My friends—Young people— this is your celebration! In more ways than one, this is your party. Always remember, this is your country. And, as your theme says: ‘My decision; My future!’ This tells me that you are ready and able to take part in shaping our future as a country. No one should ever underestimate the impact you can make; the difference you can make. No one should put obstacles in your way. Who can’t lend a helping hand need to get out of the way because, as the song says: ‘We have a country to build’.
And I believe that the youth can and, with focus and God’s grace, will drive our country forward. We face many challenges. It is easy to be cynical and say things will never change for the better. But that sort of thinking is not who we are and will get us nowhere. We have a proud legacy of struggle against all odds in defence of our people, our nation. That is the legacy of Chatoyer and our Garifuna forebears. When we work together and harness the energy, the talent, and the ideas in this room- your ideas- we will succeed.
We are blessed in this country with energetic and talented young people. Whenever I am out and about meeting people, I talk with young people. I believe it is important not just to talk to young people; but also, to listen to them. In fact, it is more important to listen because if you want to represent people you must hear from them what they want you to do for them—to learn how to represent them effectively. So, I listen and will always listen. I want to hear more from you.
You are ambitious for our future, and you need encouragement from the rest of us. You want to build a life of opportunity here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) but need support from an attentive government and society to do so.
Many of our young people leave for opportunities in Canada, USA, UK and other parts of the Caribbean; not because they don’t love SVG, but because of scarce opportunities here. Many may never return, or do so for short stays, on vacation or special occasion. I want to us to build a country that young people feel they are a part of because they have opportunity to stay here and work to build themselves and the country. I want us to build an education system that prepares young people for the future; a healthcare system that protects and supports us all; an economy that creates jobs and opportunities so that you can make your lives here feeling safe and hopeful, and not to be crippled by the constant fear of crime and violence.
We have been let down by the government that seems to have no interest in building a country to enable our people, especially young people, to live and flourish. After two decades of a ULP government, our country still does not work for you. Too many young people, after earning qualifications and certificates are left unemployed, shut out from the working world, blocked from making your contribution. We have to change that.
By now we know how the ULP works. They promise the moon and stars before an election. Over and over again, they fail to deliver. They say they have the answer to every problem, a plaster for every sore. Yet, the pain continues because it is all empty talk. And only the same chosen few benefits.
They spout hot air and shout big words to mask their emptiness. Remember, empty barrels make the most noise. So, they fill a pothole in Kingstown, big celebration; they fix a rundown clinic or paint a police station, big ceremony. But, while they applaud themselves and cover up their failures with empty talk and propaganda, the reality for most of us, especially for young people, becomes more grim.
We need a government that will invest in education including TVET to prepare our youth for new jobs. That’s NDP! Instead of a government that says it is young people’s ‘obsession with guns’ that drives violent crime, we need a government that will address crime across the country. That’s NDP!
Instead of a government that does nothing to address the nearly one in three young people living in poverty; we need a government that will help young people, who are among our most vulnerable citizens. That’s NDP! Young people need a government that will:
* Cut student loans interest rate in half, 4.5 percent
* Ensure that Young People are Earning or Learning
* Provide access to Technical and Skills Training programs to make people more employable, and encourage self-employment
* Pay for CSEC and CAPE subjects
* Encourage IT innovation within a well-resourced incubation Hub
* Expand and upgrade the YES Program to train Young Persons with Job-ready Skills in the Private Sector
Develop sporting talents with more facilities — hardcourts, lighted fields, etc.
My friends, we have so much to do to turn our country around and give you, our young people, hope for a better life here. Today is but a step on that journey. I urge you to be leaders in your community, take an interest in what is happening around you. It matters! It will make a difference. Listen to your neighbours’ concerns, share with them the NDP’s approach to governance. Tell them of our plans and how they will build a brighter future.
You motivate me and my colleagues. We know it is tough to get by (let alone prosper) in our country, and we want to make things better.
But we need your help. I am full of hope. I know we can do better. But that will only come with an NDP government. So, I leave you with this vitally important challenge: make the change happen.
(Excerpts of Dr. the Hon. Godwin Friday’s Address at the NDP Youth Convention)