Resilience and Growth: Celebrating Independence amidst Challenges
Augustine Ferdinand
Independence Messages
October 26, 2023

Resilience and Growth: Celebrating Independence amidst Challenges

by Augustine Ferdinand 

Director of the Institute of Governance and Politics of Latin America and the Caribbean


Forty-four years ago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines attained independence. The Constitution of our country underwent an amendment on October 27, 1979, to reassert its foundational principles: the inherent value of humanity, the belief in God, and liberty. We clearly stated our intention to establish a society that exemplifies democratic principles, free institutions, social justice, and equality under the law. We have pledged to safeguard the rights to privacy, family life, and property, in addition to advocating for equitable wages for labour, and to uphold the concept of human dignity.

On St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ 44th Independence Day, it is noteworthy to acknowledge the profound significance this day holds for every Vincentian. This commemoration symbolises our collective pursuit of self-governance, our heritage steeped in historical depth, and the auspicious prospects that await us in the times to come. On our 44th Independence, we express our reverence for the present, reflect upon the past, and eagerly await the potential of the future. Independence Day holds significance beyond its temporal designation, serving as a representation of our nation’s ethos and the unity exhibited by its populace. This occasion serves as a commemoration of the adversities, challenges, and tenacity that have profoundly influenced the historical trajectory of our nation. Furthermore, our society has been burdened by the profound and lasting consequences of underdevelopment resulting from the historical experiences of colonialism, the genocide of indigenous populations, and the enslavement of African individuals. As a result, we assert our rightful and legally actionable claim for reparations from the former colonising nation. After gaining independence as a nation, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has made significant progress in many areas of our society over the last 44 years.

A robust democratic system has been established wherein the perspectives and voices of the general populace are highly regarded and actively acknowledged. The improved quality of life experienced by our population can be attributed to the progress made in infrastructure, healthcare, and education. Approximately two years ago, the La Soufriere volcano erupted, leading to the evacuation of approximately 20,000 individuals, which accounted for one-fifth of the population. These evacuees were relocated from the Red and Orange Zones to alternative accommodations. Consequently, this event resulted in significant physical destruction, economic challenges, and considerable distress, further compounded by the subsequent effects of Hurricane Elsa.

The contemporary observation of the COVID-19 pandemic has yielded significant consequences, including the unfortunate death of loved ones and a notable deceleration in the economic activities of various states regionally and globally. The inflationary effects of the Ukraine conflict are discernible through observed rises in both oil and food prices. The Middle East has been plagued by a series of destructive conflicts, notably the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Additionally, our Caribbean region has also experienced the adverse impacts of climate change, which have had far-reaching negative consequences affecting life, living and livelihood. We in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as the wider region, do not actively contribute to the aforementioned significant issues. However, we bear the brunt of the associated pressures and difficulties, but we are on the front lines of dealing with the pressures and hardships that result from them.

In the regional context, various factors have contributed to the concerning socio-economic challenges, including substantial borrowing and expenditure to address the pandemic and mitigate the effects of climate change. Additionally, unsustainable levels of public debt in numerous countries, the destructive consequences of natural disasters, and a rising occurrence of both domestic and foreign serious crimes have further compounded these issues. However, it is imperative that we do not permit the prevailing global and regional complexities and obstacles to overpower us or induce a pessimistic stance. There are several advantageous factors that contribute to our situation, notably the resilience exhibited by our populace, our shrewdness in identifying avenues for progress within global and regional frameworks, our ability to engage in smart and hard work, our inclination towards unity in times of natural calamities or other difficulties, and the abundance of natural resources available to us for innovative utilisation.

Despite the numerous challenges encountered, significant advancements have been achieved in our endeavour to overcome the arduous obstacles and ascend towards a pinnacle of accomplishments. The abundance of evidence serves as a testament to the promising prospects that lie ahead. In the present year, 2023, it is projected that the economy will experience a noteworthy growth of six percent, followed by a five percent growth in the subsequent year, 2024.In 1979, a single national scholarship was granted, whereas the current year witnessed the allocation of twenty-six national scholarships, seven exhibition scholarships, and four awards. There are a total of twenty-nine bursaries and one thousand three hundred tuition scholarships available, which undoubtedly provide additional support to young individuals in their pursuit of goals, dreams, and aspirations. The healthcare sector in our country has witnessed notable progress since 1979.

