MOMENTS OF DECISION
NEW YEAR’S ADDRESS TO THE NATION
DR. THE HONOURABLE KENNY D. ANTHONY
PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR FINANCE, ECONOMIC AFFAIRS,
INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL SERVICES AND INFORMATION
JANUARY 16, 2006
Fellow St. Lucians,
As has become customary, around the middle of January each year, I report to
you, the citizens, on our achievements, progress and failures of the year past.
It is also an opportunity for me to outline the broad development objectives for
our nation in the current year.
Last year, in my New Year’s Address to the nation, I identified a number of
priority areas for our country. This year I would like to report on what
progress have been with regard to these priority areas. I will commence by
reporting on the performance of our economy.
PERFORMANCE OF OUR ECONOMY
Preliminary data on the performance of the Saint Lucian economy up to year-end
2005, suggest strongly, that the country remained firmly on its path of
accelerated growth. Despite the sluggishness of the Agricultural Sector and in
the cruise sub-sector, reduced arrivals of cruise ships, all other major sectors
of the economy expanded, leading local officials, as well as regional and
international institutions to forecast economic growth of approximately five per
cent (5%) for 2005. This will be the highest growth rate Saint Lucia will
achieve since 1992, some fourteen years ago.
Expansion In Tourism
Developments in the tourism industry have been catalytic. Visitor arrivals for
the eleven month period from January to the end of November 2005 featured
significant increases of 21.8% to a total of 23,698 with respect to yacht
passengers, and a further 6.8% to a total of 290,047 stay over visitors. While
data for December is not yet available, there is every reason to believe that
St. Lucia surpassed that important milestone of 300,000 stay over visitors in
2005 as arrivals typically averages in excess of 20,000 in the month of
However, US home porting and constraints in domestic berthing capacity
restrained the overall performance of the cruise sector by 17.5% up to the end
of November 2005.
Increase In Manufacturing Output
The value of manufacturing output from January to September 2005 alone,
exclusive of textile and paper products, is estimated to have increased by 7.7%
to $91.7 million. This is an important development, as this sector prepares to
face the challenges of operating in a more competitive environment.
Buoyancy In Construction
Unquestionably, a construction boom is well underway. The expansion was largely
private sector led, as public sector construction slackened in the course of the
Private sector construction activity was particularly buoyant in 2005, owing to
increased confidence in the economy. This is evidenced by the following
indicators drawn from the first half of the year.
Investment expenditure in tourism
plant of $60 million;
Investment in telecommunications
equipment and plant of $17.1 million;
A 7.1 per cent increase in the value
of imported construction material to $43 million; and
A tripling of funds disbursed by
local financial institutions for financing commercial and residential
construction to $93 million, of which commercial construction attracted $54
In 2006, construction activity will
be accelerated as the Government Public Sector Investment Programme unfolds.
The buoyancy in the economy was reflective in merchandise trade.
The value of merchandise trade imports grew by 12 per cent to $522.8 million.
Unfortunately exports contracted by 8.5 per cent largely as a result of a
reduction in the export of bananas.
There were significant increases in all three categories of imports; namely
consumer goods by 55 per cent to $288.1 million; intermediate goods ($131.2
million) mainly on the strength of the rising price of oil and capital goods
($103.6 million) led by increases in machinery and transport equipment.
Improved Fiscal Performance
On the fiscal side, taxes from International Trade and taxes on income led to an
improvement in current revenue by 17 per cent to $304.2 million. This increase
is consistent with domestic economic expansion and improved administrative
efficiency. Effective control measures led to relatively flat current
expenditure of $249.4 million and resulted in a considerable improvement of the
current balance of $54.9 million by the close of June 2005. However, the level
Capital Expenditure exceeded the current surplus and led to an overall deficit.
MEETING OUR PRIORITIES
When I addressed you at this time last year, the emphasis was on the priorities
for 2005. Indeed, I had set seven priorities for the Government and nation.
Today, I am pleased to report that we have been able to register successes in
Was Unemployment Reduced?
Priority Number One was to reduce unemployment.
