earn an income. Notwithstanding, staff were cautioned against becoming comfortable or complacent and were encouraged to display proper work ethics at all times.
The Prime Minister also disclosed that “of the one hundred million dollars that the Government promised it would spend on creating jobs, forty seven million dollars have already been on employment initiatives, and there is another two and a half years to go.” However, the Prime Minister reminded the workers that the programme is short term and they must not have any expectation of permanent employment.
NICE staff used the opportunity to express gratitude and to share personal testimonies of how their jobs have changed their lives. At the meeting held in the north, one worker expressed boldly that to him and his family, NICE means “Now I Can Eat”. Many who care for the elderly conveyed their prayer and thanks for such an initiative. Some workers admitted to being anxious about their future given the country’s current difficulties and have openly expressed a willingness to be part of whatever sacrifice they are called upon to make.
Project Coordinator Mr. Perry Thomas addressed issues specific to the programme which included punctuality, timeliness of payment of salaries and the availability of tools and equipment for the execution of duties. He reiterated that slackness will not be tolerated at the unit, as there are thousands on a waiting list for an opportunity to work. He thanked the staff for their dedication and patience and reminded all that his office remains available to deal with issues related to their employment.
The meeting with NICE staff was part of a series of consultations organized by the Prime Minister, to inform various groups of the economic situation as well as proposals to move forward. To date, Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Kenny D. Anthony and the Cabinet of Ministers has met with the public sector unions the National Youth Council, the Media Association of Saint Lucia, the National Council on Public Transportation (NCOPT), the Saint Lucia Small Business and Industry Association (SLISBA), the Southern Business Community and the staff of NICE. Several town hall meetings have also been held in various communities.