I have previously drawn attention to the marked similarities between the backward, right-wing Republican Party in the USA and the clueless NDP in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This remarkable resemblance between these two political parties is hauntingly unmistakable. We remember President Clinton in January 2000, handing over a financial surplus to George Bush, who in turn quickly and magically changed it into a massive deficit, which Barack Obama later inherited
In St Vincent, a similar situation also occurred. The SVLP handed over a sound economy to the NDP in 1984, but by 2001 all of that had miraculously changed. Those 17 horrible years are ones which no patriotic Vincentian would ever want to relive. Within the limited space available here, I will remind some, and inform others, of what welcomed the ULP to political office 11.5 years ago.
In 2001, there was an absence of basic drugs at the General Hospital. In fact, the NDP government had run-up a massive debt of $1.8 million for pharmaceutical products with the Regional Drug Procurement Service. It was left to the new government, the ULP, to pay off the arrears and clean up this mess.
The unemployment rate in the country was a whopping 33% and the poverty level was 37% of the population. In fact, the minimum wage was not even reviewed for the last 11 of the 17 years they were in power. Today, there is still work left to do, but the "indigent poor" rate has fallen to 3%.
In 2001, it was almost impossible for the average worker to obtain a mortgage, but today all of that has changed. The ULP government has scored another first. Practically unheard of 100% mortgage financing is now available to public servants. Teachers, nurses, police officers and civil servants of all categories could now obtain mortgages and afford to own their homes -- thanks to the ULP government.
All of our schools, clinics and government buildings were physically run-down. The Public Library was abandoned because the NDP government could not find EC$200,000 to do the necessary repairs. The ULP government (in their very first year) had to find $5.5 million to repair and renovate all of the primary and secondary schools in the country.
Brand new schools at all levels have been constructed all over our multi-island state. The same is true for police stations, public libraries, health-care clinics and government buildings as well. The face of St Vincent, and in particular Kingstown, has changed completely under the ULP, in great contrast to what existed under the party with No Damn Policies (NDP).
There were very few available spaces at secondary schools throughout the entire country. In fact, the availability of spaces increased by an average of 34 spaces per year during the NDP's 17-year tenure in office. Sixty-one percent of our secondary school-age children were unable to attend school due to a lack of space. Today, under the ULP government, 100% of our teenagers now attend secondary school.
As a result of the above, the enrollment of our students attending universities was placed in a stranglehold by the NDP government. The ULP under Comrade Ralph Gonsalves, in complete contrast, has made it possible for all of our young people interested in attending universities all over the world, to do so. At the UWI for example, Vincentians make up the largest registered nationality in each and every campus in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados, with the exception of those respective host countries.
The Arnhim Eustace government in 2001 faced a serious financial problem with the UWI. Eustace and the NDP owed the university almost $8 million and the UWI was refusing to accept any future or current students until the debt was paid. Ralph Gonsalves won the elections and consequently saved the day for the Vincentian UWI students. Gonsalves paid the arrears and made the necessary arrangements regarding future payments to the university.
With regard to the School of Nursing, the results are even more astounding. As recently as the year 2000, we did not produce enough trained local nurses and were "importing" foreign nurses from Cuba and elsewhere, since we were unable to train and supply enough of our own. Today, we now train and produce many more nurses than we are able to employ locally. The clueless NDP asked, "Where are you going to find jobs for all of those nurses?" One solution has been to train our local nurses for employment in Barbados, Trinidad and the USA. The ULP believes that it is better to be educated and look for a job, than to be uneducated and be unemployable.
Our roads still need considerable improvement, but they are a far cry from what they used to be under the NDP government. The Windward Highway is now a reality, thanks to the ULP. From Kingstown to Fancy, we now have a brand new Windward Highway. Not only that, but the ULP is the very first government to span the Rabacca Dry River with a bridge. This story is such a remarkable achievement that a separate article is presently being written on it.
In addition to all of this, the NDP government also owed substantial sums to other regional organizations such as CARICOM and the OECS. This was a major embarrassment for Vincentians at home and those in the Diaspora.
The continuous financial defaults by the then St Vincent government resulted in several other issues of non-payment. The NDP did not pay their dues to the United Nations and this caused us to lose out votes on this august body.
For 17 years, the NDP government did not honour the severance pay arrangement with the 1,300 estate workers at Orange Hill, Richmond Vale and Wallilabou, which amounted to a whopping $3 million. After the 2001 elections, James Mitchell and the NDP demanded their retirement benefits. PM Ralph Gonsalves simply refused to pay the parliamentarians until the workers, who waited for 17 long years, were paid their $3 million.
When sanitation workers were transferred to the CWSA, their severance pay was also withheld by the NDP government as well. They were owed $250,000! The same thing is true regarding the workers at the Central Arrowroot Factory at Belle View.
In those good old days, parliament was not broadcast on radio or live TV. Actually parliament met on an average of twice per year and was definitely not broadcast for public information. Today parliament meets almost once per month and transparency is the order of the day with live public radio and TV broadcasting.
Again, I continue to ask.... "Where is the comparison between both political parties?"