Unemployment, as you know, has been a stubborn problem. At long last, I am
beginning to see a downward movement.
I indicated that Government would seek to reduce unemployment by intensifying
investment in tourism, encouraging more investments in the Information
Technology Sector, encouraging self-employment through establishment of small
businesses and expanding opportunities in public sector construction. One year
later, I am pleased to report that we did succeed in encouraging significantly
more investments in both the tourism and construction sectors, leading to
increased employment at all levels.
According to Mr. Edwin St. Catherine, the Director of Statistics and I quote
“The main driver for the decline in the unemployment rate is growth in the
number of employment opportunities available in the hotels and restaurants and
the Construction Sector, with employment in hotels and restaurants skewed
towards the employment of women by a factor of two women to every one man
employed and a factor of six men to every one woman employed in the construction
sector. The Hotels and Restaurants Sectors added approximately 3, 500 persons,
while the Construction Sector added approximately 2,500 persons. While this is a
healthy development, it must be sustained since the situation can be reversed
due to the cyclical nature of construction activity and the fickle nature of the
For the first time, quarterly employment statistics for the 2nd and 3rd quarter
of 2005 are indicating that the numbers of persons employed in the Hotels and
Restaurants Sector has surpassed the Agriculture Sector, recording in the third
quarter a total of 8,980 persons employed when compared to 7,460. The
Construction Sector employed approximately as many persons as did the
Agriculture Sector in the 3rd Quarter of 2005”.
Today, several new tourism investments have taken off. In the past year, we have
seen the opening of the new Coco Palm resort at Rodney Bay and the renovated
Coconut Bay resort in Vieux Fort. The Plantation at Cotton Bay and Discovery at
Marigot Bay are both about to come on stream; and new construction works have
started on the Landings at Rodney Bay, the new Bay Gardens Suites (also at
Rodney Bay) and on the new Le Paradis at Praslin on the island's East Coast.
At the same time, several existing hotels began expanding last year. These
include the original Bay Gardens Hotel at Rodney Bay, Le Sport Villas at Cap
Estate, Cara Suites at La Pansee in Castries and Jalousie Plantation in
Soufriere – which changed hands and went under new, local management last year.
Altogether, the total number of investments in our tourism plant announced in
2005 have amounted to way over one billion EC dollars. This is a remarkable show
of confidence on the part of local and foreign investors in our country and our
tourism industry. Similarly, the Government of St. Lucia has to date awarded
incentives to 24 local and foreign investors to expand accommodation for the
Cricket World Cup. To these will be added Bread and Breakfast Accommodation
Projects approved for the thousands of visitors expected here for the Cricket
World Cup next year.
The developments just mentioned have also resulted in increased confidence on
the part of the airlines, which have again began to focus on increasing airlift
to St. Lucia. Last year, we were able to secure new daily flights to and from
Atlanta by Delta Airlines; the expected return of Air Jamaica with three weekly
flights to and from New York as of next month; and direct flights from
Manchester by Virgin Atlantic in June.
It is precisely because of the good performance of our tourism industry last
year, that a very upbeat Minister of Tourism, Philip J. Pierre, was able to so
confidently predict a few days ago, that this year, barring unforeseen
circumstances, St. Lucia is set to reach and pass the 300,000- mark for
stay-over visitors and hotel occupancy is also set to pass last year's 68%
record. All of this continues to spell jobs and more jobs for St. Lucians.
Progress On preparations For CSME
Priority Number Two last year was to finalize St. Lucia's entry and
participation in the Single Market and Economy created by the Caribbean
Community (CARICOM). Here too, we have some progress to report.
Legislation has been introduced in Parliament to remove discrimination between
St. Lucians and other CARICOM nationals to create the conditions for the Freedom
of Movement of factors inherent in the CSME.
