April 1, 2005
Serious challenges for Government

Three events took place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines last Wednesday which have far- reaching economic, political, social, and indeed, developmental implications. We refer here to the public launching of the Final Report of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), the official ceremony to mark the commencement of construction on the massive Lowmans Bay electricity project and the opening of the refurbished and modernized Kingstown Fish Market.{{more}}

Each of these in its own way is a signal step. The far-reaching recommendations of the CRC have significant bearing on the nature of governance in the country, for, if adopted substantially, they open the way to meaningful participation of our citizenry in the governance of our affairs. It is therefore a milestone in the political development of our people.

Regrettably, too few people have as yet grasped the import of this development and need to be encouraged to participate in the broad public discussion and debate on matters of such fundamental national interest.

The Lowmans Bay project is of a different nature, but no less momentous. It is the largest- ever capital project to be undertaken by any government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and of tremendous economic and social significance. On it hinges our economic development thrust because the provision of energy is an essential ingredient in developing the economic base of the society.

Moreover the cost of that energy can be a determining factor on the rate, pace and scope of such development.

The third project, the Japanese- funded Fish Market, seeks to modernize and upgrade the marketing and export of fish and marine products from our shores. It is ironic that although our multi- island state is surrounded by water and we have far more marine territory than terrestrial one, the development of the fisheries sector has always lagged behind other economic sectors. To undertake the refurbishment and the attempt to lift the standards of the Fish Market is therefore a laudable undertaking.

Having had its “moments of glory” at these public functions, it is now incumbent of the Government to take up formidable challenges presented before it in all three dimensions.

Firstly, in the content of governance, how will it respond to the need for civil society to be involved in an independent, non- partisan manner? Not a doting, fawning, civil society but one which is prepared both to shoulder its own responsibility and to map out its own course in partnership with the public sector.

Secondly, the public, whether at a domestic or commercial level will expect the Lowmans Bay project to be able to deliver energy at an affordable cost, a cost which would enable our entrepreneurs to be competitive, yet ensures that every Vincentian can afford to have electricity in his/ her home. Additionally there is the challenge of diversifying our energy sources and exploring options in the solar and wind fields.

Finally, one recalls that with the coming of the first Japanese fish market project, Government removed price control on fish. It is one of the factors that has led to our dependence on imported chicken, many people simply can no longer afford fish. So the challenge is not only to find export markets but to make this rich, indigenous source of protein, affordable to all.

Will our Government face up to these tasks?