Building a modern competitive economy
February 9, 2007

Building a modern competitive economy

Prime Minister Dr.Ralph Gonsalves, a champion of regional integration, warned students of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus that the region will not be able to build a modern competitive post colonial economy with ramshackle political institutions in its midst.

Addressing the students on the topic ‘The Role of Young People in promoting the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and Regional Integration’ on Sunday, February 4, 2007, as the special guest speaker at the Aston Preston Hall, Dr Gonsalves explained that there is an urgent need to address institutions within the societies, generally fashioned after the British model.{{more}}

“A lot of people don’t like change but they expect things to change…It’s like everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

“You cannot build a modern competitive post colonial economy with a debilitating ethos. We have to change our mindsets,” Dr.Gonsalves added.

The Prime Minister said St. Vincent and the Grenadines is on track for building a modern competitive post colonial economy which is at once national and regional.

Dr. Gonsalves explained that during the colonial economy a large pool of unskilled labour was needed; therefore education was seen as a luxury. However, in the post colonial economy it is no longer like this; education is an integral element in the process.

As Dr.Gonsalves implored the students to study the historical integration of the region, he asked them to pay particular attention to issues pertaining to CARIFTA, NAFTA, as well as other integrations currently taking place in the region.

“You have to study the experiences carefully, reflect on them and get wisdom,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

He also encouraged the students to remain humble as they pursue their quest for knowledge.

“Brightness is a peculiar thing. It can illuminate but it can blind…However bright you become you have to maintain your humility, build your credibility. Once you lose your credibility in this business it is down hill. People don’t take you seriously,” Dr.Gonsalves warned.

Dr.Gonsalves expressed the desire to see more young people getting involved in the integration process. He told the students that already they are beneficiaries of the process but they need to become advocates of the ideology.

Sharing his views on some of the challenges towards deepening the integration process, Dr.Gonsalves said Caribbean nationals have inherited a British intellectual tradition and its tendencies to lean towards change on the basis of doing pilot studies before taking the leap to implement real changes. In this regard there is a need for people to be re-educated and re-sensitized, he said.

He also cited the issue of the region’s “islandness” as a challenge. He said there are people who feel that they are an island unto themselves hence they tend to become insular.

“The question of islandness is one we have to address. We have to get our islandness out of our system…We have to show the best way to overcome poverty, low standards of living, and keep the vagabonds at bay, is to be more closely integrated,” said Dr.Gonsalves.

Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Nigel Harris, in a brief address said Dr.Gonsalves is a graduate that the University of the West Indies takes pleasure in celebrating.

“Dr.Gonsalves is very special to us,” said Professor Harris.

“Not only because he is Prime Minister but because his life is one to celebrate. He is part of the thinkers of our community. This is one who we can throw up to the region,” said Professor Harris, imploring students to emulate the achievements of Dr.Gonsalves.

Professor Harris noted that the UWI will continue to play a lead role in CSME in providing the technical expertise to support the people of the region.