Our Readers' Opinions
May 13, 2005
Public awareness and the education revolution

EDITOR The recent IMF Statement on SVG’s economy highlights positive signs. According to the IMF: “Growth has been driven by sustained activity in the construction sector, a rebound in agricultural production and a favourable external environment, which has revived tourism.”

The IMF report quickly goes on to underline several issues. It says: “However,vulnerabilities remain given the country’s dependence in imported oil, the dismantling of trade preferences in bananas and the frequency of natural disasters.” {{more}}

Public consciousness and action around these development issues and challenges seem to lag behind their existence.

These issues, while they are major national problems, are also opportunities for the government, civil society, ULP and NDP, and the private sector to genuinely promote national unity, economic growth, and social and economic justice.

For SVG to move forward, Vincentians must become fully aware of these challenges and take conscious action in a unified way to overcome them. This challenge of public awareness around development issues is one that the “education revolution” must address.

What concerns me is our readiness to tackle these issues highlighted by the IMF. While we have put several things in place to strengthen the economy, there is more we could do. In order to prevent or cope with the negative consequences of these issues and transform the economy, a focused approach is necessary. The IMF recommends several approaches to reduce the fallout: “… more efforts to enhance regional co-operation; expanding remittance and investment flows from St.Vincent and the Grenadines’ large overseas population; strengthening the investment climate; and addressing structural change in the economy.”

Before the IMF made their statements and recommendations, the government had been aiming to stimulate economic and social development. For example, the government has created mechanisms, policies and plans such as the poverty-reduction strategy developed by the National Economic and Social Development Council; the Social Contract; the counter-cyclical fiscal policy and a National Emergency Response Plan. All these initiatives are essential, but they are not enough.

These IMF recommendations and the government’s policies require meaningful public awareness and action. The IMF did not call for this to be a major strategic approach to resolve and manage these problems, but in a country like ours it is a necessity.

The issues mentioned in the IMF report are well known by the policy makers. But there are many citizens in the wider Vincentian public who have many questions about them, and they do not have a functional understanding of these issues that greatly impact on their lives. This is why national consensus on the solutions to these problems is yet to be fully realized.

Urgently needed is a genuine grassroots campaign to raise the awareness of the public, which includes all Vincentians at home and abroad. The situation cries out for more political and social literacy, energy literacy regarding electricity consumption and expenditures, economic development, literacy and natural disaster reduction literacy.

Moreover, we could do more to specifically emphasize public awareness about the unified and national solutions to these issues highlighted by the IMF, especially because it is going to take the involvement of all Vincentians to satisfactorily address these problems.

The enormity of these issues, including their solutions, requires resolute public consciousness and action. In this connection, the “education revolution” has a major role to perform.

Maxwell Haywood