Last year, the Ministry of Commerce, which also has responsibility for matters
pertaining to the trade aspects of the CSME, also began an ongoing public
education drive aimed at informing the population and related sectors of the
issues involved. These measures took place against the background of the
establishment by the Government of St. Lucia of a Special CSME Task Force. The
Special CSME Task Force is principally responsible for engaging the various
sectors and fine-tuning of the required measures and mechanisms for our eventual
entry into the new regional trading arrangements between member-states of
I know that some of you are uneasy about the CSME. I understand the fears. I
wish to reassure you that this Government will jealously guard the patrimony of
Saint Lucia. The CSME will widen our horizons as our nationals will benefits
from new rights and privileges in other member states. We must remember that
unless we are part of the CSME we cannot sell our exports to the region on equal
terms with our CARICOM neighbours.
St. Lucia will be present at the official ceremony launching the CSME in Jamaica
on January 30th, 2006. Our presence there will be to reaffirm our commitment to
the new regional initiative. Once all issues are resolved, St. Lucia will be
ready to join the CSME in the first quarter of this year.
Any Respite in Crime?
Crime reduction was the third priority outlined in my New Year’s Address in
2005. As you are aware, a number of initiatives were introduced to combat crime
and criminality. These included the recruitment of more police officers. It is
the intention of the Government to increase the membership of the Royal Saint
Lucia Police Force by year end to over a 1,000 for the first time in its
The Programme for the Recovery of Illegal Weapons was another initiative
introduced by the Government to combat crime. In 2005, the Programme recorded a
measure of success with a total of 203 illegal guns being removed off the
streets and from the hands of criminals. The number of guns removed off the
streets this year as a result of the programme is four times greater than the
numbers retrieved in the two years preceding the implementation of the
programme, when an average of between 40 and 50 guns were being recovered each
year. As a result of the success of the programme – which rewards informants and
not the criminals -- there was also noticeable reduction in the number of
gun-related offences throughout the country.
Last year Saint Lucia recorded the same number of homicides as it did in the
previous year. Thirty seven homicides is an unacceptable figure. In fact any
homicide is unacceptable. This year, that figure must be reduced.
Additional measures introduced last year to intensify fight against crime in
2005 included the introduction of a new Criminal Code which came into effect;
and later in the year the new edition of the Revised Laws of St. Lucia was
published and launched. Further, the curriculum at the Police Training Academy
was improved and a new Crown Prosecution Service was introduced to improve the
prosecution of criminals. The Interception of Communications Bill was also
enacted last year, to strengthen the ability of the police to keep track of the
more sophisticated criminals and their activities.
I regret that the establishment of the Forensic Laboratory has been delayed by
design issues, but I expect all issues will be resolved shortly.
Getting Ready for Cricket World Cup 2007
The fourth priority outlined in last Year’s New Year’s Address was to meet the
challenges of hosting the Cricket World Cup in 2007. In this regard, several
initiatives were undertaken.
The local organizing committee in 2005 relocated its headquarters to Castries
and appointed additional staff to ensure proper organisational preparedness and
execution of programmes island-wide.
Early in the year, the Local Organising Committee got an important moral boost
when it hosted Dr Ali Bacher, who spearheaded South Africa's hosting of the
ICC's Cricket World Cup. Dr. Bacher commended the Local Organising Committee for
the quality and level of preparations undertaken to date for the hosting the
third biggest sporting event in the world.
Similarly, following successful site visits by the delegations from the
International Cricket Council last year, the Beausejour Cricket Ground passed
the test with flying colours and the venue development inspectors approved the
plans for further development of the venue. Similarly, plans continued to be
implemented to improve infrastructure and transportation access to the site. In
this regard, the Bella Rosa link road, which provides an additional alternative
route from the Gros Islet highway to the venue, is under construction and on
Representatives of the Local Organising Committee also held meetings last year
with residents living in close proximity to the venue. The Local Organizing
Committee also launched a broader sensitization programme to educate and prepare
Saint Lucians in the various communities as to what role they are perform to
make our hosting of the World Cup the most successful ever. These roles ranged
from providing entertainment to serving as volunteers. The feed back from the
communities so far has been very positive. On October 22, 2005, the Local
Organizing Committee held a very successful Road Show. And on December 5, 2005,
the volunteer programme was launched. It is my hope that the benefits of the
volunteer programme will instil into all Saint Lucians a greater sense of
volunteerism which will redound to the greater good of our Society.