This progress is evident through the establishment of various healthcare facilities, such as the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (formerly known as the Kingstown General Hospital, which served as the colonial hospital). Additionally, a range of health facilities across the nation now provide primary and secondary healthcare services. These include the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital, Celina Clouden Smart Hospital, Buccament Polyclinic, Stubb Polyclinic, and the Modern Medical Diagnostic Centre. Vincentians no longer need to seek medical services such as MRI scans, chemotherapy, CT scans, and kidney dialysis treatment abroad. These services are now readily available within our own country, a development that was not possible four decades ago.

In addition, the utilisation of Argyle International Airport enables direct transportation to North America and the United Kingdom through well-established airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, Air Canada, and American Airlines. Since 2019, individuals in the field of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) have successfully acquired certifications in various disciplines through the utilisation of the YATE, ANEW, and SKYE programmes. The total number of certifications includes 2,300 Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ) certifications. The introduction of Cross-Border Vocational Qualifications (CVQs) has significantly improved the employment prospects for individuals within our region, a possibility that was non-existent four decades ago. These fields include electrical installation, refrigeration, office administration, cosmetology, garment construction, furniture making, computer servicing, wall and floor tiling, care for older adults, fish processing and handling, welding, plumbing, and bartending. This represents a significant milestone in our educational progress. This, in conjunction with the fact that secondary education is available to all, and thousands of students are pursuing tertiary education, demonstrates the numerous advancements that we can be proud of as a nation. It is self-evident that significant progress has been made in our infrastructure development, with over 40,000 homes now connected to the grid and pipe-borne water. Today, over 32,000 motor vehicles, belonging to both the elite and the working class, are registered in SVG. As a result, villages and communities have been completely transformed, and roadways have sprouted up all over the country.

As a result, we must anticipate a completed modern port in Kingstown, additional international flights, and more visitors coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to stay at Holiday Inn Express, Myah, Royal Mill, and Marriott Hotels, as well as Sandals Beaches resort, which will benefit our taxi and tour operators who will take advantage of recent duty-free concessions on the importation of vehicles to transport visitors, as well as those in the hospitality,  agriculture and entertainment sectors. We are looking forward to the Modern Acute Referral Hospital in Arnos Vale, which will have 135 beds and will provide secondary and tertiary health services such as cardiology, neurology, including enhanced acute stroke care, thyroid services, chronic noncommunicable diseases, enhanced ophthalmology, and major invasive surgeries. We also anticipate increased government system digitization, including one-stop digital portals where people can apply for and renew birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and passports, as well as pay for services. With the completion of the black fish processing facility in Barrouallie, we have fresh hope for the expansion of the fishing fleet with new modern vessels, as well as opportunities in the fisheries sector.

As we celebrate our 44th Independence Day, let us remember that our nation is distinguished by its unity, tenacity, and unyielding spirit. Every time we have endured hardship in the past, we have emerged stronger. Future obstacles will not deter us; rather, they will inspire us to work together for the betterment of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In this spirit, we must also reaffirm our commitment to regional and global cooperation. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has always upheld the principles of peace, diplomacy, and world unity. In a world full of problems, our voice matters; we must advocate for social justice, small island states vulnerability index, and climate change financing.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all Vincentians for their contributions to our country, both domestically and abroad. We have reached this point in our nation’s history because of your dedication, perseverance, and unwavering faith in the potential of our cherished nation. Together, let’s recommit to seizing this opportunity of fresh hope to build our nation and secure a brighter future for future generations. Cheers to the 44th anniversary May our flag always fly with honor, and may our nation prosper for many generations to come.

God bless St. Vincent and the Grenadines, thank you!