January 29, 2010
Eustace: Not enough emphasis on bananas

Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace has said that not enough emphasis has been placed on bananas in the 2010 Estimates.

“Although I recognize that banana is still our largest single crop export, and the Prime Minister himself has spent a lot of time dealing with the issue, there is very little said about bananas in the Estimates relating to the Ministry of Agriculture.”{{more}}

“It is almost as if bananas don’t exist anymore,” Eustace said, while making his contribution on the budget debate on Tuesday morning.

According to Eustace, the Ministry’s result indicators reported on all other categories of production with little reference to bananas.

“Every one of us knows that Black Sigatoka has been affecting this industry since October of last year. But when you look at the result indicators, the focus is going to be Moko. Black Sigatoka is not even mentioned in the document. I don’t understand that. How are we supposed to take them seriously?”

“Banana dead! That is the only conclusion I could come to.”

Eustace spoke on what he referred to as the ‘almost mindless repetition of the agricultural diversification projects.’

“Just a year ago, the European Union took away from us a grant of $3 million, which was to be used for agricultural diversification. Just imagine that.”

The Opposition Leader also lashed out at the tourism figures, which he said showed that this country had a disastrous year in 2008.

Eustace said that there were declines in all areas of the industry, including cruise ship calls, stay over arrivals, yacht arrivals and same day arrivals.

He also indicated that all major markets: the United States, Canada and Europe, showed a decline in visitors to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“The Government should examine the information and make a determination about the actions to be taken. I wonder what they are doing about it.

“I regard this industry as the most important for the economy. I want to see this industry prosper. I believe that the Minister of Tourism wants to see it prosper, but it is not prospering.”

Eustace said that the projected figures and forecast for the tourism industry this year was not very ambitious.

He asked the reasons for the dismal tourism figures, and also about the performance and impact of the newly formed Tourism Authority.

“The new Tourism Authority should play a major role in promotion, thus increasing the number of visitors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Touching on some other economic sectors, Eustace described the manufacturing sector as weak, the offshore sector in difficulty, and the construction industry, which he said has been pushing growth in the country, though at a fairly good level, was in decline.

“Every time you say decline, it’s like you say a bad word, but that is the reality of the condition.”