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Dr. Gonsalves: Nation has thrived

Dr. Gonsalves: Nation has thrived

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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves is proclaiming progress made by his administration on several fronts.

In a New Year’s address last Tuesday 4th, which his detractors have already termed a “campaign speech”, the Prime Minister boasted that the country has not only survived difficult times but has thrived over the past three plus years since his party assumed office.{{more}}

He stated that the country has made steady growth over the period with an estimated growth rate of the economy of five per cent. He said that while in 2001 there was zero growth, the following years had seen 1.7 per cent and 3.6 per cent real growth respectively.

Dr. Gonsalves claims that this has occasioned an increase in wealth per head of the population. He gave figures to demonstrate this of a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per head of population as being estimated at EC$10,249, compared, he said, to EC$8,802 in the year 2000.

One area of progress pointed to was in the field of education where his administration has been proclaiming a “revolution”. He repeated that by September 2005 there will be universal access to secondary education, with all children of secondary school age assured a place. The numbers at the A’Level College, he said, had grown also from 450 in the year 2000 to 1,100 this school year.

The Prime Minister also claimed that access to university had increased seven times for students here “for the children of the poor and disadvantaged”.

Another area of progress being claimed by the Prime Minister was in health. If he was in fact launching a re-election campaign, he may have been on a good wicket when he pointed to “vital facts” he said people “often take for granted”. He mentioned free medical attention for the poor at state-run clinics and hospitals, free pharmaceuticals, free anti-viral drugs to HIV/AIDS sufferers and an infant mortality rate of 16.6 per 1,000 births.

This last figure compares with eight per 1,000 in North America and 35 per 1,000 in Central America.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the Social Security system as provided by the National Insurance Services (NIS) which, he said, had improved markedly over the period with contributory national insurance covering over 34,00 people, including pensioners.

Looking toward the immediate future, Dr. Gonsalves stated his government’s intention to focus on “the deepening of the regional integration through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).”

He emphasised the launch of the National Adult Literacy Crusade, extending the availability of early childhood education, beefing up special education programmes and finalising the integration of the existing post-secondary institution into a full-fledged Community College.

But the Prime Minister could not resist the temptation before he wrapped up to hit out at “some talk show hosts” whom, he said, “encourage bad behaviour and criminal misconduct by their gross disrespect for authority”.

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