While the New Democratic Party (NDP) welcomes capital projects, the party believes that meaningful things must be done with these projects in order to facilitate economic growth of communities and people.
On Wednesday, speaking on the NDP sponsored New Times radio program on Nice Radio, Major St Clair Leacock said the government should be commended on the Kingstown Port Development Project but noted that projects like that and the Argyle International Airport (AIA) do not provide immediate economic uptick.
“Infrastructural improvement is always good and helpful to a country’s national development…” Leacock said, but noted that the AIA has not yet been audited, and while it has been valued at $750 million, some people think that its value is in excess of one billion dollars, but we have still not yet been able to see the economic benefits to the surrounding communities and people.
Leacock said that a project that benefitted Vincentians is the NDP’s $84 million World Bank financed project that tackled land reform and gave land to the landless.
He said the NDP, during their time in office, acquired lands in Lauders, Lowmans, Hadley Village, North of the Dry River and some parts of North Leeward and gave it to the people.
“There is no capital project in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines that immediately changed the lives of large numbers of people in this country and in this history than the land reform project we did.
“Because by giving land to the landless, and let them put this in their pipe and smoke it, it epitomized, it represented what is still today, doctrine in the New Democratic Party of the importance of a bottom up approach to economic development,” Leacock stated.
He said that their land reform project immediately empowered, “the small man, the ordinary man, the farmer, to do a number of things. One, to get an economic resource, an income, they could work the lands and provide income for themselves and their families; two, to educate their children; and three, to use the land as security to raise capital for their further development.”
The veteran politician said the land reform program successfully transformed the higher Lowmans / South Central Windward area and positively impacted a class of people who may not have had the opportunity to uplift and transform themselves.
Going on, Leacock said the communities and residents of Argyle, Stubbs Calder, Peruvian Vale, Bridgetown and neighboring villages have nothing to show that is a result of the AIA being in close proximity.
“None of these can show that as a consequence of that (the AIA), they have been able to go and build bigger houses, better houses, remodel, upgrade, improve.
“There has been no economic uptake in and around that area after eight years, and we will still have to wait for a long long time,” Leacock emphasised.
He noted also that we will not see a bottom up approach and an increase in the middle class emerging as a consequence of the airport or the port project.
Leacock however noted that construction is a major contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and in Antigua, has been attributed to growth in that economy.
“The one single party that has transformed the lot and lives of Vincentians through a capital program has been the New Democratic Party and it is not until the other things are done with the $600 million port and with the Argyle Airport that we will see real and meaningful growth and change of the middle class in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Leacock commented.