Dr. Gonsalves gets ‘Democracy Prize’
Front Page
December 6, 2005

Dr. Gonsalves gets ‘Democracy Prize’

“I resolved to fight for democracy, against arbitrary government and for regional integration” – Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK: The New York based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID) on Saturday, December 3, 2005, announced that Dr. The Honorable Ralph Everad Gonsalves, M.P., Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has won the prestigious “Democracy Prize” for 2005. The much anticipated announcement was made on New York’s WWRL Radio by the Institute’s President, Rickford Burke on the popular Radio show, “Caribbean Views,” hosted by Rennie Bishop. The announcement was aired live by a number of Radio Stations in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. {{more}}

“The Prime Minister was selected for his extraordinary contribution to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Caribbean region as a whole; for implementing policies and programs which have stimulated economic development and have led to the expansion of the economy; for creating the conditions for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to enjoy a higher standard of living; for conforming to the principles of good governance and the democratic way of life; and finally for his resolute leadership and firm commitment to CARICOM and Caribbean integration,” Burke explained.

“Today the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have good reason to celebrate. Their Prime Minister’s contribution to the development of their country and the region has now been indelibly etched into the annals of history. “Comrade Ralph” as the Prime Minister is affectionately called, has made his mark as a distinguished leader and Caribbean icon. He is a luminary who has enjoyed a meritorious and expansive career as a student leader and activist, writer, teacher, academic, Trade Union advisor, Barrister-at-Law, politician, regionalist and Prime Minister. The conferment of “The Democracy Prize” on Prime Minister Gonsalves, therefore, honors his lifetime of public service, dedication to country and region and his professional investments in educating and developing the minds of the youth of the region”, Burke said.

The only two previous recipients of The Democracy Prize are: the 2003 winner, The Rt. Hon. Patrick Augustus Mervin Manning, Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and, the 2004 winner, The Rt. Hon. Owen Seymour Arthur, Prime Minister of Barbados.

The CGID President said “the criteria to qualify for The Prize as outlined in the Protocol are: the practice of good governance, the achievement of human, economic, cultural, political and national development; respect for human rights and freedoms and upholding the rule of law, the facilitation of a harmonious, open society in which there is social equality and fair opportunity for all citizens to live prosperous, fulfilling lives, and protection of and respect for the poor and underprivileged. Indeed the Prime Minister has convincingly satisfied every criterion.”

Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have reported that the policies and programs implemented by the Prime Minister and his administration have stimulated steady economic growth. Under the stewardship of Dr. Gonsalves, the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is estimated to have grown by 3.2% in 2002, 3.5% in 2004 and 5.4% in 2004. The economy has been expanded from heavy dependency on the Banana Industry to a more diversified, multi-sector economy. Inflation remains under control at about 3%. Over 6,000 new jobs have been created. There has been a reduction in unemployment, underemployment and poverty. GDP has increased from EC$904 million in 2000 to EC$1.2 billion in 2004.

The Prime Minister has initiated a sustainable development strategy which includes policies and programs to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal early childhood education and childcare; attain universal primary education; attain gender equality and the empowerment of women, and to develop low income/affordable housing and enhanced public assistance for the disadvantaged. His poverty alleviation policy is driven by job creation and other youth empowerment services which have reduced unemployment among young people.

Under Dr. Gonsalves’ leadership, the health sector has been reformed and spending as a share of GDP increased to 4.1 %, the second highest in the OECS. The World Bank reports that as of 2004, social and health indicators were good for the levels of GDP per capita and that those indicators are among the best in Latin America and the Caribbean. The Prime Minister has established measures to achieve service efficiency in the health sector, and has increased government funding to help meet the population’s demand for comprehensive health care. The Gonsalves administration has also been reforming the education sector at all levels. From 2001 to 2005 the government achieved approximately 96 % universal secondary school education, with enrollments increasing from about 7000 in 2000 to 14000 in 2005. The Prime Minister has increased education spending to 5.8% of GDP and embarked on a major reform project to expand and improve primary, secondary and tertiary education; to rehabilitate existing and to create new infrastructure, and also to introduce information technology and improve curricula in schools.

Prime Minister Gonsalves has not only implemented policies that have stimulated economic growth and human development, but he has governed generally in conformity with the principles of good governance. He has consolidated the democratic culture and continues to promote an open, orderly society in which there is improved opportunity for growth and prosperity and where there is social justice and respect for the rule of law. He has strengthened political democracy through transparency in governance, civic participation, rationalization and modernization of the government to make it more efficient and responsive, elimination of corruption in government, strengthening the of Parliament and constitutional reform.

Dr. Gonsalves is unquestionably committed to CARICOM and Caribbean integration. He is a Caribbean icon and a member of our intelligentsia whose contribution to the development of the region is outstanding. He is the Caricom Head with responsibility for Air Transportation and matters relating to the Banana industry. He is a voice of pragmatism and reason among CARICOM Heads. He is a charismatic leader and visionary who is completely dedicated to the socioeconomic advancement of his people. And he is a staunch advocate of human rights and justice.

Reacting to the announcement, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves, in a live interview with the host of “Caribbean Views” Rennie Bishop, said “It is good to get recognition by the British, but it is much better to get it from your own people. I am happy to follow the footsteps of Patrick Manning and Owen Arthur.” He said “I seek not just to modernize St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to deepen the political expression of our Caribbean civilization, but to modernize the country in a manner which is in the interest of the people.” He also thanked the Institute for bestowing him with the prestigious award and said he looked forward to attending the Award Ceremony on February 4, 2006.

The Prime Minister told his New York and Caribbean listeners, including Vincentians, “I seek not just to modernize St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to deepen the political expression of our Caribbean civilization, but to modernize the country in a manner which is in the interest of the people. You can have modernity; but modernity is just a replica of some Western civilization outpost. That is not what I am for. I am for using modern technology, modern science and apply that technology and science within our own context. Within the context of the Caribbean and to develop our people in a way where we are fit to receive and transmit universal culture, but to the Caribbean particularity.”

Speaking about the performance of his government the Prime Minister said “in 2001 the British government gave my government debt relief of $12M on the basis of its good governance, on the basis of its focused approach to poverty reduction, and on the basis of its policies in weighing down heavily against official corruption. They had in fact denied the previous government debt relief on precisely those grounds; that they have not been addressing poverty, corruption and good governance satisfactorily. They give me that relief for one (1) year first just after five (5) months in office, and a year later, they give me complete debt relief under the Commonwealth Debt Initiative on the account of my work, and my government’s work in addressing issues of good governance, poverty reduction and official corruption.” (www.C-GID.org)