As we enter a second new year with the histrionic advocates of 'Better Days' wielding the reins of power to our Fair Helen tell me, what is better in Choiseul/Saltibus these days? Where is this comprehensive Development Plan for Choiseul/Saltibus that was vociferously guaranteed from the platform of the St. Lucia Labour Party's 2011 campaign? Could it be that the socio-economic advancement of Choiseul/Saltibus is hinged solely to the fiscal deficit- enlarging STEP, SMILE and NICE programs?
Please wait, do not misunderstand me. These programs if correctly managed and not exploited to reward political hacks and pals can bring needed relief to the socially marginalized and financially despondent. There is a huge population of destitute and needy people of all and no political shades in Choiseul/Saltibus. We must all accept the limitations of these programs that however extensive, will never touch all of the hundreds if not thousands who are in precarious need. This makes the practice of political discrimination in the selection of the beneficiaries of these programs and the allegations of a school principal and a lawyer receiving payment for their involvement in the STEP program an ignominy, if substantiated.
But let's be brutally honest, how can seven days of work at $50.00 a day in six months and for a vast majority of the participants seven days of work in one year, elevate the beneficiaries of these vaunted programs from their appalling socio-economic abyss. Some may argue with trivial merit that half a loaf is better than none. Are the 'champions' of that position insinuating that in today's St. Lucia of fifteen percent value-added tax, rising energy costs and spiraling food prices that $350.00 a year or even in six months is metaphorically or in any way imaginable the equivalent of the proverbial 'half a loaf'. I hope not as we were promised better or we were conned by the overpowering and delusive guarantee of "Better Days".
The protest of the Choiseul fishermen took me by surprise. It is common knowledge that a promise to rectify the structural deficiencies of the pond at the Choiseul Fisheries Cooperative was instrumental in persuading the Choiseul fishermen to support the candidacy of the now District Representative. The District Representative's response of exorbitant maintenance cost to the demands of the fishermen is farcical and exposes the frivolity of his promise. Where is the much flaunted plan for the long-term rectification of the problem? I pose it there was never a plan. They were deceived for political profit.
This pathetic performance or lack thereof to address the long standing problem of the pond is indicative of incompetence or even worse an 'I don't care' attitude. In other words, "I have got what I wanted - to hell with you." I cannot believe that an individual in a position of Parliamentary Representative and of such means (I am not referring to his private means) would allow the exacerbation of what he once described as a situation reasonably resolvable. Is it not ironic, that an individual who criticized everything achieved in Choiseul/Saltibus by the previous District Representative as being substandard and poor would encounter such great difficulty in securing a meager $8,000.00 for the operation of an almost $200,000.00 excavator? By the way, the said excavator was sourced by the same 'bungling' previous District Representative. If the fishermen of Choiseul have to suffer so long for temporary relief then how long must they wait for the long-term solution? We were promised 'Better Days."
Will the people of Fiette witness the completion of the rehabilitation of their road this year and will they enjoy a motorable road of comparable quality to that enjoyed by the people of Bois Den, Industry and Morne Jacques? Will the people of Franciou and Esperance see the continuation and completion of the construction of the road linking the two communities? Will the people of Jetrine and Gaya Bois see their community roads rehabilitation continued and completed this year? Is the District Representative able to promise the people of Balca that the concrete drains will be continued and their community road rehabilitated this year? These projects were all in various stages of progress when the sitting District Representative assumed office and have received little or no attention in the last fourteen months. We were promised "Better Days!"
There are many people through-out the length and breadth of the constituency who have to navigate muddy, sometimes dangerous access to their homes/communities and the main roads. Will the District Representative help improve their access by constructing concrete footpaths/driveways or where necessary drains and retaining walls that he so vehemently criticized during his campaign? How serious is he in alleviating these pervasive physical and social conditions? How serious is he in providing productive and much needed skilled jobs? Most people would agree that providing employment in small community construction projects provides skilled jobs; opportunities for skills development; opportunities for learning Project Management while concurrently addressing some of the physical infrastructural needs of the constituency. Can the STEP Program of roadside clearing lay claim to do the same? Yet again, we were promised "Better Days!"
The present District Representative promised to move our youth and sports development to a superior plane. What happened to the development of the La Fargue Mini-Stadium? Can someone account for the whereabouts of the remaining funds that were allocated to the project from the Government of Morocco? We are waiting with bated breath.
During the Election Campaign the Delcer Playing Field was the target of a barrage of criticism from the Labour campaign. Fourteen months later what is the plan for the continued development of the field? What is happening with the Playing Fields in Jetrine, Saltibus, Cocoa and the Multi-Purpose Court in Mongouge? These sporting facilities were all undergoing rehabilitation when the District Representative assumed office. We are still waiting with bated breath.
The ladies' and men's cricket teams throughout the constituency are lamenting a severe scarcity of cricket gear. They were led to believe that the generosity displayed by the Labour candidate during the 2011 election campaign in providing some teams with gear would have continued during his tenure as District Representative. Why is the Freedom Bay/Andrew Strauss Cricket Academy based in Soufriere and not Choiseul as the project proposal from Choiseul applied for? There were many promises for the development of an athletics program in Choiseul. We are anxiously awaiting the lighting of the La Fargue and Piaye playing fields. The youth of Choiseul/Saltibus have similar needs and aspirations as those of our sister constituencies. Are these our "Better Days"?
What are the plans for Agriculture and Farming? The Delcer Farmers Association is presently struggling to sustainably operate their one million dollar-plus irrigation system. I have been reliably informed that the District Representative has been invited to meet with the farmers, but he has been too busy. What developments are we to expect with our crafters; what improvements to our La Rose Festival, our local carnival and our culture. How are our communities going to share in the benefits of tourism and the creative industries? I know that the expectations are high since our District Representative holds both of these ministerial portfolios.
I can continue but I have made the point. There are so many other areas including massive youth unemployment, the development of small business, the survival of the existing small businesses, the future of the Choiseul Craft Centre and the development of ICT - Choiseul/Saltibus is no better off in the last fourteen months. There is no Development Plan for the constituency. The prospects for the youth are dismal and migration will continue at even more alarming levels in 2013. We cannot continue to depend solely on Government and myopic politicians to move us forward. I am a very optimistic individual and it is with this optimism that I urge our community leaders and interested people to come together to chart our way forward. Forget about our differences and let us move forward on our common interest. These politicians have failed us for too long.
Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel