December 7, 2007
George: Nathaniel Williams left void in Ministry of Trade

When senior civil servant Nathaniel Williams was transferred from the Ministry of Trade, this country was placed in a less than favourable position in terms of the negotiations for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe.{{more}} This is the view of the President of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce Jerry George, who publicly voiced his criticism of the transfer of the former Trade Officer to the Ministry of the Public Service.

“We diluted the resources that we have to go out there and negotiate on our part, and the private sector should have spoken up and said that must not happen,” said George.

He said when negotiations fail and are not implemented, it is the private sector that loses money, resulting in the failure of businesses.

Williams was transferred on June 25, 2007, to act as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Rural Transformation, Information, the Public Service and Ecclesiastical Affairs. It was announced then that he was strategically moved to complete negotiations in the reclassification exercise with public servants.

George disclosed that as the end of this year approaches, St.Vincent and the Grenadines will be called upon to sign an economic partnership agreement with Europe, which must be seen as a wakeup call for the private sector.

“In this process of negotiating an economic partnership with the European Union, the shortcomings of the region are coming to the fore. They are coming to the microscope and they are not pretty.

“In this region, over the last twenty five years, there has not been one single development that has propelled the development of this region that we stand out in the world for. Not in economics, not in law, not in entrepreneurship, not in invention. In fact, this region’s last claim to an invention was just after the second World War when Trinidad and Tobago invented the steel pan,” said George.

Meanwhile, George is calling on the private sector to revive the annual national exhibition in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, and noted that there currently exists a huge void between academic education and practical skills.

“People are educated academically, but you take them to the workplace and they cannot perform. We the private sector must fill that void. There is opportunity, there is money in that void,” said George.

He said it is activities such as a national exhibition that challenge young people, bringing out the best in their talents.

“We take these events and we play them down. It is in such activities that people are challenged and encouraged to expose new skills, new talents, new abilities, and these give rise to new business opportunities. But you know what? We’ve just done away with the National Exhibition,” George emphasized..

Addressing members of the private sector at a business luncheon on Tuesday at the New Montrose Hotel, George said the business sector must begin paying attention to supporting and building institutions that excel at teaching skills.

“We have boasted of more persons attaining higher level education. We have boasted of more people having access to education, more qualified persons, but we are getting less output,” George lamented.

He said that something is wrong and the private sector needs to pay attention to it. (HN)