SUMMARY OF BUDGET ESTIMATES: Hon. Alva Baptiste, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation and Member for Laborie/Augier

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SUMMARY OF BUDGET ESTIMATES: Hon. Alva Baptiste, Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation and Member for Laborie/Augier
Minister Alva Baptiste
Minister Alva Baptiste

In every dark hour in Saint Lucia’s national life the STAR of Bread, Justice and Freedom rises to illuminate our path to social and economic recovery. As if and if I may reach out for the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“It is only when its dark enough can you see the stars.”

The doctor’s knife had to be used on this occasion. Surgery is a gruesome thing but very necessary. It does not only save vital organs, its objective is always to save the entire being. This surgery on the estimates has saved vital organs and is going to save Saint Lucia.

VITAL PROGRAMMES

Despite the cuts we saved vital programmes.

Social Transformation:-Short Term Employment Programme provides employment for those who for decades under UWP occupied the lowest step on the ladder of social benefits. They too need bread; they too need justice and they too need freedom.

By way of example again is the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) which provides for our elderly who toiled all their days to end in total neglect in the twilight of their lives.

These are Saint Lucians who always look up to an SLP government for honest purpose; they waited so that there will be something brought within their reach that will give warmth and glow to their grey lives, something that will help to dispel the hunger, the despair, the oppression and the wrong which now chill so many of their hearts. NICE has employed persons who visit and care for the elderly.

A HISTORICAL OUTLOOK

In the 1970s and 1980s, Saint Lucia’s economy prospered, due mainly to the preferential access given to our bananas and later due to the growing importance of tourism. In addition, we enjoyed a consistent flow of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

The UWP did not place strong emphasis on improving social conditions. Hence, when Dr. Anthony took over the governance of this country in 1997 he found that a host of unemployed youth faced the grim problem of existence and an equally great number toiled with little returns; a country where a great percentage of the rural population was deprived of basic amenities, lack of adequate housing, water, health service, means of communication, schools and means of life. They lived under the most miserable conditions, all the evils that foster misery.

Not even Secondary Schools were built by the UWP to ensure that our people obtained a secondary education. Consequently at least 60% of Saint Lucians actively seeking gainful employment today have less than a secondary level education. Hence we must make provisions for them, through programmes such as STEP and NICE.

BUILDING RESILIENCE TO THESE SHOCKS

The adverse developments in the external environment have created permanent shocks in our economy. Consequently, there is a need to adjust to them steadily but surely, particularly if they are anticipated.

The introduction of VAT is intended to assist in building resilience to these shocks in our economy; it is part of building overall resilience in the economy.

VAT is not a cure for economic problems; if it was the other OECS countries, which implemented VAT long before Saint Lucia, would not have the economic problems that are impacting negatively in those jurisdictions.

PUBLIC SERVANTS AFFAIR

What happened with the recent industrial turbulence reflects weaknesses in the underlying consultative process; the weak influence and engagement of trade unions, as well as academia and think-tanks, in the area of national social, economic and trade policy, and their relative lack of input into national policy formulation.

It is in this spirit the Strengthening of the Public Private Sector Dialogue in Saint Lucia is welcomed.

Moving forward the challenges of the new world situation calls for the need to redefine and implement national priorities. Hence, substantial engagement of all state actors in the participator decision making process will be required in order to facilitate the alignment of objectives and assist in a clearer definition of development objectives and targets.

RESPONSE TO SLP BEING ANTI WORKER

The moral and historical values of the SLP do not need to be defended, as they speak for themselves. They have given to Saint Lucians and particularly the workers much of the Bread, Justice and Freedom that we have enjoyed and continue to enjoy.

It was the founding members of the SLP who fostered the birth and initial dynamics of Saint Lucia’s first Trade Union in January 1939. The Saint Lucia Workers Cooperative Union.

Later, Trade Union Legislation was introduced and the Saint Lucia Workers Cooperative was the first to be registered in 1940.

During the 1940s more trade unions were established which bargained for improved wages and better working conditions for workers in a general sense.

In 1947, the Saint Lucia Workers Cooperation Union successfully negotiated and signed the first ever wage agreement for increase wages, an eight hour day, overtime and comparative increase for task work and other operations.

