Faith and deeds sustain our nation
October 25, 2013

Faith and deeds sustain our nation

Fri Oct 25, 2013


by Dr The Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves,
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines

On October 27, 2013, St Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates its 34th anniversary of nationhood. By most measurements our nation has made remarkable socio-economic strides over these last 34 years.

A compelling factual story of improved standards of material living is available to be told in the central areas of enhanced income levels, education and health, housing and sanitation, water and electricity, telecommunications and car ownership, road transportation and airport infrastructure, travel by air and sea, social equality and poverty reduction, culture and the arts, sports and recreation, science and technology, broadcasting and information.{{more}}

In some other spheres there have been disappointments and even regression, as manifested in: Increased criminal conduct, especially crimes of violence; a disturbing coarseness in public and private discourse; a weakening of citizen security, despite improved levels of policing and the strengthening of security apparatuses; unhealthy behavioural habits which lead to chronic non-communicable diseases (diabetes and hypertension) and widespread sexually-transmitted diseases (mainly HIV/AIDS); an apparent decline in spirituality, despite the huge expansion of churches and religious denominations; and an amplification of political divisiveness through the modern means of communication.

Our nation’s outstanding accomplishments have been initiated and sustained by our faith and deeds: Self-mastery achieved through belief in the supremacy of God, the freedom and dignity of man and woman, accompanied by action.

The twinning of faith and deeds has seen us through difficult challenges, and has brought us success. James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, in his writings to the twelve tribes scattered among nations about sixty years after the birth of Christ, addressed this very question:

“You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did”. [James, Chapter 2, verses 20 – 22].

It was rightly emphasised that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead”. Likewise, “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead”.

Faith and deeds enable us as a nation to enhance our possibilities and reduce our limitations. From faith and deeds spring a positive outlook on life and are, conjointly, the antithesis to the learned helplessness of the unthinking chatterati among us. A sense of self-mastery under God is vital to the fulfillment of our individual and collective obligations; a redemptive grace which leads inexorably to social progress.

I reiterate yet again that the centre-piece of a progressive society is hard and smart work. No progressive nation has ever been built upon a surfeit of leisure, pleasure, and “nice time”; progress is dependent upon productive and disciplined labour which society must reward appropriately.

These are eternal verities which we ignore at our peril. In a small, vulnerable, resource-challenged country like St. Vincent and the Grenadines with its compounding legacy of underdevelopment arising from native genocide, slavery, colonialism and imperialism, it is incumbent upon us all to deliver optimally in accordance with our strength and ability. There is not much room for slackness and error. We must get it right, even though as human beings we acknowledge that we would from time-to-time get it wrong. When in error, we must admit it and correct it swiftly and sensibly.

Since the unfolding of the global economic crisis in 2008, and continuing, the economic challenges facing St. Vincent and the Grenadines have intensified. Further economic pain was inflicted from other events not of our own making, namely, the melt-down of two regional insurance companies (CLICO and BAICO) and a succession of natural disasters occasioned substantially by climate change. As a consequence, St Vincent and the Grenadines, endured three years (2008 – 2010, inclusive) of negative economic growth followed by two years of slow, hesitant recovery in 2011 and 2012.

Despite all these awesome difficulties, our nation has survived and thrived. We have not reduced governmental expenditure in critical areas of education, health, social safety nets, and citizen security. Indeed, we have increased spending in several of these programmatic areas. We have not laid off workers in the public sector, and we have ramped up capital spending in several vital projects. Even in this challenging economic environment, the government embarked upon the construction of the largest capital project ever, the Argyle International Airport, which is due for completion at this time next year. Moreover, we have further reduced poverty, indigence and under-nourishment to such a marked degree that we have launched the very ambitious “Zero Hunger Project”.

On the immediate horizon several important, public sector capital projects are about to start up in earnest, including: the South Leeward Highway Reconstruction (Hospital Road to Layou) at a cost of EC $44 million; several components of the post-Hurricane Tomas rehabilitation exercise, costing in excess of EC $75 million; the Disaster Recovery Project of in excess of EC $50 million; the Banana Accompanying Measures (BAM) of EC $34 million financed by a grant from the European Union; the 10th EDF Health Sector Modernisation Project of EC $33 million from EU grant funding; and the further expansion of the Green Hill and Clare Valley Housing Projects.

Meanwhile, huge sums are being invested by the private sector in hotel and tourism developments especially in Canouan, Bequia, Mustique, and St Vincent. The actual scheduled commencement later this year of a multi-million middle-income housing project at Peter’s Hope financed and managed by the National Insurance Services and GECCU will alter, for the better, the socio-economic landscape in Central Leeward. Private investment in agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, construction, telecommunications, financial and medical education is increasing.

In the area of renewable energy, the partnership between the Clinton Climate Initiative, Emera, Reykjavik Geothermal, and the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines in a geothermal project centred in North Leeward and North Windward, is likely to herald a game-changing framework for the delivery of competitively-priced electricity to all consumers in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

This Geothermal Project in tandem with the relocation and expansion of Port Kingstown and the construction of a modern city at the Arnos Vale site of the E.T. Joshua Airport are undoubted manifestations of the twinning of faith and deeds.

We thank Almighty God for his amazing grace and blessings. We are most hopeful about the future of our country, especially our talented young people who represent the best of our Caribbean civilisation. We are grateful to our friends and allies overseas.

Happy 34th Independence Anniversary to all Vincentians, including those in the diaspora!