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PM defends ULP’s social democracy

PM defends ULP’s social democracy


Opposition critics of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves’ “social democracy” are being implored not to judge the ideology on abstract concepts from a different era which have no bearing on reality.{{more}}

Defending the social democracy practised by his administration, Gonsalves said he will expose all those who are on a mission of trying to scare people.

Gonsalves responded to his critics’ argument at a press conference recently held at Cabinet Room, Main Administrative Building, that he doesn’t have any mandate for “socialism”. He explained that in the 21st century, the term simply means “social democracy”.

“Socialism means that for us, the role of the state should not be put in retreat. The democratic state in the Caribbean and in St.Vincent and the Grenadines has been a force for good. And the democratic state cannot be put in retreat,” said Gonsalves

He noted that the Cubans have a particular view on socialism which is a view that he does not share. Their system is a different system and have evolved in a different way, he surmised.

“Even Venezuela would have a view which would not be applicable to our own circumstances,” the prime minister stated.

He credited his administration for reducing the role of the state in the lives of people where their personal income is concerned. He outlined that this was successfully done by lowering personal income taxes both at the bottom and at the top tiers. At the top, the income tax rate has been reduced from 40 per cent to 32.5 per cent and at the bottom the figure for persons exempted has moved from EC$12, 000 to EC$18, 000, he disclosed.

In the case of tourism, he noted that previously hoteliers paid 40 per cent taxes, but under his administration they now pay a 20 per cent tax.

“The state has retreated in relation to licenses to be granted. There used to be several commodities on which we require licenses. We only require a license for sugar now and the state imports sugar. So the state has not retreated from sugar, but uses the profits from sugar to subsidize fertilizer for the farmers,” said Gonsalves, adding that the state is being used in a creative manner.

Overall, said Gonsalves, the democratic state in this country has been a force for good.

He concluded that there are instances when it will pull back and instances when it will go forward. However, this will always be done within the frame of a democratic ethos and with a vision which is people centred.

Gonsalves said the socialism practised by his administration is that of Socialist International whose membership includes the British Labour Party, the German Social Democratic Party, the Israeli Labour Party, and the African National Congress.

“In that sense, socialism has a pristine meaning as in the Acts of the Apostles, Christianity in action,” said Gonsalves.

Gonsalves said his critics, when dealing with the issue of socialism, tend to use some categories from the days of the Soviet Union that have already collapsed.

“They are so empty and backward philosophically, programmatically, and you wonder whether these people are thinking about running Government. They are entirely unprepared,” he stated.

Gonsalves also placed some of the blame on the University of the West Indies (UWI). He stated that since the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, which resulted in a certain amount of triumphalism in British and American capitalism, lots of people, including Management graduates of the University have bought into that consensus.

“They understand a set of technical functions, but do not understand a philosophy behind those technical functions which would inform public policy making. But it is the same triumphalism of Reagan and Thatcher not to have regulation,” said Gonsalves, explaining that Reagan and Thatcher propagated that when one regulates capitalism it becomes socialism.

“That gave rise to the subprime mortgage meltdown in the United States with which we had nothing to do with but yet we have suffered. We are on the frontlines of that pain and suffering,” said Gonsalves.