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July 20, 2010
Eustace tells of NDP plans at party’s Convention

by Kenton X. Chance Tue, Jul 20, 2010

President of the New Democratic Party (NDP) and Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace on Sunday said “tackling the state of our economy” would be his party’s top priority should it be elected to office during the next general elections.{{more}}

Eustace, speaking at the NDP’s headquarters, Democrat House, during the Party’s 32nd convention, said the NDP would pay particular attention to government finances “in order to stimulate economic growth, thereby improving the standard of living if all our people.”

He said the NDP would rein in “galloping corruption”, adding that this was negatively impacting the nation’s economy and regional and international image and “distorts the way we see ourselves”.

He said his government will investigate and charge corrupt government officials, including accused members of the NDP.

“This NDP is not interested in commissions of inquiry. We will send forensic auditors into those businesses where we suspect wrong doings. If we find wrong doings, the people (are) going to face the courts,” he said.

The NDP will pay attention to the needs and reorganisation of the Public Service, and will “ensure that appointments and promotions are made on the basis of merit and not simply party affiliation.”

Poverty will receive attention under the NDP, both through welfare payments and targeted projects and programmes and holistic improvement of the economy to generate a higher level of employment, according to Eustace.

The former minister of finance said while his party recognised the need for some harsh economic measures, an NDP government will not reduce the size of the Civil Service.

The NDP would however reduce the salaries of all parliamentarians and members of the boards of state entities, in addition to removing Value Added Tax (VAT) on “all basic foods and other basic items”.

Eustace said he was “alarmed, disgusted at the growing level of corruption in government”.

He raised questions about the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party (ULP) government’s running of the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and the National Insurance Services (NIS) and spoke of the non-repayment of large loans to the NCB by Unity Labour Party (ULP) supporters.

He said National Properties Ltd (NPL) was an “unmitigated disaster” that competes against the private sector and has impacted negatively on the performance of the NCB and the NIS.

National Properties Ltd and the National Economic Social Development Council (NESDEC) will get the axe under a Eustace-led NDP government.

The NDP will seek monies for a new state of the art hospital and will seek to implement the basic health insurance programme that was developed by the University of the West Indies (UWI), which was commissioned by the last NDP administration.

Eustace also spoke of the party’s plan for agriculture, saying that it will work with the Windward Islands Banana Development and Exporting Company (WIBDECO) and the other Windward Islands to export other agricultural produce to the United Kingdom.

As regards education, Eustace said there was a need for remedial work in the primary school even as he said his party would try to implement a one laptop per child policy.

General elections here are due by March 2011 latest, but are widely expected later this year.

The NDP has been in opposition since 2001 when it lost 12-3 to the Dr. Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party and saw a repeat of those result in the 2005 polls.

The NDP governed SVG from 1984 to 2000.