Repairing and Rehabilitating of Roads
Priority Number Five last year was to intensify our efforts to repair and
rehabilitate our road infrastructure. In this regard, drivers and commuters
travelling between Vieux Fort and Soufriere were pleased that the South West
Coast Road was finally completed last year. In addition, several roads were
repaired under the Tertiary Roads Programme. In the case of the
Castries-Gros-Islet Highway construction will commence this quarter. The
rehabilitation of the East Coast Highway is expected to pick up momentum.
Several new bridges were also constructed last year as part of the road
rehabilitation project. Because of the heavy rainfall in what was the busiest
hurricane year on record, several major and tertiary roads that were earmarked
to have started were unavoidably delayed. However, weather permitting, work will
resume. In fact work has resumed on several of these roads. It is expected that
2006 will be another busy year for road repairs and rehabilitation island wide.
Preparing Bananas for Tariff – Only Regime
Priority Number Six for 2005 year was to prepare the Banana Industry for the
inevitable transition to a tariff-only trading regime. In preparation for this
eventuality, Government has on one hand, continued to provide assistance to
banana farmers and their organisations. On the other hand, Government has also
intensified its diplomatic efforts within the World Trade Organisation (WTO)
along with other African Pacific and Caribbean member-states to secure a better
deal for our farmers than what is being demanded by Latin America and what is
being offered by the European Union (EU). Given the vicissitudes of
international trade, our banana farmers can only continue to hope for a better
deal on the world market.
Despite the many challenges that confronted the banana industry in 2005, Saint
Lucia continued to be the major producer of bananas in the Windward Islands. In
2005 Saint Lucia produced more than half of the total production from the
Windwards grouping. With the advent of the tariff only regime, the prospect for
the banana industry remains worrying.
Improving Water Supply
A major priority last year was to improve our water supply and in particular, to
ease the plight of the Dennery communities.
In this regard, we have done quite a lot. Millions were expended to begin work
on a new 18-inch transmission line from the new Errard water intake to the new
storage and treatment plant at Bois Jolie. Meanwhile WASCO has been given the
go-ahead to procure the materials required to improve the water supply in
Dennery North as promised in last year’s address.
In addition, the 20-inch pipeline to Gros Islet was commissioned last year. Work
has also began on a new 14-inch pipeline to take water from the Gros Islet plant
back to the communities between Gros Islet and Castries. New water works have
also been completed last year at Grace/Woodlands in Vieux Fort North, as well as
at Hill 20 and Talverne. New tanks have also been installed at Desruisseaux.
The World Bank has also approved a US $7 million project and the Central Tenders
Board has made the necessary land acquisitions to enable expansion works which
will double the capacity at the T.R. Theobalds plant at Ciceron. The age-old
bottlenecks in the Roseau Dam are also being removed to increase capacity and
PRIORITIES FOR 2006
What then are our priorities for 2006?
For this year and until such time that the General Election is announced, the
Government will focus on six (6) priorities.
Priority number one is to secure further reductions in crime;
Priority number two is to intensify efforts to reduce unemployment;
Priority number three is to speed up implementation of the Universal Health Care
System, the UHC;
Priority number four is to complete preparations for the Cricket World Cup,
Priority number five is to complete the drive to universal secondary education,
to provide every child a place in a secondary school.
Priority number six is to ensure that Saint Lucia conducts its electoral
business without reproach and Saint Lucian participate in elections that are
free, fair, and free from fear and intimidation.
SECURING FURTHER REDUCTIONS IN CRIME
I will now focus on Priority Number One.
I am aware that the issue of crime is the most burning issue among Saint
Lucians. Indeed, it is fair to say that while Saint Lucians credit the
Government for its efforts in stabilising our economy, promoting education and
sports, strengthening governance and attacking poverty they are generally
disappointed that the efforts to contain and reduce crime have not yielded
greater results. It is clear that the Police and the Government must redouble
efforts to convince our citizens that we can win the fight against crime.
