YOU know the saying: if someone offers you something that looks too good to be true, it usually is. And often that something turns out to be a complete illusion or something you can ill afford. Today – June 5, 2020 – is our Election Day and as we all go to cast our votes, with the promises of politicians ringing in our ears, we urge everyone to think carefully about how they cast their vote.
The Dr Timothy Harris-led Team Unity coalition has the advantage of a strong record in government: more jobs, more homes, crime down, debt down, better infrastructure, a growing economy and protection from the COVID-19 pandemic. But what will the next five years look like should they win the election? Of all the parties, the St Kitts and Nevis Observer judges that Team Unity has the clearest and most comprehensive manifesto. And they seem to go to lengths to explain where the money will come from – by stimulating the economy, growing a digital industry and supporting small businesses – and how it will be spent sensibly to provide grants for workers, improve housing and give new opportunities to our young people.
They pledge that new worker legislation will make regular increases in the minimum wage a legal obligation on the government and a Small Business Rescue Fund will support small and medium sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Team Unity also propose creating more than 500 new jobs in tourism and establishing a state-of-the art Tourism and Hospitality School to train young people who want to work in this key sector of our economy, with Team Unity predicting that the school will inject approximately $25 million into the economy.
Perhaps most trans-formative of all, Team Unity plans to lay the foundations of a new digital economy to enable us to be more prosperous and less dependent on tourism for our daily bread. High speed internet will come to homes and businesses across the islands and a new Digital Village will serve as an innovation hub for both established e-businesses and new start-ups to grow more tech jobs, backed by government grants and low-interest loans. This will provide a welcome opportunities for the digitally-skilled youth of our Federation to forge new international digital careers right here at home.
Affordable housing and infrastructure are key priorities for Team Unity, with a promise to allocate 2,000 lots for new homes including low-income houses, establish a regentrification program to convert rundown buildings into apartments, and increase the number of homes receiving roof repair assistance. Infrastructure and public service pledges include new facilities at the JNF Hospital, a new general hospital, the rehabilitation of the SSMC Railway Line as a critical transport link, development of a new marina East of Port Zante, completion of the East Basseterre High School and extensive new sporting and performing arts facilities so that young people can develop their talent and reach their potential in those fields. Interconnection between the islands of our Federation is also key for Team Unity which, like Labour, pledges a new road bridge to bring us even closer together.
The Labour Party, meanwhile, has set out their own series of promises including the creation of thousands of jobs by expanding the manufacturing sector, diversifying our tourism product and attracting direct investment with a focus on diaspora engagement. They also pledged to build over 2,000 low income homes and provide a housing allowance for essential service providers such as nurses, police, Defense Force staff and firemen/women, abolish tuition fees for the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College and build a new general hospital.
But Labour’s “NextGen SKN” manifesto – led by “LastGen” leader Denzil Douglas – also proposes an extraordinary set of giveaways while providing little detail of how they will be paid for. These include tax relief for small businesses, A reduction of the VAT from 17% to 13% plus three annual VAT reduction days, and the ability to buy a duty-free vehicle. This sounds like free money for almost everyone. But doesn’t this sound like spending money we don’t have and aren’t we being taken for fools if they think we cannot see that?
So citizens have a choice today. Either a detailed and carefully considered 80 page plan for the nation by Timothy Harris and Team Unity who have stabilized the country after decades of tyranny, created more jobs and homes for ordinary workers, protected us from coronavirus abroad and crime at home, built new roads and infrastructure, and made us feel good to be Kittitian and Nevisian again. Or promises from Labour leader Denzil Douglas who – thinking he can make people believe he is Santa Claus and can treat citizens as children – promises free money for everyone without the means to pay for his promises. You know what they say if something sounds too good to be true.
Today we believe there is only one choice for readers who want a united, prosperous and progressive SKN and it is Unity.