One of the more apparent strategies of the other party – now the official opposition – is to target the Saint Lucia Labour Party administration’s well-intentioned election theme of ‘Putting People First’, which placed the innovative policy proposal of a ‘Youth Economy’ as a major imperative for growth and development.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that any information directly or remotely connected to employment or youth emerging from the machinery of this SLP administration is maliciously twisted and undermined to convey a disadvantage to, or victimization of the youth.
Weeks ago opposition online media reported that “they let go” all the young people employed with the NAP (National Apprenticeship Programme) in Vieux Fort. This week, the claim is that several youth workers employed with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports “have been let go”.
Note the term “let go”, meant to convey an image of a pet being untied and abandoned.
In both cases, the NAP youth and the Ministry of Youth, the actions taken were the outcomes of transparent procedures of job performance reviews and/or expiration of terms and conditions of contracts. The undeniable truth is that the NAP contracts expired and aspects of the previous programme will be integrated in the Youth Economy to be launched after the national budget procedures are complete. Meanwhile, support for youth entrepreneurship is growing.
His Excellency the Governor General – much to the chagrin of the opposition, it appears – reminded the nation in the Throne Speech on March 29, 2022, that the Youth Economy will be part of the government’s legislative year.
He said: “My government has already begun the rollout of the Youth Economy Programme, which will see an expansion of opportunities for young entrepreneurs through skills development, access to finance, and business support. Measures will target at-risk and unemployed youth.
The Youth Economy will be structured with its own agency and Board to provide greater autonomy and flexibility in decision-making.”
Also, the UWPees would have heard during the presentation of the Estimates of Expenditure by Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Hon. Philip J Pierre, that “job creation, particularly among the youth” is one of the four core objectives of the 2022-2023 Budget – the others being: support for the Government’s agenda of economic transformation; accelerated economic recovery and growth; and reduction of poverty and increased wealth creation.
Regarding the claims that several youth workers employed with the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports “have been let go”, a Ministry press release on April 19, 2022 dismissed them as “categorically false.” It said that “six youth workers’ contracts were not renewed due to insufficient appraisal scores attained following a review of their performance on the job. Clearly indicated in the contracts of the youth workers, is the requirement of a minimum score of 75% in service delivery to retain their positions. Several workers had been issued prior warning of their performance standards, the Ministry said.
And the Ministry reassured the public that it had already begun “active recruitment of replacements to fill the vacant positions by June 2022 to meet its mandate of service to Saint Lucia communities.”
Information is that out of 21 Youth Workers, four remain on probation while six were not renewed.
We are seeing, repeatedly, that any move by the Philip J Administration to review, or even continue (with improvements) any policy or programme created under the UWP Administration is dismissed by that Party’s leaders and supporters as victimization, or contrary to the idea of the Youth Economy’ or the pledge of ‘Putting People First’.
Less than nine months after being soundly defeated by the SLP at the polls, the UWPees are now beginning to sound a little envious of the Philip J Pierre Administration’s emphasis on ‘people’ and ‘youth’. They must be seeing or sensing – with apprehension – the determination of the Administration to turn campaign promises into action. With a lost leader holding fast to the same ideas, programmes and outcomes that alienated the youth, the UWP is beginning to sound like one of those power-obsessed former rulers who believe that the people so loved them, that their reign would continue forever.
Everything and everyone else is responsible for the UWP’s drubbing at the polls, or so it seems to Mr. Chastanet. He has convinced himself and his remaining followers that every policy and decision undertaken by him in government was politically or economically divine – even the overreach of the Pajoah letter of commitment to banks, or the waste of the incomplete St. Jude Reconstruction project, or the direct contract awards to friends and friends of family, as well as to political party associates, culminating in the shameful payment of seven-million-dollars to engage a fake company for the purchase of expensive doses of Covid-19 vaccines that never arrived here.
The former Administration’s non-delivery on nearly all of its lofty election promises will forever taint its legacy. These promises included health insurance, construction of several hotels, upgrade of SALCC to a university, and DSH (which was supposed to transform Vieux Fort from “a ghetto to the Pearl of the Caribbean”).
They promised in 2016 that they would be “involving young people in all areas of development.” Yet, the youth felt that voting them out was the best option.
Reggae legend, Jimmy Cliff, warns in song that we must, “treat the youth right, or you’ll be playing with dynamite.” Humble servants of the people, like Philip J Pierre, developed their leadership skills listening to and giving hope to people of all ages and status. He has distinguished himself as a good listener and observer, knowing when to stop looking out the window, and when to look in the mirror. He will succeed as the leader of this country.
This week, the Opposition tried to politicize the decision by the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports to fulfil contract obligations to employees. The clear motive was to undermine the Philip J Pierre Administration’s focus on the youth. But in a Facebook post on April 13, Mr Guy Joseph, believed to be the minister who had Mr Chastanet’s ear in the previous Cabinet, wrote this half-baked, unfair claim:
“Saint Lucians have experienced unprecedented increases in the cost of living. Of particular concern has been the increases in food, fuel, electricity and now announced by Stephenson King, the pending bus fare increase.”
As expected Mr Joseph, the biggest casualty of the elections of July 26, 2021, had a tall list of social intervention and financial relief spending for the government because, according to him, “the global COVID situation is somewhat under control”, therefore, the Philip J Pierre administration should now have more money to spend on economic relief packages for the people.
The 16th Century English writer John Heywood was prophetic when he observed, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” Apparently, Guy Joseph’s vision does not go beyond Forestiere, for he made no mention of the fallout from the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, started on February 24. He will not see, like the ordinary citizen on Street Vibes, that the effects of this war have compounded an already lingering Covid-19-related crisis of the global supply chain of commodities, fuel and food in particular.
Guy Joseph “will not see” that the government in which he had been a leading minister, had wasted millions on consultancies to foreign-based entities, such as Ernst & Young, to prepare this country’s Estimates of Expenditure. This trading of such an important part of our sovereignty – as if it were an item of commerce in a shopping mall – was an extremely painful blow to the esteem of our nation which has produced and continues to produce sons and daughters highly qualified in the disciplines necessary for preparing and implementing the national budget.
Yet, the youth voted them out!