I propose to invite parliament to revisit all offences involving firearms and
stiffen the penalties in respect of the possession of unlawful firearms and the
use of such firearms in the commission of crime.
I will grant approval to train a further sixty police officers this year to
increase the strength of the Special Service Unit from 45 to 100 men.’
Now that the process of constitutional reform is underway, the Saint Lucia
Labour Party will, at the appropriate time, propose and pursue amendments to the
Constitution of Saint Lucia, to remove all impediments, whether introduced by
judges or otherwise, to ensure that the death penalty is enforced. Judges must
implement the will of the people as expressed in the laws they have freely
chosen to enact. We must cease the vacillation over capital offences, but comply
fully with the Rule of Law. There must be no exception.
In the course of this year, further reform will be effected to the court system.
I propose to introduce a night court, staffed by two additional magistrates to
hear traffic offences. This initiative will ease the burden of police officers
who are compelled to waste valuable policing time during the normal course of
We have inherited a dilapidated and outdated Central Police Station in the
Capital which has become dysfunctional. Government will focus its attention on
the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the Central Police Station as a matter
of urgency in the next few months as a temporary measure. In the meantime, plans
will be drawn up for the conversion of the existing Police Headquarters into a
modern, functional Headquarters Complex that will include a new Central Police
INITIATIVES TO REDUCE UNEMPLOYMENT
Earlier, I spoke of the inroads we have made into unemployment. I intend to
continue the broad mix of policies the Government pursued in 2005.
There are, however, two major initiatives which the Government proposes to
undertake this year.
Firstly, the Government is aware that unemployment is highest amongst young
people, especially persons between fifteen and twenty four years of age. In
addition to the initiatives currently being undertaken by the National Skills
Development Centre, Government will finance a programme of training for young
persons particularly in the eastern and southern parts of the island for future
employment in the new hotels to be constructed in those areas.
Secondly, as a country we have to be concerned about competitiveness. If wages
continue to rise faster than productivity, then we are going to be in trouble.
Government will, therefore, introduce a range of measures aimed at enhancing
productivity into the workplace.
Details of both measures will be announced in the 2006/07 Budget.
IMPLEMENTING THE UHC
The implementation of the Universal Health Care system is our third priority.
Your have heard much about this programme. We must take decisive steps towards
its implementation, especially now that construction of one of the two new
hospitals is underway.
The Government will start with the changes to the governance and administration
of Victoria Hospital. As I have stated before, the governance of the hospital
will be ceded to a Board.
Secondly, commencing May 1st, The Government will introduce a scheme to provide
free medical drugs to pensioners who suffer with hypertension and diabetes. The
Government will invite the nascent UHC to administer this programme on its
I must however, warn you that the introduction of the UHC will cause discomfort
and anxiety in the initial stages, but, we must press ahead because we cannot
continue to deny basic health care to Saint Lucians who do not possess the
income or the means to access such care.
FINALISING PREPARATIONS FOR WORLD CUP
This year, we intend to complete our preparations for the 2007 ICC Cricket World
Cup. The foresight of our Government in constructing the Beausejour Cricket
Ground has given us more time in these critical months leading up to the Opening
Ceremony on Sunday 11 March, 2007 and the first match in Saint Lucia on
Wednesday 14 March, 2007 to concentrate on the myriad other issues critical to
the hosting of a successful tournament.
In fact, we are sufficiently advanced and on schedule with our preparations that
the Local Organising Committee intends to use the West Indies home series this
year as a trial run for many of the new components that will be featured during
the Cricket World Cup.
As stated earlier, the Beausejour-Bella Rosa link road is nearing completion,
and with its commissioning in the next few months and the use of new drop-off
zones, the traffic congestion that has been perhaps the one negative feature of
international cricket at Beausejour will be a thing of the past.
