Government must take action now following Minister’s comments on skills

The recent comments by Education Minister, Curtis King, is an admission that the ULP government has failed to implement an effective Technical, Vocational, Educational Training (TVET) program.

In an interview earlier this week, the Minister of Education called for the education system to be revamped, with a greater focus on TVET. He said there was an ‘urgent’ need for reform. He made these comments following a visit to Germany and the Netherlands with his OECS colleagues to explore their education systems.

Commenting on the statement by the Minister, NDP’s spokesperson for Education, the Honorable Terrence Ollivierre, said, “Finally the government has acknowledged what the NDP and experts have been saying for years that we need to ensure there is a joint approach between education and the world of work. It’s a pity that the Minister had to travel to Europe to find out what people here have been saying for years. Our educators are doing a fantastic job and deserve a government that takes action instead of just more talk.”

Leader of the Opposition and President of the NDP. Honorable Dr Godwin Friday, said, “While it is good to see the ULP finally acknowledging what we have been saying about the need to do more to help the young people of St Vincent and the Grenadines, This sudden awakening is a case of too little, too late. We have been proposing improvements for years on how to tackle this issue before it grew worse. The government ignored us. Now, the Minister  has finally now acknowledged, we need to do more to ensure our young people acquire the skills needed to find fulfilling and sustainable jobs”

Dr Friday further stated, “The NDP’s commitment to the need for improvement of the education system has been set out repeatedly. Commitments were contained in the 2020 manifesto, and this has been reinforced by written questions submitted in parliament by MPs from the Opposition. I also did a National Address on education, which called for training facilities and support for TVET.

With four in ten  young people currently unemployed in SVG and 37% of youth living in poverty the government has clearly failed to help young people. It is time to  implement a plan that will truly benefit the young people of SVG. An NDP government would:

  1. Introduce a National Youth Guarantee, giving all young people the opportunity of a job, a training program or work placement.
  2. Improve the YES program by raising the basic rate to $650 and encourage businesses to match the payment, doubling the wage to $1,300.
  3. Provide skills training in local community centers, giving those pursuing careers in trades such as electricians or plumbers a place to learn their skills.
  4. Reduce the interest rate of student loan from 8.5% to 4.5%, or lower.
  5. Provide grants to young people opening businesses through our Development Bank and provide them with support through a new business park and innovation hub.
Young people in SVG with Dr Godwin Friday in the middle of a line

The ULP Government Has Failed Young People

The ULP Government has failed young people.

 It is time for a national campaign to enable young people to make a good life for themselves in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) believes that a large number of young people leave our shores because of the harsh economic conditions in the country. Youth unemployment remains one of the highest in the region. Four (4) out of ten (10) young people are unemployed. St Vincent and the Grenadines’ poverty rate is higher than the average (23%) for the Eastern Caribbean. More than 1 in 3 children and 37% of youth live in poverty in SVG.

Commenting on the situation, President of the NDP, and Leader of the Opposition Honourable Dr Godwin Friday, said, “The ULP government has failed our young people. Addresse after 22 years in government they offer no hope and no plan for the future. By every metric, the government is failing our young people.  Youth unemployment is alarmingly high. Our migration rate is among the highest in the Eastern Caribbean and poverty remains a fact of life for too many young people.

I want to create a future where everyone who chooses to live in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has the opportunity to do so and have a quality life. The NDP will increase training in key sectors, invest in new businesses, cut student interest rates to make it easier to go to college and ensure that every young person has an opportunity to develop their skills and prospects here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Dr Friday added, “My colleagues and I will be talking with young persons throughout the country to hear first-hand the issues they are facing and how we can work together to address them.”

The NDP demands government’s plan to save NIS

It is only through full transparency and accountability that everyone – opposition, trade unions, and pensioners – can understand the scale of the reform required and the state of the fund.

The 11th Actuarial Review recommends the need for urgent reform. Moreover, recent media reports about the use of the fund for political purposes makes it clear that it is only through full accounting that the scale of reform can be fully understood.

Recommendations to shore up the declining NIS were made in the 11th Actuarial Review, but the government has failed to implement any of these measures to protect people’s pensions or set out any plans for reform.

The government has been told repeatedly by the IMF, the World Bank and the NIS actuary that it needs reform – but it has failed to take the tough decisions or take any action whatsoever.  Because of the government’s lack of action, the NIS is in crisis. This is a mess of the government’s own making.

The NDP is committed to the long-term sustainability of the fund and wants to protect those who need support, while the government has failed to take action.

We demand to see the government’s plan for NIS reform.

Our principles for reform are simple:

  • It should be a stand-alone entity with the sole aim to act in the best long-term interests of its members.
  • Investment decisions and fund management decisions should be made by an independent board.
  • Assets and other investments should only be undertaken or divested if demonstrably in the best interests of the fund.
  • Under any reforms, no person currently in the scheme should be worse off than they are at present.
  • Transparency should be at the heart of everything the NIS does.  Regular updates, in a form and manner that is easily understood should be provided regularly to all.

Recently, Camillo Gonsalves said in Parliament that the government would implement NIS and pension reforms beginning in budget year 2024. However, the Executive Director of the NIS has said reform will have to be made before 2024 in order to avoid “draconian changes”, such as an increase in contribution rates by 10 per cent.

President of the NDP, Honourable Dr Godwin Friday, said, “The threat that faces the NIS is a problem created by the lack of action of the ULP. The ULP has been in charge of the NIS; they cannot blame anyone for the current problem. The government has been sleepwalking into this crisis.  The Minister of Finance said that reforms were needed. When will the government outline its plan so that everyone can understand the long-term implications? The government must stop playing politics and put the country first. Everyone will suffer the consequences.”

Families need a tax holiday to cope with high cost of living

Children across the country are set to return to school on Monday 4th September, 2023. However, most families are now faced with the challenge of paying for new schoolbooks and equipment amid a cost-of-living crisis that is burdening our country.

We call on the government to immediately put in place a tax holiday on school items ahead of the new school term, implement a broad-based policy on transportation to ease the financial burden on parents in sending their children to school and provide adequate funding for the School Feeding Program.

In June, inflation rose to 5.3 per cent – the highest it has been in fourteen (14) years, putting greater burden on Vincentians. Despite this, the government has failed to take action on tackling the cost of living crisis.

President of the NDP, Honourable Dr Godwin Friday, said, “It is shameful that our government has done nothing to help Vincentians struggling with the high cost-of-living. Only last week, during a walkabout in East St George, a constituent was telling me his concerns about the cost of getting his children ready for the new school year.

People need support now. That is why; the NDP is proposing a 5-point action plan that would provide real and tangible support to persons. Families are worried about the cost of living ahead of the coming school year.”

During this difficult period, the NDP has a clear plan to ease the burden that families are facing by building our national economy so that it can support families and parents who struggle with the costs associated with education.

The NDP’s plan includes:

  1. Reduce VAT from 16% down to 13%
  2. Reduce the Customs Service Charge, “The Big Tax on Everything”
  3. Increase support for lower income families
  4. Reduce the impact of the fuel surcharge on VINLEC bills
  5. Immediately review the list of VAT items with a view to increasing the number of zero-rated items

Call us: +1 (784) 456-2114,
Email us: info@ndpsvg.com

Visit us: Murray’s Road, Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Postal address: Kingstown , P.O Box 1300 , St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

© 2020, New Democratic Party, St. Vincent
Public Relations Officer Lavern King