Address to the nation by The Honourable Stephenson King on the state of affairs in the government June 4, 2008
ADDRESS TO THE NATION
BY THE HONOURABLE
PRIME MINISTER STEPHENSON KING
THE STATE OF AFFAIRS IN GOVERNMENT
Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
My fellow Saint Lucians, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,:
The primary reason for my address on Tuesday, May 27, was to put at rest a number of issues, which for some time had plagued my administration and which had threatened to destabilise the core of the foundation of the Government. In the process, I noted that it was time for reconciliation and to concentrate on the business of governing the country.
We need, in the spirit of the pursuit of the common good, to make wise and sound decisions. Such decisions must not be made in the heat of emotional outrage and sensation, but in a calm and deliberate manner, so that the plans and programmes of this administration and the aspirations of our people can be realised and secured, free of uncertainty and rancour.
Fellow Saint Lucians, in my last address I pointed out to you that, Mr. d’Auvergne had tendered his resignation as a Senator and Cabinet member on Friday May 23. His resignation took effect on May 31, 2008.
Consequent upon Mr. d’Auvergne’s resignation, I have had reason to review the composition of the Cabinet and to consider the most effective use of the resources presently at my disposal. In an attempt at arriving at a workable configuration, that engenders confidence, credibility, efficiency, productivity and stability, I have given consideration to the numerous options available to me.
At this juncture, what is required of this Government is a Cabinet that exudes confidence, epitomises credibility, depicts efficiency, demonstrates productivity and bolsters stability.
To achieve these objectives, I have considered a combination that entails a realignment of some portfolios and a gentle reshuffle of the Cabinet, which will affect a few Ministers. This I am confident will strengthen the work of the Government, particularly in the execution and delivery of the 2008/09 social and economic programme as outlined in my recent budget statement.
In the development goals that we presented to you the people of Saint Lucia, we pledged several economic initiatives that I can now report, are well on their way to realisation.
The New National Hospital
Further to the pronouncements made in the Budget Address, the tender dossier associated with the revised scope of the project is now being finalized by the Consultants. The revised schedule now anticipates the re-launching of the tender by the middle of July, 2008 and the award of contract to be issued by December 2008.
The New psychiatric Hospital
Government has now concluded the plans for completion of the new facility and the Government of The Republic of China (Taiwan) has now agreed to commence completion works within the next quarter. The estimated cost of the completion works is US$6 million dollars.
In the next six weeks Government will sign an Agreement and receive grant funding of approximately € 300,000 Euros from the Agence Francaise de Development (AFD). This will assist Government in finalizing designs, costs and financing structure for the upgrading of the George F.L. Charles Airport and the proposed culverting of the Castries River.
The North East Quadrant Economic Development Programme
Last week I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a major international developer and construction firm that will facilitate eventually the implementation of several infrastructural initiatives within this quadrant. Under this agreement, the company will; through a design/finance/construct mechanism, examine the following:-
This intervention is timely, as it will transform that part of the island into an active economic zone within a very short space of time.
SFA 2001 Agricultural Feeder Roads Project
This project comprises the construction/rehabilitation of six roads in rural communities at a total cost of €1.5 million Euros or EC$5.5 million. We are presently at the tendering stage and it is anticipated that contracts will be awarded by mid July 2008.
In the next two weeks the government will enter into a formal agreement with the British American Bio-Diesel Company (BABCO) that will launch our efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate our dependency on imported fossil fuels. The Company has already commenced operations on the island by establishing a Plantation at Plateau in Babonneau in which Jatropha, the plant which is used to process biodiesel, is being cultivated alongside ginger. This agreement will facilitate the production of at least 70 million litres of oil per year by expanding cultivation on over 800 acres of lands throughout the country and through the establishment of a refinery that is to be located in Vieux Fort.
Hess Oil Refinery
Negotiations and completion of the land transaction between HESS and the Government takes this major economic development project one step closer to realisation. Within the coming weeks work will commence on the construction of the realigned Millennium Highway to free the site and provide the adequacy for the proposed refinery.
On the agriculture front, this sector continues to play a critical role especially in light of the World fuel crisis, and its attendant effect on food prices.
In recent times the Ministry has spearheaded the drive towards increased production of food commodities in all areas. For example, we have seen the revitalisation of the cocoa industry, the re-development of the Union Agricultural Station and increased capacity in the establishment of Greenhouses for vegetable production.
Since this area has become critical on a global scale I beg your indulgence as I reveal some very positive developments in the area of agriculture.
The establishment of a world famous Chocolate Factory in Soufriére has influenced the renewed confidence in the cocoa industry. As a result over 225 acres of cocoa have been rehabilitated with a total of 93 farmers currently engaged in cocoa production. In addition, over 130 persons are presently being trained in cocoa agronomic and husbandry practices. In response to these developments over 10,000 plants have been provided to farmers for planting, to increase production.
At Union, work is in progress towards the establishment of the Union Farm Eco-tourism Park. This will entail an Aquaculture Farm, Tissue Culture Laboratory and Greenhouse Vegetable production Farm.
The initiative geared to upgrading Sir Arthur Lewis Community College into a full-fledged University is in an advanced stage.
The initial intention is to transform the College into a fully accredited degree institution that will most likely be named the “Sir Arthur Lewis University College”.
All preparatory work towards setting up an Accreditation Commission and an Approval Board, are on going. Other areas include relationships with other Universities, Infrastructure needs and Capital Investment, and issues of Human Resource are also being pursued.
Work in the Tourism sector is proceeding seamlessly. Expansion and construction have commenced on many existing project. These include:
Work also continues on the Landings, Mount Hardy and IGY – Rodney Bay Marina
In addition, new hotel projects are due to come on stream as follows:
Communications and Works
The Government has secured funding from the Kuwaiti Fund in the sum of $24 Million for feeder and agricultural roads. The Government is now identifying the consultants for the supervision of this project.
In addition, we have allocated a further $32 million for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of roads, bridges and the construction of retaining walls along rivers all over the country.
Under the Electricity Supply Act provision had been made for a rebate to the hotel and industrial sector. I have now undertaken to ensure that those consumers using less than 180 units of electricity will also benefit from these rebates. Currently, the rebates stand at EC 4.765 million and the necessary adjustments will be automatically reflected in the electricity bills of those consumers who qualify.
Only yesterday, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and most of the wealthiest nations of the world met in Rome to fashion a truly global response to this situation of escalating food prices and the shortage of food. The reasons for the present situation are all well known so I will not elaborate. What I am sure is of even greater concern to you is your Government’s response to the situation.
Our response has been to address the matter by measures aimed at the short, medium and long term. In the immediate or short term this is what we have done:
In the medium and long term the Government is pursuing the following.
To drive these initiatives and implement Governments social and economic agenda I am pleased to outline the few adjustments to the Cabinet.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Economic Planning, Investment and National Development, formally held by Mr. Ausbert d’Auvergne, has been realigned to the Ministry of Finance, while the portfolio of Investment and the subject of the NDC will be allocated to the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs. The subject of the Environment has been allocated to the Ministry of Physical Planning.
Consequently, the reshuffled Cabinet will affect the Prime Minister and two other ministers as follows:
As the Government resettles, and Ministers recommit their efforts to the policies and programmes of the Government, let me express my gratitude to my Cabinet for the trust and confidence, which they have placed in me as their leader. We have recommitted ourselves to the task at hand and I have absolutely no doubt that we have the capacity, ability and the drive to undertake the mission of Hope, Opportunity and Security.
I thank you.
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