The incumbent Unity Labour Party (ULP) on Saturday launched what party leader, Ralph Gonsalves, described as the “Maccabees version” of its manifesto for the December 9 general election.
Gonsalves launched the unabridged version of the manifesto which is available online, and said that the hardcopy version will be distributed next week.
The hard copy, he told party supporters at a rally in Campden Park, is “not as long, with all the ideas, all the proposal.
“That will be the King James version,” he said.
“Tonight, what we are launching is the most comprehensive, the most detailed, the most compelling developmental programme ever offered by any political party at any election in the history of the Caribbean,” Gonsalves said of the 66-page document.
The ULP is seeking a fourth consecutive term in office, and Gonsalves said there has been nothing like the manifesto before.
“And to beat what we have put online would require a very special Herculean effort,” he told party supporters.
“I repeat, we are launching tonight with Labour love, in grand style, our online version of the manifesto. The most compelling developmental narrative, based on our vision, which is people-centred, our philosophy of social democracy applied to our circumstances in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the detailed policies and programmes to further uplift this country.”
He said the manifesto builds on the manifestos of 2001, 2005, and 2010.
“It builds upon and takes its starting point from our 2013 development plan,” he said in reference to the St. Vincent and the Grenadines National Economic and Social Development Plan: 2013-2025.
“There is no set of policy to be put out by anyone which does not have to have as its starting point the development plans which we have laid out overall and in the particular sector and from which the manifesto draws sustenance for the next five years,” Gonsalves said.
He said that readers will find in the manifesto “a summary as to the opening of the Argyle International Airport very shortly”.
The manifesto said that the EC$729 million airport, which has missed completion deadlines annually since 2011, will become operational “very soon”.
“We are ensuring that all the “Is” are dotted and the “Ts” crossed for its imminent opening. International and regional airlines will fly in and out. All relevant managerial, operational and procedural systems and personnel are either in place, or being put in place for the takeoff of the Argyle International Airport,” the manifesto says of the airport, which has been under construction for almost eight years.
Gonsalves noted that test flights were conducted on Thursday.
“And, it is at hand – the formal opening of the Argyle International Airport. And you have to make sure that the Comrade and the ULP are there to finalise it, that the Comrade and the ULP are there to cut the ribbon and to see the first big jet land down at Argyle International Airport to go into the hotels,” Gonsalves said.
State officials said on Thursday that remaining work at the airport includes the paving of one-third of the 9,000-foot runway, but said the work will be complete in two and a half months.
However, a engineer, who told the Caribbean Media Corporation in August 2014 that the airport would have taken about two more years to complete, said after the test flight on Thursday that the airport is more likely to be complete around this time next year.
Gonsalves also mentioned the proposed new city and a modern acute referral hospital to be built at the site of the E.T. Joshua Airport when it is decommissioned after the Argyle Airport begins operating.
The ULP leader added that his government will relocate Port Kingstown to Rose Place, and will build a new cruise ship terminal in Arnos Vale.
Gonsalves said there will be expansion of the medical schools, which have already grown from 250 students to almost 1,000.
He said the expansion will provide economic linkages through rental of houses and apartments, and the spending of money, generally.
“Then, there is a special section in the manifesto on cultural industries and sporting industries and the national stadium.”
There will be tourism development, Gonsalves said, adding that the government has investors who are coming to build three hotels of between 1,200 and 1,500 rooms at Mt Wynne-Peters Hope.
Concerning tourism – he said expansion continues in the north of the southern Grenadine island of Canouan and in the south of the island a marina and real estate development in which the government has shares is continuing.
The manifesto also outlines the government’s programme on agriculture and fisheries and the manufacturing sector, which Gonsalves said has had an uptick because of special incentives, including duty-free concession on all raw materials.
Additionally, the manifesto contains a series of provisions on disaster management and climate change.
He reiterated that the ULP will declare Campden Park as the seventh town in St. Vincent and will do so in conjunction with the private sector, to have better localised services for people from Lowmans Hill to Rillan Hill.
The Prime Minister also noted that there are plans in it to deal with poverty and hunger, promising that by the end of the next five years, no one in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will go to bed hungry.
“We have reduced poverty and indigence and we have lifted the level of nutrition in the country and all the experts have commended us for this internationally.”
Gonsalves said there will be a “better harvest” if the ULP is re-elected but a “bitter harvest” if the main opposition New Democratic Party is elected.
“It might sound like a little difference, a difference between an ‘e’ and an ‘i’… And I tell you this, they say it in their manifesto and Eustace already say it in Parliament that he will be Mr. Austerity. You know what austerity mean? Cutting.”
In its manifesto, the NDP says it has examined the nation’s fiscal situation and has agreed that there is “a need for a prudent mixture of stimulus and austerity measures aimed at improving our economic growth rate”.
To do this, the NDP says it will appoint a committee on public financing and debt to conduct a full and early review of the government’s financial position. The Committee will report within the first two months of the NDP administration.
The ULP is the third of the fourth political parties contesting the elections to launch a manifesto.
The NDP launched its manifesto online some weeks ago and released the hard copy on Wednesday.
The small Democratic Republican Party (DRP) also launched its manifesto on Wednesday.