Political leaders confident
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and his main challenger Arnhim Eustace have expressed confidence that voters in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will elect their respective political party to office in the December 13 general election.
Gonsalves, who announced the date for the polls at a rally of his ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) on Sunday, said he is confident that the voters will give his party a third consecutive victory.
“We have implemented literally hundreds of projects and taken hundreds of initiatives and that is one reason why we should be re-elected, because we have the credibility of performance,” Gonsalves said.
“But that’s not the only thing. We have a people-centre vision, a philosophy of social democracy, the socio-cultural framework for our Caribbean civilisation to ennoble it further. And you know, we have the best package of practical policies and programmes,” said the 64-year-old Gonsalves.
Eustace, 65, said he is also confident that the New Democratic Party (NDP), which has been campaigning to end the 10-year rule of the Gonsalves administration, “will win this time around.
“We had a test in the referendum that was held last November which was contested on the basis of what was happening in the country and not just on the basis of the Constitution. Our roles were reversed we got 56 per nt of the vote and the government got 43 per cent and the no vote was successful in 13 out of the 15 constituencies,” Eustace told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
“We have continued to work very hard since that time to try and maintain a margin above the government and I must say today that I am much more confident than any other previous election.”
Political observers have dismissed Ivan O’Neal and his Green Party as non-starters.
The group has not identified candidates or the constituencies it intends to contest, although O’Neal said last week that his party, which received less than one per cent of the votes in 2005, was favoured to win the general elections.
Gonsalves told supporters in Calliaqua of the “outstanding achievements” of the ULP since coming to office in 2001 and said there was an “overwhelming case for re-election”.
Gonsalves, who is also finance minister, said the country had excelled in wealth and job creation, reducing poverty and indigence, economic development and fiscal consolidation, the education revolution, the health and wellness revolution, the low income and no-income housing programme, reforming the Police Force and strengthening law and order, and liberalising and extending telecommunications.
“There’s been massive progress in every single area despite the fact that over the last 10 years we have had to put up with a lot of problems from outside: rising oil prices to unprecedented level; all sorts of natural disasters. And, despite all the challenges, we have been able to make this country grow and strengthen the livelihoods and the safety net of the people,” Gonsalves said.
Eustace, an economist, said the NDP has been working “on this election now for quite some time (and ) in particular we have been very active on the ground. In the month of October we had an activity everyday for the entire month, sometimes more than one activity and we have continued that into November.
He said among the party which is now aware of the election date “has to do a rescheduling of some our programmes and make a determination on what areas to give priority,” but nonetheless said he was confident of victory.
“Given the financial state of the country I am not too sure the Prime Minister was in a position to bring a budget which was due early in December. As you know our fiscal situation has deteriorated significantly we have had recourse to having to sell our National Commercial Bank which was owned entirely by the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. They have sold 51 percent of the bank.
“We have had to borrow US$100 million from the Caribbean Development Bank to pay off government arrears in the National Commercial Bank, the government’s fiscal position now is untenable and they could not continue much longer without a budget “
Eustace said that voters here desperately want a change of government.
Parliament has been dissolved paving the way for the polls. Nomination Day is Nov. 26.
In the 2005 general election, the ULP won 12 of the 15 seats, with the other three going to the NDP. (CMC)