Much of the permanent improvement works at the Beausejour Cricket Ground will
also be completed within the first half of this year. Persons attending matches
at Beausejour this year will notice an even faster draining outfield, due to
comprehensive drainage works, improved concession stands, a new President’s Box,
and a permanent Venue Operations Centre, among other features. However, the
feature that will bring even more pride to Saint Lucians will be the
installation of night lighting at the ground, which will allow Saint Lucia to
feature in a proud and historic first for West Indies cricket – the staging of
the very first day-night One Day International on Wednesday 10th May, when
Zimbabwe and the West Indies square off.
As I have repeatedly stated, the eyes of the world will be on our country in
2007, and the publicity that we stand to gain from our participation in the
Cricket World Cup is both unprecedented and invaluable. Therefore, there is much
that remains to be done in order that our country and our people can stand up to
the most rigorous and intense international scrutiny.
We have to beautify our island. There are still too many eyesores that we take
for granted or appear content to live with. Indiscriminate littering must be
curbed and curtailed. Customer service must improve. We cannot make a successful
transition to a service economy if we provide discourteous or unhelpful service.
We must do a better job resolving conflicts. We used to be much more loving and
caring. We have to rediscover that community spirit, and rekindle those feelings
of respect, tolerance and neighbourly love that characterised our culture. And,
we must make our country more secure.
There are still other challenges left to be overcome. Among these are providing
sufficient accommodation to cater to the large numbers of visitors expected for
the Opening Round and semi-final match that we will host. While I am extremely
pleased with the response to the Cricket World Cup Accommodation Incentives
packages, and remain optimistic that the Bed and Breakfast sector will help in
bridging the accommodation gap, we still have an uphill battle.
I also want to see more of our local businesses preparing for the opportunities
that 2007 will provide. The BOOST initiative of the OPSR is a positive step, but
local businesses should also look to partner with other companies in the region,
in order that they may profit from the entire tournament, and not just the Saint
UNIVERSAL SECONDARY EDUCATION – A NEAR REALITY
I now turn to our fifth priority.
Since assuming office, this Government has proven that economic growth is not
incompatible with social re-engineering. Given the importance of education to
our developmental process, its role in dismantling socio-economic barriers,
walls of injustice and prejudice and as a source of empowerment, this Government
has relentlessly pursued the goal of attaining universal secondary education. As
a Government, we have always held dear the ideal that education should never be
the exclusive preserve of a select few. I have long contended, that education
must never be seen as a privilege but rather as an inalienable right of every
citizen. It is only through equal access to educational opportunities can our
citizens improve their life chances and change their circumstances.
As a Government, we have long embraced the belief first espoused by our esteemed
Nobel Laureate, Sir Arthur Lewis, that “the cure for poverty is not money but
education.” We have long regarded universal secondary education as a worthwhile
ideal to which we should aspire. Today, I am indeed pleased to report that this
long pursuit is near over. The dream of universal secondary education is about
to become a reality.
There can be no doubt that the attainment of universal secondary education by
the next academic year will be a monumental milestone in our development. Since
assuming office we have worked steadily towards the achievement of that goal.
During the tenure of this Government, four new secondary schools have been
built. The construction of these four new secondary schools have increased
considerably the existing stock of secondary school places available in Saint
The construction of three more secondary schools this year will serve to further
augment the available stock of secondary school places. To date construction has
already began on two of these secondary schools – the Gros-Islet and Marigot
The Gros Islet Secondary School is being built on 8.32 acres of land at Massade
and will contain twenty classrooms, three science labs, one computer lab, one
learning resource centre, an art room, segregated sick bays for male and female
students, a staff room, offices for the principal, the vice principal, the
school bursar and school counsellors and an auditorium designed to accommodate
1,000 persons. The school, when completed will be a four stream five form
secondary school designed to accommodate seven hundred students.
The Marigot Secondary School will be built on 10 acres of land alongside the
Marigot Playing Field and will also contain twenty classrooms, three science
labs, one computer lab, one learning resource centre, segregated sick bays, a
staff room, offices for the principal, the vice principal, the school bursar and
school counsellors. This school will also be a four stream five form secondary
school designed to accommodate seven hundred students.
In order to meet the stock of secondary school places required to make universal
secondary education a reality, the Grande Riviere Senior Primary School will be
transformed into a full-fledged secondary school. A new three storey concrete
structure will be constructed on the existing site, an existing building will be
expanded and upgraded to make provisions for specialist rooms, an existing
toilet facility will be upgraded, a wooden building on the compound will be
repaired and the school site will be landscaped. The new secondary school will
contain between fifteen and twenty classrooms, two science labs, one computer
lab, an auto mechanics room, a learning resource centre, a home economics room
and the appropriate administrative facilities. The school will be either three
stream or four stream, accommodating between 525 and 700 students as resources
Also, three existing secondary schools namely the Choiseul Secondary, the
Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary School and St. Mary’s College will be expanded,
upgraded and rehabilitated.
A new building will be constructed on the compound of the Choiseul Secondary
School, an existing building will be expanded and all existing buildings will be
given a facelift. The school will be expanded from its present capacity of 525
students to 700 students. When the expansion is completed the school will be
transformed from a three stream to a four stream five form secondary school.
A third floor containing six classrooms will be added to the existing
accommodation of the Clendon Mason Memorial Secondary School and existing rooms
in the school will be refurbished and reorganised. Particular attention will be
paid to science labs, a learning resource centre and accommodation for
teachers. The school will be expanded from its present capacity of 550 students
to a four stream five form secondary school accommodating 700 students.
St. Mary’s College – which is currently a four stream secondary school, will be
transformed into a five stream secondary school when expansion work is
completed. When the expansions are completed, St. Mary College is expected to
accommodate as many as 875 students.
Surely, will all these investments in our education infrastructure, by the next
academic year universal secondary education will at long last become a reality.
I salute Hon. Mario Michel, our Minister of Education, Human Resource
Development, Youth and Sports on this remarkable achievement.
ENSURING FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS
As you know, our Constitution requires that General Elections must be held by
the end of March 2007. But recent developments since the start of the New Year
have indicated that some are more anxious than others about the upcoming
national electoral contest. Indeed, some who are interested in the electoral
race have demonstrated that they well understand the Creole proverb which says
“Sa ki pa ni bon pye, pwan douvan” (“Those with bad feet or legs should start
But, that aside, the Government last year did much to ensure the necessary
pre-requisites are put in place so that the elections take place in a manner
that is consistent with our democratic traditions.
The enumeration of voters is now well underway. Scrutineers recommended by the
Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Opposition and myself, on behalf of
the Government, are monitoring the process to ensure its integrity.
Earlier this month, I announced that regional and international observers will
be invited to monitor the next General Elections. This is important, because
while seven elections have been held since Independence in 1979, on no occasion
has observers ever been invited. I wish St. Lucia to be an outstanding example
of international best practice in electoral behaviour and conduct. We must
conduct our elections without reproach and satisfy ourselves that we have been
faithful to democratic norms and practice.
I urge all registered and eligible voters to ensure they are verified, so that,
when the time comes, all will be ready, willing and able to perform their
constitutional duty by exercising their franchise at the polls wherever they are
registered to vote.
Fellow Saint Lucians, the year 2006 will, without question, be another
interesting year. We expect that most of the projects which have commenced will
be brought to a successful completion. Universal Secondary education will at
long last become a reality. As well, our preparation to host the ICC Cricket
World in 2007 will be at the point of completion by year end.
The Constitution of Saint Lucia requires that the next general elections for
Saint Lucia be held no later than March 2007. I fully expect that during the
course of this year we will see an acceleration in political activities on the
part of all legitimate political parties. I take this opportunity to appeal to
the leadership of all political parties and their supporters to conduct their
electioneering activities in a peaceful, respectful and non-confrontational
manner. For my part I intend to take all measures within the authority of the
Prime Minister to ensure that general elections are conducted in a free and fair
Let us all work together during 2006 to build a harmonious, peaceful and orderly
Saint Lucia. I know we can do it, if we try.
I thank you, and wish you a 2006 rich in good health, blessings, joy and