Our Readers' Opinions
August 20, 2004

No World Cup matches

by C.I. Martin

Apart from Dominica which did not apply, St. Vincent is the only independent state in the Eastern Caribbean not to have been selected as a venue for a World Cup match.
Being a venue may well turn out to be an expensive proposition for those who are, but that is beside the point. {{more}} Our failure to be selected is a clear indication that we are not quite on par with the other islands.
Since coming to office the Unity Labour Party Government has dealt with many issues with considerable success. These include housing, secondary school expansion, agricultural diversification, investment promotion, road rehabilitation, prison reform, post office reorganisation and garbage disposal. They have done so while maintaining a surplus on the recurrent budget and with only modest additions to the public debt. This makes their achievement all the more remarkable. It is obvious, however, there still remains a mountain to be climbed.
St. Vincent lags behind the other member states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). Income per head in our island is about one third that of Antigua, Anguilla and Montserrat. It is about half that of St. Kitts. The other islands; St. Lucia, Grenada and Dominica are also ahead but not by as much.
In trying to explain the disparity in incomes among the countries comprising the OECS, one needs to look at what is today seen as the engines of growth for small island economies. The emphasis is definitely on services, in particular, on tourism and export education. For instance, St. Kitts has a 500-room hotel, three offshore medical schools, an offshore vet school and is soon to get an offshore nursing school. Grenada has several large hotels and a university.
St. Vincent’s inability to attract more of these types of enterprise is in a large part due to its poor communication links with the rest of the world. It can hardly be coincidence that the two poorest islands, Dominica and St. Vincent, are also the only ones without a jet airport. This deficiency also accounts for our failure to become a World Cup venue. There can be no other explanation for it as, with the exception of Antigua, we have the best cricketing credentials in the OECS.
Thirty years ago our Government asked the British to assist with airport development. They argued that there was no point in all the islands having jet airports. There should simply be a regional hub with feeder airlines. Since then Grenada, St. Lucia and St. Kitts have all got jet airports. The truth is that up to a few years ago, a
simple airstrip was considered
adequate, now the goal posts have been moved and the minimum acceptable is a jet airport.
Unsurprisingly, the Government of St. Vincent has decided that it has little alternative but to build a jet airport at Argyle. It will not be easy to raise the funds. No such airport has ever been built in the OECS on the basis of projections showing financial viability. They have come through wars and revolution. In the case of St. Kitts, it was because of a couple of stubborn politicians.
The St. Kitts/Nevis case is a
very interesting one. That state
is in every respect smaller than
St. Vincent.
Yet St. Kitts/Nevis has a Public Debt of $1165 million which is almost twice that of St Vincent’s $695 million. St. Kitts, however, has a jet airport and a large hotel to show for its debt, St. Vincent has only Ottley Hall. It all goes to show that what you spend it on is just as important as how much you borrow.