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Statement by Prime Minister at the Press Conference to Observe the 4th Anniversary of the Government of St. Lucia - June 6, 2...

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Statement by Prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony at the Press Conference on June 6, 2001 to Observe the Fourth Anniversary of the Government of St. Lucia.

Members of the Press,

The Government and the governing St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) have so far spent four years of hard work since May 23, 1997. We have laboured tirelessly to ensure we deliver on our Contract of Faith, in which we promised, among other things, to restore the country’s economy and strengthen and deepen democracy.

In our Contract of Faith, the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) promised: Good Governance, Economic Recovery, A Positive Social Programme, a Vibrant Foreign Policy, Law & Order and Justice, Public Sector Development and Taking Government to the People.

Four years later, we can confidently claim that we have done our best to keep the faith on each of those promises. On the appointed day, where we have not delivered, then, consistent with our tradition of openness, we will say so to our people.

This government has reversed the economic decline we inherited and we have restored a measure of economic stability.

This Government has also kept its promise to the electorate by reducing direct taxation. As a result of this government’s policies, by income year 2003, close to 5,200 persons won’t be paying Income Tax anymore.

We have also begun a positive shift from total dependence on bananas to tourism and services sectors. The results are already beginning to show, even while our tireless efforts continue towards restructuring the banana industry to maximize results in the changed international circumstances.

We were criticised for commercialising our banana industry. Three years later, both St. Vincent and Dominica have seen the wisdom of our decision and have decided to follow St. Lucia’s lead and commercialise their banana industries as well.

We have ushered St. Lucia into the financial services sector, thereby strengthening St. Lucia’s efforts to diversify its economy. After a hesitant start, the sector has finally taken off. Five major international insurance companies and over 200 companies have been registered to date.

Tourism has never done better, with more hotels and more people employed in the industry as it establishes itself as the dominant economic pillar in St. Lucia today

The private sector has never received so much direct support by way of incentives and direct government support. This government established an Office of Private Sector Relations (OPSR) and has allocated some $6 million to the strengthening and development of the private sector. To date, the St. Lucia Hotels & Tourism Association (SLHTA) the Chamber of Commerce, the St. Lucia Employers Federation and the St. Lucia Industrial and Small Business Association have received 4.6 million dollars in direct approved assistance for training and product quality improvement.

The fishing industry has never been so well equipped for today’s challenges; the Industrial Climate has never been so peaceful; and never has there been more legislation passed in the interest of workers by any government, in one single term.

This administration, over the past four years, has also been able to address the nation’s social needs in communities across the island, taking telephones, electricity and water where they never existed before, especially to communities that were neglected because of their political support for the Labour Party.

Public Utility Services have been greatly improved. WASCO’s management of our water supplies during this drought season is solid evidence that is transformation is beginning to show positive results. The following figures bear testimony: In the case of water, between 1998 and 2000, over 5,800 customers were connected to mains for first time.

Similarly, in the case of telephones, since 1998 over 28,300 new customers came on line with new Cable & Wireless telephones.

And in the case of electricity, between January 1998 and December 2000, over 7,600 new households and businesses received first time electricity service, including such areas as Bouton and Guy-en-Bois.

Our health services have been improved considerably across the island, even as plans continue towards realisation of a brand new, modern general hospital and a brand new psychiatric hospital for St. Lucia, very soon.

We have mounted an assault on poverty. Agencies such as the Poverty Reduction Fund and the BelFund have been able to embark on projects in almost every community across the island, some of which had never seen a development project of any kind in the 22 years since Independence.

We have strengthened care for the elderly and through a programme of house repair and retrofitting, we have repaired homes for the destitute.

In education, more schools have been built, more children attend secondary school and the New Education Act and Development Plan have been put in place to ensure continuing improvement in the delivery of education services across St. Lucia.

We have worked steadily to improve facilities for public officers. Today, for example, the General Post Office is air-conditioned and on Sunday, June 10, we officially open the new Ministry of Communications & Works at Union. Shortly thereafter, the new sports facilities for the use of public officers will also be opened at Union.

