PNP engages St Mary on national issues
Defective drainage systems, the civil service wage freeze, and the rising cost of fuel were some of the concerns aired by citizens of St Mary during a colourful question and answer session hosted by the People's National Party (PNP) on Thursday.
More than 200 residents from across the parish packed into St Theresa's Catholic Church in Annotto Bay to take part in the two-hour discussion, which was led by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips; Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Robert Pickersgill; the parish's members of parliament; and Port Maria's mayor Levan Freeman.
Phillips and his colleagues addressed issues raised by the local residents, which included substandard roads, high levels of youth unemployment, and little or no access to water in some areas.
The finance minister told the crowd: "Earlier on, a gentleman noted there was a need for a local plan, and I agree. I think it would be a good idea for a parish such as St Mary to have an integrated plan so we can integrate training programmes with the agro-parks and plans for water and road development.
"Another question was asked about having an open debate with the trade unions, and I am open to an open debate; but there is a time and place. I believe now, the most important thing is for the trade unions to ensure their representatives are ready to negotiate."
He continued: "Don't forget, part of the deal we made with the public-sector unions at the start of the programme was to keep everyone employed. We have kept that part of the bargain because there were many voices that were saying cut the service and the number of employees and pay the wages. We took the view, to which we are still committed, that in these difficult times, cutting employment in the public sector was not the way to go. We are trying to spend what we can afford, and that's just a fact of life."
Although many residents complained of long-standing, unresolved issues, there was a general mood of appreciation among the audience for being able to speak directly with high-ranking members of the party.
Anthony Gutzmore from Enfield told The Gleaner: "I think this evening's meeting was a good effort to communicate with the people, but I think it should be held more often, at least quarterly. I was satisfied with the response I received to my questions, but being put on a time limit stopped us from developing some of the points we wanted to make, but overall, on a scale of one to 10, I would give them an eight."