State of economy impacted by history
September 27, 2013

State of economy impacted by history

The state of the Vincentian economy today has been impacted by history.{{more}}

This was the synopsis of a panel discussion at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College last Tuesday.

The discussion, “From Columbus to Gonsalves” – A historical perspective of the development of Caribbean societies, with specific reference to SVG as the developments impact the business environment” outlined how the various eras in Vincentian history have shaped the business landscape and ultimately, the Vincentian economy.

Dr Adrian Fraser, historian and one of the four panelists, gave a brief outline of some of the main developments in the economy, from the days of the Caribs to the present day, with a focus on agriculture.

According to Fraser, the economies of the region are often referred to as plantation economies.

The indigenous people, for example, grew cassava for personal consumption, they however exported tobacco to Martinique, he explained.

Sugar was traded primarily with the introduction of slaves, following the entry of the Europeans across the region.

However, according to the historian, the topography of the land did not facilitate a mass production of sugar on St Vincent, unlike Barbados, which had large parcels of flat land, ideal for sugar production.

Fraser further stated that by the time St Vincent became involved in sugar production, it was a generally bad time for sugar.

And by the end of the slavery era, labour became a problem to the former slave owners – to solve this problem, the former slave owners sold off entire estates as opposed to smaller lots, so land became an issue for most of the peasantry.

Eventually however, small settlements would begin to spring up across the country Fraser explained.

At the turn of the 20th century, Fraser explained that the peasants played a significant role in building the economy, which was centred around agriculture.

Lawyer and newly appointed Senator, Jomo Thomas, made a similar case saying that it was important to understand what happened after Columbus arrived in the islands.

“It represented a monumental disaster,” he said.

And although the argument is that Columbus never actually set foot on St Vincent, his presence I the region was enough to impact negatively.

“The British conquest meant that our ancestors lost the lands,” Thomas reasoned.

By the time St Vincent gained adult sufferage in 1951, there were a few Blacks that started to creep into the middle class, but prior to that, the British were a dominant force.

Teacher, Curtis King, brought a different opinion, saying that when we looked at what the region is today, it was evident that there was potential to do well.

He explained that people will say that there are other territories that are smaller than St Vincent, but that they are doing well.

“I want to suggest that we have the potential, but we need to organize ourselves – we need a targeted approach,” King said. (DD)