Sacrifices needed all around if we are to address the economic squeeze
August 19, 2022
Sacrifices needed all around if we are to address the economic squeeze

There is no doubt that, like billions of other people around the world, the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines are feeling the effects of the global economic squeeze. No doubt, that as in every other country, those who feel it most are the working people, the poor and most vulnerable. That is not to say that others are not feeling the squeeze, but as always those at the bottom of the economic ladder always suffer the most.

The combined effect of the Covid impact on economies, the disruptions in global trade and in particular skyrocketing oil prices with their spill-on effect on transport and energy prices, are hitting right, left and centre and governments are being challenged to find measures to deal with the crisis while keeping their economies afloat.

Fisherfolk and farmers, trade unions and workers, transport operators and of course the business sector are demanding some redress. As is only natural, in each country people are turning to their governments for solutions.

Those without organized representation, while having no formal voice for complaint and making demands are nevertheless grumbling and moaning of their inability to cope with a situation where virtually every day, prices are rising.

It is not a happy time to be a government as the newly elected governments in Grenada and St. Kitts/ Nevis will find out for economic crises are immediate and patience is a virtue in short supply in such critical times.

On the other hand, those on the opposite side of the political spectrum can have a field day. Every statement can be punctuated with comments on “the suffering of the people” and demands for immediate action, no matter how ridiculous, will meet with a favourable response.

It is critical that we approach our predicament soberly and realistically. There needs to be a recognition that we are all in this together, every sector of the society feeling the squeeze. At the same time, it must also be acknowledged that while that is the case there are people who while suffering greatly have no organized voice and any actions for redress must take into consideration their plight as well.

So, while we recognize that urgent action is needed, the announcement by Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves that consultation with labour and the private sector are about to be held is a most welcome one. But there must be a sense of urgency about it, some confidence by the participants that their proposals, if serious, will be taken on board, and importantly that sacrifices will be needed by all if we are to address the crisis effectively while protecting the living standards of the most vulnerable among us.

It is easy to make all sorts of demands, but each demand has a cost involved and reduced government revenues must mean a reduction in ability to address the crisis. Government will have to review its priorities and find creative ways to keep the ship afloat. At the same time, those in the business sector must realize that there is a limit to price gouging, using “costs going up everywhere” as an excuse for unwarranted increases. There is only so much that we can bear.

Urgent action is clearly needed for difficult problems, fuel prices and its effect on electricity and energy prices for instances, as well as the impact of any increases in transport fares on working people and access to education. This is no time for politicking, let us find consensus on the way forward.