As a new parliamentary year opened Governor General Her Excellency Dame Calliopa Pearlette Louisy on Tuesday April 25th 2017 laid out the Government’s plans to build a new Saint Lucia stressing on a more people-centric approach to government which takes into account the development of every citizen irrespective of social status, economic endowment or political orientation.
Stated the Governor General: “My Government’s vision for building a new Saint Lucia is based on the need to lift our beloved country out of the quagmire of economic stagnation and social apathy and to arrest the moral decline that confronts us at present. With this mission in mind, my Government will introduce novel programmes in education, health, the social sector, climate change, energy and justice reform.”
The following are some of the highlights of this year’s Throne Speech:
- Greater emphasis will be placed on Early Childhood Education covering all children from 0-8 years.
- An Education for Democratic Citizenship programme focusing on the soft skills and on National Pride, will be introduced into the curricula of primary and secondary schools at the beginning of the new academic year in September 2017. Modules have already been developed and the training of teachers in that regard is ongoing.
- First Generation Initiative to provide pathways for at least one child from a low income household to access tertiary education.
- Government also intends to expand educational opportunities by placing greater emphasis on e-learning. Ensure ICT Centres and facilities are accessible to all communities for education, innovation and entrepreneurship. We propose, further, to introduce technology integration and innovation into the curriculum to prepare our students for the technology-driven world.
- Through the National Skills Development Centre (NSDC), a number of our citizens have already acquired skills that enhance their employability and entrepreneurship. My Government applauds the efforts of the NSDC and will continue to promote its programmes, with the support of the private sector. Technical Vocational Education and Training will be enhanced through the award of the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) to artisans, tradesmen and technicians to boost their competitiveness in the local as well as the regional job market.
- Develop a National Policy on Special Needs, which will provide, among other things, for the establishment of a Special Needs School and Transition Centre.
- Advance the transition of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College (SALCC) to a University College. While continuing to provide the current tertiary level offerings, the University College will seek to specialize in Hospitality and Culinary Arts, as well as Nursing, to attract persons from the region and further afield.
- Accreditation Bill and the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Medicine and other Health Professions Bill will be enacted very early in this new Parliamentary Session.
- With the support of the European Union, we are designing a strategy that would embrace the concepts of fund pooling and strategic purchasing. The strategy will examine very carefully the development of a national health insurance model for financing health care. This is essential for the sustainability of the health sector. The strategy will address the issues of funding, the package of services and cost, purchasing and contracting, consumer choice, administration and regulation.
- Establish robust community mental health teams that integrate communities, families, patients, public and private stakeholders in a mutually supportive environment.
- Our country will therefore have a single mental health service that integrates the National Mental Wellness Center, the general hospitals, the polyclinic and health centers and community mental health teams. The objective is to create optimal mental health and to reduce institutionalization of patients who have mental health problems.
SOCIAL SAFETY NETS
- Government will reform and rationalize the Public Assistance programme, so that we have a leaner, more efficient, targeted and structured package of support, administered at the household level. No longer will support be automatic.
- It will be based on the specific needs of the individual household member, and the continuation of that support will be conditional upon the commitment of these individuals to embrace new practices and patterns of behavior.
- Government will work toward meeting the targets outlined in Saint Lucia’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the 2015 Paris Agreement. These targets include significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through a transition to renewable energy and increased energy efficiency.
- Place particular emphasis on securing climate financing from various sources.
INITIATIVES IN ENERGY
- Multi-pronged Strategy which will address, among others, acceleration of demand for renewable energy and energy efficiency services, investment promotion, education and awareness-building, innovation and the creation of an enabling policy environment.
ECONOMIC AND INVESTMENT INITIATIVES
- Government is committed to revitalizing the priority sectors of Tourism, Agriculture, Housing, Industry and Commerce in partnership with the Saint Lucia Development Bank (SLDB).
- Government will enact the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Saint Lucia Bill. This Bill will provide for the establishment of the fund, which will make secure investments, help maintain the long-term economic and social development objectives of my Government and sustain fiscal or macroeconomic stabilization.
Government is seeking to establish the Saint Lucia Tourism Authority by enactment of the Saint Lucia Tourism Bill. The Authority will operate to advance and facilitate the efficient growth and development of the tourism industry, to implement suitable marketing strategies for the effective promotion of the destination and to encourage the establishment and enhancement of appropriate amenities, facilities and destination services. The Authority will also facilitate linkages between tourism and other sectors of the economy.
Tourism and Construction
- Government is committed to directing a significant amount of revenue to this sector with projects to be implemented in 2017.
- Government has been working on the Pearl of the Caribbean Project, as well as on a number of other private sector projects across the island, which are expected to be implemented from this year onwards.
- Ensure Climate Smart Agricultural policies and programs are adopted to meet the related challenges of food security and climate change.
- The Ministry of Agriculture will therefore adopt a more active role and maintain responsibility for providing the institutional and regulatory framework to meet the essential services requirements of the industry. In this regard, Government has been in discussions with overseas companies to expand our export of bananas to the French market from 2018 onwards.
- Introduce Policies, Strategies and Programmes to promote the diversification of the agricultural sector. One key component of the strategy will be to allow for the exploration and exploitation of niche markets for non-traditional products.
SECURITY AND JUSTICE SYSTEM
- Introduce a coordinated border management system which will enhance synergies among the Customs and Excise Department, the Immigration Department, the Marine Unit and the Quarantine Division of the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Amend the Immigration Act to incorporate the Advance Passenger Information System, with automated electronic data interchange and the screening of advance passenger information by the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS).
- Revamp the office of the Crown Prosecutions Service. A new Director of Public Prosecutions has been appointed and we have seen more than 300 cases disposed of in the Criminal Courts within a space of six months. It is our intention to provide the requisite resources for addressing the number of cases still pending before the Criminal Courts, while promoting long term systemic and administrative efficiency.
- Re-opening the Forensic Laboratory, which we intend to make fully operational with minimum delay.
- Support of the IMPACT JUSTICE Project, financed by the Government of Canada, which provides training for our police, as well as the Attorney General’s Chambers and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in a range of areas. For the police, training will include cybercrime investigation, financial investigation, surveillance and sexual offence investigation.
- The Witness Protection (Special Measures) Bill seeks to protect the identity of witnesses who may be at risk should they testify and their identity be known.
- The Electronic Monitoring Bill will reduce the number of persons sent to our Correctional facilities on remand, particularly young offenders.
- The Electronic Crimes Bill aims at preventing criminal activities perpetrated through an electronic system and facilitating the collection of electronic evidence relating to criminal activity.
- The Child Justice Bill will establish a criminal justice process for children accused of committing offences that aims at protecting the rights of children as provided for in international instruments. It will establish the minimum age of criminal responsibility and establish a procedure for assessment of children, as well as an initial inquiry as compulsory procedures. The Bill will incorporate diversion of cases away from the formal court procedures, ensure that children are tried in a family court and extend sentencing options available in respect of children. Above all, the Bill will entrench the notion of restorative justice in respect of children.
IMPACS: Report of the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) has had adverse consequences for Saint Lucia internally as well as in our relationships with external partners. Government continues to work assiduously to free ourselves of this albatross and to ensure that identified deficiencies are addressed, the trust and confidence of our people are regained and our international image and reputation restored.