Our Readers' Opinions
September 22, 2006

It is madness to build international airport

EDITOR: In a Poverty Assessment report carried out for the Caribbean Development Bank about SVG, based on reported expenditures in respect of food and non-food items, it was found that 30.6 percent of households and 37.5 percent of the population were poor.

A slightly higher percentage of the rural population was poor as compared to the urban population – 38.7 per cent vs. 35.4 per cent. The households that were estimated to be poor displayed lower levels of education and training, had more children, were larger, lived in poorer quality accommodation, had few earners and were more subject to unemployment among earners.{{more}}

There were significant gender differences across the entire country, in the poorest as well as in the richest quarter. In all quarters, the participation rates for women were lower than that for men. This is indicative of an underlying gender segmentation, in which the participation of women is limited to certain sectors.

In respect of the gender of the heads of poorer households, 56 per cent of all the heads across the country was male, although female headship was higher than male headship in the poorest quarter of households.

Women are 70per cent of the world’s poor and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on 1 dollar a day or less are women. Worldwide, women earn on average slightly more than 50per cent of what men earn.

Empowering women is a critical factor in freeing women in SVG who are caught in the cycle of poverty and hunger. Providing women with access to economic and educational opportunities, as well as the autonomy needed to take advantage of such opportunities, is key in SVG to poverty eradication.

The provision of credit, especially micro-credit, is a very effective and successful strategy for poverty eradication. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Poverty Report 1998, at present some 10 million women around the world are reached by systems of small loans.

Households headed by women often lack representation on local decision-making bodies that distribute resources. Development projects in SVG should focus on raising the income of women in female-headed households, and support them to gain a voice in the community.

Government policy should guarantee a basic income for poor families, especially female-headed poor families. The ULP government should be supporting women’s small business activities in SVG, and couple this with training in such subjects as business management and bookkeeping to empower women. There needs to be better access to child-care and early education for women of female-headed households and greater support to better their education.

The ULP government is not doing enough for female-headed poor households and equality for women in general. This is clearly illustrated by the lack of women on public statutory boards in SVG and the lack of involvement allowed of females of female-headed poor households in the research and decision-making about policies to alleviate the problems of female-headed households.

The government priorities are very wrong. It is simply madness for the ULP to embark upon building a new airport when all the funds are not available and other issues are more pressing. We already see a less than half-finished new stadium – the airport will be another symbol of failed ULP ideas. We do not need a half-finished airport, we need poverty eradication.

What use to poor women is the ability to fly around the world when some can barely put food on the table.

Chris Ward