The founding fathers of the SLP were largely foremost in ensuring that improved working conditions were secured for the employees of the Castries Town Board. They included:

•    A new wage structure
•    Promotion opportunity from the bottom to the top
•    Vacation leave with pay for all employees
•    Gratuity, and pension allowances to all employees
•    Progressive readjustments of overtime and other allowances
•    Between 1939 to 1950, the labour movement achieved much success in terms of increase wages and fringe benefits for workers generally.

Every single piece for progressive legislation or actions in support of the working class in this country was undertaken by the Saint Lucia Labour Party when in office of promoted by the SLP while in opposition. They include:-

•    Holiday with Pay Ordinance
•    Contract Service Act
•    Employee (Occupational Health and Safety Act)
•    Employment of women, young persons and children (Chapter 100)
•    National Health Insurance Act
•    Protection of Wages Act
•    Trade Unions and Trade Dispute Ordinance
•    Wage Regulation Order
•    Trade Union Recognition Bill
•    Labour Code

In 1979, the Saint Lucia Labour Party increased the wages of Government daily paid workers by 100%

MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

There are hardworking Saint Lucians assigned to every foreign mission. It is unfair to say that they are wasting tax payers’ money.

Recurrent Expenditure

In 2006/2007:     Approved -$19,518,315.00
Revised – $19,619,466.00
In 2007/2008: Approved – $18,502,930.00
Revised – $18,818,595.00
In 2008/2009: Approved – 18,841,993.00
Revised – $19,402,207.00
In 2009/2010: Approved – 20,364,700.00
Revised – $ 20,616,065.00
In 2010/2011: Approved – 21,567,000.00
Revised – $ 21, 567,000.00
In 2011/2012: Approved – $21,556,200.00
In 2012/2013: Approved – $21, 209,700.00
In 2013/2014: Approved – $22, 729,000.00

The member for Micoud North insinuated that we are wasting monies on our foreign missions. She specifically cited the $11,896,804.oo that was placed in this year’s estimates for the important operations of these missions.

Given that she was not a member of the House in 2010-2011, she may not be aware of how much was allocated for that same line item in that financial year.  Let me remind her and the opposition that the figure was $11,709,854.00.

This is less than $200,000.00 or an amount closer to the telephone bill of the former Minister for Tourism, during his term in office.

TRAVELLING

In fact, Saint Lucia should play a leading role in encouraging more fiscal policy coordination in the OECS subregion.

Foreign Policy coordination is vital for us in the Caribbean if we are to match our basic need with greater possibilities.

EMPLOYEES

It is important to develop economic impact assessments or the analytical capacity to properly assess the tradeoffs of different trade policy options.

Research and information provided by external consultants are not always tailored to the needs of small states.

LABORIE/AUGIER

This government will continue to provide construction opportunities for the people from Laborie/Augier-mobilizing the idle equipment and the several tradesmen and women, masons and carpenters, and others, who are unemployed throughout the term of the UWP (2006-2011).

Since Hurricane Tomas a dangerous situation exists in La Haut; two critical areas of the northern portion of the La Haut road collapsed with the passage of Tomas and up to now it has not been addressed. I am hoping that the $4million under slope stabilization can be used to provide urgent attention.

Another disaster waiting to happen is at Martin Luther Street, Laborie. There is serious erosion of the southern portion of this road rendering the entire road vulnerable. I have practical knowledge of this road, because this is the road where the instrument of the wishes of the people of the Laborie Constituency in the House was born and raised.

Further, I look forward to the usual support from the allocation for the desilting of rivers and drains in Laborie.

I also look forward to undertake works at the Laborie Boys Primary, Augier Combined and Banse/La Grace Combined Schools. Work was done on the Laborie Girls School during the last financial year.

Community Development Programme will be the catalyst that shall help the Laborie Constituency to catch up with the rest of Saint Lucia as it pertains to infrastructural development, given the many years of neglect, all we saw from Government was “OPERATION MOLAWCOUY”.

I am also going to collaborate with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports to complete the playing field in Olibo for the people of Banse/La Grace and environs.

The crafters in the Constituency of Laborie will be provided with further training, under the Laborie Crafters Skills Development Programme.

Special thanks to the people of Laborie Augier, the hard working staff of the Ministry of External Affairs and those posted in the foreign missions.

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