January 16, 2009
The squeeze is on


Hardly have we embarked on the New Year when the signs of the rapidly spreading world economic crisis are manifesting themselves right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

In his first press conference for the year, the Prime Minister spoke of 12 million persons without jobs in that citadel of the capitalist system, the United States of America.{{more}} Incoming President Barrack Obama faces a situation where over 2 million Americans lost their jobs last year and when the three major motor vehicle manufacturers, major employers of labour, face possible shutdown. However, lest we get foolishly complacent, it is not just in the USA or Europe, or Asia, that people are losing their jobs.

News this week broke of the lay off of 62 workers at DiscoveryWorks Legal, an offshore document processing company. Reports also speak of workers at local hotels possibly facing retrenchment, while both major telecommunications companies are also downsizing their work forces. Such actions tend to have a ripple or domino effect, for as spending power is curtailed, it affects the retail and service sectors, causing reciprocal cutbacks. The credit crunch is already having its impact on the financial sector, and even relative giants such as the National Insurance Services are having to make appropriate adjustments.

It is a serious reminder to us all to put our respective houses in order. Clearly the situation calls for not only fiscal prudence, but also a greater sense of responsibility from us all, while not shedding solidarity or compassion, sacrifice and restraint, will have to be high on the agenda for everyone. There is a tendency in terms of crisis to shift the burden onto the backs of those who can last bear it – the working people. That must not be allowed to happen. At the same time, our workers, our farmers; our fisherfolk must realize that only by dint of hard work and raising the levels of our productivity and efficiency can we succeed.

These are not times for excessive demands, waste and abuse of resources, especially state resources, the property of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Nor can corruption of any kind, whether petty or major, be tolerated. It is a time to test our spirit of enterprise, our capacity for innovation and creativity. Yet we must also be mindful of those, who through no fault of their own, fall victim to the economic vicissitudes and provide social safety nets to take care of those so affected: the indigent, marginalized and otherwise deprived.

The threat is real and upon us. We must all with bold leadership, common purpose and determination rise to confront it.