Our country’s sports development process has taken off during the past four years, with increased government support, encouragement and incentives. A national stadium and a national cricket ground are under construction. Pavillions are also nearing completion in Friendship Park, Vieux Fort. This afternoon, there will be a sod turning ceremony to mark the construction of a new multipurpose complex in Vieux Fort.

We have reshaped the banking sector by paving the way for the establishment of the new Bank of St. Lucia. As a result, St. Lucia will now have the largest indigenous bank in the OECS. By privatising the National Commercial Bank and the St. Lucia Development Bank, we have empowered ordinary St. Lucians to have a direct share in the economy.

In the areas of Law, Order and Justice, this administration has meticulously put in place the institutional structures to ensure progress in these sensitive areas over time. A process of Judicial and Legal Review has begun, with reforms being introduced in both areas. Police Reform is under way, as is reform of the Legal Services through such instruments as the Legal Professions Act.

The reform process has also targeted the judicial process through the Review of the Civil Code and all outdated laws that remain on the nation’s law books, while the efforts to tackle crime will be advanced by the establishment of the National Crime Commission, which is about to be appointed. While we have seen some success in the management of crime, I readily confess that the government is far from satisfied with the results to date.

Meanwhile, the $46 million correctional facility at Bordelais is nearing completion, a new police station was constructed in Marchand and repairs and renovations to police stations in Marigot, Canaries, Choiseul, Laborie, are under way. Last week, a sod-turning ceremony was held to commence construction of the new Gros Islet fire station. In a few weeks time, a similar ceremony will be held for the Dennery fire station. Construction of a new fire station for Vieux Fort will also commence later this year. All this therefore means that by the end of this financial year, the police as well as the fire service, will have modern infrastructure at their disposal.

Public Sector Reform and Development has been advanced in several areas, while this administration pioneered the deregulation of the telecommunications services, not only in St. Lucia, but also throughout the OECS.

As the Labour Administration observes its fourth anniversary, we continue to announce and embark on developmental and infrastructural projects that will significantly affect the lives of St. Lucians.

In the recent budget statement, the Government announced a $120 million Road Development and Rehabilitation Programme that will not only repair existing road networks across the island, but will also build new highways and byways, as well as open-up hidden communities with access to main roads and highways. The invitations to bid have already been advertised and the government hopes the roads programme will commence in September or October.

This, the last year of the Government’s first term will see continued progress in the economy especially, as the regional and international financial institutions continue to reaffirm their confidence in the country’s economic management. Recently, the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), meeting here, reaffirmed such confidence by approving large loans the bank’s new President says he is sure St. Lucia is in a position to repay.

Our handling of the economy and our emphasis on creation of employment has also been paying off. While unemployment remains a persistent problem, this government has been able to reduce levels from 21.5% in 1998 to 15.5% in 2000 and we expect the downward trend to continue.

The Skills Training Centre established at Bisee is already having a positive impact in training and retooling young St. Lucians.

The weeks and months ahead will also feature continuing improvements in the electoral system, which began four years ago.

The Electoral Registry is being computerised, while island wide enumeration is being facilitated by the completion of the first national census since 1991. The process of Constituency Boundaries Review has been completed and the Voters List will be updated to reflect a true picture of the country's electorate.

The next general election, therefore, will take place against a background of this Labour Administration’s genuine efforts to improve electoral democracy.

The Labour Administration is indeed proud of its record of achievements over the past four years and remains confident that the citizens of St. Lucia are capable of assessing it realistically and judging the Government on the basis of its record.

No government has ever been able to deliver on all the promises of a victorious party, but this Labour Administration is proud that it has been able to deliver on the majority of it promises; and where we have not been able to fully deliver, we have been able to make significant headway in laying the foundations for their achievement.

While we have itemised our successes, we must point out that all that has been said above constitutes but only some of our achievements. There are many, many more.

The days, weeks and months ahead will provide adequate time and opportunities to spell out the progress of the past four years.

Indeed, during its final year, this Labour Administration will continue to keep the faith on the Contract of Faith.

I now invite your questions.


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