In that regard, the SLP has called on the UWP leader to put his words into action by joining in its quest to devise ways of bringing relief to poor and vulnerable St. Lucians.
In a recent address to the nation recently, Chastanet had made plea for an end to partisan politics which he said has been causing disunity among citizens for years. He also proposed the removal of the Value Added Tax (VAT) on medication and reading glasses for the elderly.
In addition, Chastanet had requested a complete review of the VAT scheme, with a view to reducing it.
In response, the SLP suggested what it referred to as “bi-partisan steps” which it believes will help address the plight of poor and susceptible citizens.
In its release the SLP said it was pleased that Chastanet had “finally recognised what has long been the position of our party that all Saint Lucians ought to work together in the best interests of country.”
The party therefore extended an invitation to Chastanet, the UWP and civil society, to hold open and transparent discussions with the pharmaceutical sector to “review of the cost of medicine before and after VAT in order to determine the true effect of VAT on these items.”
The SLP went on to give a commitment that it will join in making appeals to the government to remove VAT if it can be proven the tax, which replaced the 15% duty that was already in place, “has the drastic negative effect on retail prices as has been suggested by Mr. Chastanet.”
According to the SLP, it has no problems in making such commitments since cabinet has “no intention of causing hardship on the people of St. Lucia, “as its tradition can prove.”
The party also said that its commitment to the poor has been amply demonstrated in previous SLP administrations. The release drew attention to a number of measures in this year’s budget which are said to be geared at assisting citizens.
“…for example, it ensured that medicine for hypertensive and diabetic patients was provided free of charge. The Saint Lucia Labour Party is also the Party responsible for raising public assistance to the indigent by over 25% and introducing assistance to differently -abled children,” the release said.
“This is also the party which has in every term whilst in office, raised the tax free threshold of lower income workers thereby exempting them from the payment of income tax,” the party said.
Moreover, the party sent out a challenge to Chastanet to join in its call for a general relief in the cost of health care services.
“We also call on him to join with us in asking medical practitioners to follow the example of their legal counterparts in reducing the cost of services to patients,” the SLP said.
“In keeping with Chastanet’s newly discovered concern about the plight of poor people, the Labour Party also expresses its willingness to join with him to engage in a review of the cost structure of supermarkets commodities to determine the impact of VAT on products retailed there. We are confident that Allen Chastanet should have little difficulty in accessing such information and that after joint review he would be willing to have the public examine the information to judge for themselves whether VAT or other cost elements are responsible for high supermarket prices,” the release said.
“In order to move this process forward expeditiously, the Saint Lucia Labour Party suggests that a committee to act on these matters be formed immediately. In that regard we suggest that representation should come from the UWP, the Private Sector, The National Consumer Association, the Ministry of Commerce, the Institute of Chartered Accounts of the Eastern Caribbean St. Lucia Branch and the Saint Lucia Labour Party. That Committee should be put in place by 31 August 2013 with a mandate to report publicly on its findings by 31 October 2013.
The SLP also said it will “immediately submit correspondence to the aforementioned organizations seeking their nominees and calls upon Mr. Allen Chastanet to also submit his party’s representative. We look forward to hearing from him on this urgent exercise.”