The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) continues to speak highly of the value of the free schoolbooks programme which it promoted as one of its flagship social programmes during its 2008-13 stint in government.
After assuming the leadership of the country in July 2008, the NDC by the start of the new school year in September 2008 was able to commence the programme for all school children in both the public and private schools.
At a recent public meeting at Post Royal, St. Andrew’s, former Social Services Minister Sylvester Quarless looked back at the benefits of the programme to citizens.
Quarless said that in the four-and-a half-years spent in government, Congress under the leadership of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas spent close to $16M in providing books to 25,000 students on the island.
He claimed that now that the schoolbooks programme has been watered down by the ruling New National Party (NNP) of Dr. Keith Mitchell, the government ministers can only boast of students receiving $150.00 in vouchers.
“Just image you have four children in school within your household, you were getting close to $3,000… What we have done our children will never forgive us for that,” he said.
The former Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South-west indicated that under a future NDC Government the books will be distributed through an outreach office that will be free from political interference.
A businessman by profession, Quarless also touched to the economic strain that is now faced by persons in the “Big Parish” of St. Andrew’s.
He reiterated that within one year of the NNP getting back in office, 18 businesses including three banks closed their doors in Grenville.
NDC Caretaker for St. Andrew’s North-west, Phillip Alexander compared the financial gain from agriculture during the reign of the NDC Government as opposed to the experience under Mitchell’s NNP.
Alexander who comes from a farming family accused the current rulers of demonstrating disregard for agriculture in the country.
He stated that during the NDC reign the income from State Farms moved from $500, 000 annually to $550,000 and under NNP’s diversification programme only $120,000 is being received as rental income from the state farms.
Alexander also took a swipe at the decision taken to spend $2.7M for the purchase of the RBTT Bank building in Grenville, St. Andrew’s to establish a branch of the Grenada Marketing and National Importing Board.
He charged that high interests are being repaid at 7.5 percent in trying to compete with small farmers on the streets of Grenville.
This, he said is happening at a time when the Congress Government constructed a new market in Grenville as part of the Greater Grenville Project which is yet to be opened.
The Congress Caretaker expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the four sitting NNP Parliamentary Representatives in the Parish.
He urged the people to look for proper representation from the members of Congress in St. Andrew’s – Terry Hillaire who is the Caretaker for St. Andrew’s North East, Sylvester Quarless, Caretaker for St. Andrew’s South West, Patrick Simmons Caretaker for St. Andrew’s South East, and Phillip Alexander who is the Caretaker for St. Andrew’s North West.
“We bring a different level of representation for this Parish, and therefore, I beg of you when you go to the polls, anytime they call the elections, you have four capable representatives… who are capable, willing and able to represent your interest far better than any of the current members…”, he said.