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The ruling Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) announced a 15-point election promise that it wishes to implement if re-elected to office at the next general elections.
Leader of the SLP and Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, declared that they will not be mere promises put on paper, but things that his party can manage to deliver, to create a new Saint Lucia.
The pledges were revealed after the election date was announced on Thursday evening (May 20, 2016) at the Castries market steps, where hundreds of SLP supporters converged for another political meeting.
One of the first things Dr. Anthony said the SLP plans to do, is to work assiduously to bring down the unemployment rate by at least 15 percent within the next four years. The aim is to ensure that employment opportunities are made available to more people on the island, especially the youth.
“If you think we can’t do it, look at our history. We brought it down by five percent and we are going to bring it down again. If we brought it down by five percent, therefore, bringing it down another five percent is in our grasp. We are going to do it through a combination of measures,” he explained.
Dr. Anthony said the SLP pledges to construct no less than 2,000 new hotel rooms in the country, which will also help with the unemployment issue.
“Already for this five years, we will be constructing nearly 900 rooms in this time of hardship. So as this economy picks up and galvanizes, we believe not only can we bring down that unemployment rate, but we can bring investments to construct that 2,000 rooms to provide work to our people.”
He also spoke about plans to construct a highway linking the North with the South, from Gros Islet to Dennery, something that is already in the pipeline. This, he emphasized, will change the face of the country, and open up the East Coast for new development and opportunities.
The need to put more money in the pockets of Saint Lucians is one of the major promises the SLP is also focused on delivering.
As such, the party leader is proposing to implement a tax reform strategy for Saint Lucia and plans to increase the threshold from $18,000 to $30,000.
People who earn $2,500 will not be required pay income tax. This means that some 3,500 Saint Lucians will not have to file for tax return.
“That is what I mean by putting money in your pockets of people, so that you can better face challenges of life.”
Pensioners have also been included in the ruling party’s 15-point plan, and these persons could receive an additional deduction of $4,000 on their personal income.
They will no longer be required to pay income tax, if they earn over $40,400 per month. It means, therefore, that the vast majority of pensioner will be free of the responsibility to pay income tax.
Investment in education
Dr. Anthony also reminded supporters of the party’s plan to help parents who cannot afford to pay the cost of children’s Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examination fees, but said assistance and support will be provided based on performance.
It was also recognized that many underprivileged children are robbed of the opportunity to pursue higher education, mainly because their parents may not be eligible for loans and don’t have collateral.
However, under a new SLP administration, the Prime Minister has pledged to establish a tertiary education trust fund, something he described as “revolutionary and unique.”
The fund will receive a financial allocation of $3 million and in five years it’s going to reach $15 million.
These loans will be administrated by an independent board, which will decide who will get the grants and the condition under which they will get it.
Plans to transform the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) into a university and give the institution full degree granting status is also underway.
Meanwhile, young entrepreneurs are also likely to benefit from this SLP plan.
“Our Labour Party app was made here in St Lucia and we didn’t have to go overseas and that’s my point these young people who are working in our services sector needs recognition. They need help. They too must get incentives, just like the hoteliers, just like the manufactures, because they are the generation of the future and this Labour Government will give them a special regime of incentives so that they can be a part of this economy.”
Shifting his attention to the creative arts industry, Dr. Anthony said Saint Lucia has too many bright minds in this specific area and the SLP therefore plans to deliver a new national theatre complex in the new administration.
The current administration has been heavily criticized for showing little interest in improving the health care sector, although they have built a new national hospital with the assistance of the European Union (EU), which is still to be opened.
But Dr. Anthony said if the SLP is re-elected to office the next move would be to go beyond just building infrastructure, but making a huge sacrifice to introduce universal health care in Saint Lucia.
Dr. Anthony said a promise was made in the last election but was not delivered, which has to do with ensuring that Saint Lucians are given access to beaches.
“We are are going to pass a law to guarantee and secure the rights for all St Lucians to get access to the beaches of this country. It must remain the property of the people of St Lucia. I must make sure it is done to save and protect the patrimony of this country for the generations yet to come.”
Other party promises made on Thursday includes: ensuring that Saint Lucia transitions from fossil fuel to clean energy; build a new headquarters for the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force; make the country’s capital a duty free cruise destination, in order to attract more attract tourists; and focus on improving agriculture.