October 21, 2005
Challenging times ahead for SVG

by Honourable Arnhim U. Eustace, Leader of the Opposition, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Fellow Vincentians, on this 26th Anniversary of Independence, our country is embarking on one of the most important and challenging periods of the nation’s history.

We are about to witness the end of the concessionary regime which enabled us to market our single most important agricultural commodity, bananas, in the European Union. As of January 1, 2006, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other Windward Island exporters will face a tariff-only regime which will expose our uncompetitiveness vis-à-vis other producers in the hemisphere, if last minute efforts aimed at maintaining the status quo are unsuccessful. {{more}}The prospect of this has already had a dampening effect on the production of this traditional export crop. Our allocated export quotas have to be supplemented by dollar-fruit producers. The demise of this industry will have untold socio-economic consequences for our country and its people.

In addition, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) is also scheduled to take effect next year. St. Vincent and the Grenadines, like other countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), will take the momentous step of introducing wide-ranging arrangements in trade, investment, employment and the movement of capital and human resources. It is the culmination of our regional efforts at forging closer economic ties. In the past it was an option, in today’s environment of globalization it is an imperative. If we are to maintain and improve the standards to which we have become accustomed over the years we must collectively harness and manage all our resources, human, economic, natural and geographic in the best interest of the region.

Our citizens must soon make serious decisions about the way forward in upcoming general elections. It is possibly the most pivotal in our post independence history. I encourage every eligible citizen to participate fully in the electoral process because of its direct significance for the future of our country.

I wish all our nationals, at home and abroad, a happy, enjoyable and reflective independence.