Our Readers' Opinions
July 26, 2011
A Special Period – The Vincentian response

by Samuel Joyles Fri, Jul 22, 2011

For ten years, the citizens of this country have witnessed a fascinating enfolding of developments, the likes of which we have not seen before or after political independence. When the history of this country is written, this era (2001-2011) will certainly be the reference point from which numerous positive developments emerged.{{more}} This period is worthy of mention, not because of its political significance, but for the country’s resilience displayed after major disasters and external socio-economic shocks.

Our country is currently in an enviable position when compared to some of our Caricom neighbours. The empirical evidence indicates that while we are experiencing the effects of the Global Economic Meltdown (GEM), we have not been as severely disadvantaged as some of our sister islands. There have not been any wage freezes or salary cuts. Business enterprises, even in the tourist industry, experienced only minimal setbacks. How did we get to this position? We are here today due to bold, proactive and courageous leadership, amidst harsh economic realities. Our current development trajectory must be attributed to our progressive foreign policy position, which has brought us substantial benefits in relation to important capital projects, as well as immediate relief from natural disasters.

After thirty-one years of political independence, we can stand tall in any international forum, anywhere in the world and speak with authority, because small as we are, we are a force to reckon with. The present Government, under the leadership of Dr. the Honourable Ralph E. Gonsalves, makes its presence felt in every international forum, in an effort to secure opportunities and assistance for this Developing Small Island State (DSIS).

This moment in our development as a nation affords us the opportunity individually, at home and in the Diaspora, to become engaged in a critical retrospective/introspective soul searching exercise. Subsequent to this exercise, some questions must be asked: What have I done in the last ten years to contribute to my country’s development? Have I been a productive employee on the job? Have I demonstrated patriotism by the way I portrayed my country to foreigners? Am I currently involved in any action, overtly or covertly, in my community which could retard the progress of my country?

The Prime Minister’s designation, “special period”, in reference to the present economic climate is very instructive. What makes this period so special? This period is special because of the cascading effects of the Global Economic Meltdown (GEM) on our fragile economy. Consequently, we have to grapple with certain special economic realities. The first major reality is the widespread jobless situation in the United States of America (USA). The USA is home to the largest segment of our Diaspora population. The immediate impact of the disruption of the job market translates into fewer remittances to friends and loved ones here at home.

As a consequence, there is a reduction in the much needed foreign exchange in the economy. The second reality is even more critical, since it affects us from a foreign policy

standpoint. Governments which have pledged to assist with local projects may be forced to cut back, due to their own domestic economic difficulties. This obviously would cause delays and/or revamping of certain local projects. The third reality is the decline in tourist arrivals to our shores. Even when tourists visit, their spending patterns demonstrate strict budgetary discipline. The fourth reality is the decline of foreign direct investment. Investors are sceptical to invest in this unstable economic climate for fear of losing money.

In responding to this Special Period, I offer the following suggestions:

1. Formulate Community-Based Organisations, both locally and in the Diaspora, with the aim of aiding community and national development.

2. Assist in the conservation of energy and supplies in the workplace.

3. Speak positively and truthfully and defend SVG, especially in international forums.

4. Give wholehearted support to Government’s capital projects in every way possible.

5. Pray for the leadership of the country.

We are a special people, called at this special time; we are expected to respond in a responsible manner. The vendors on the streets, farmers in the fields, teachers in the classrooms, public servants, politicians, the church, all Vincentians must “report for work” in this “Special Period.” We cannot behave like the man on a leaking vessel, who sat at one end of the boat where it was dry and laughed at the other man bailing water from his end of the boat. Unable to bail out the boat fast enough by himself, it eventually sank. Both men were left at the mercies of the raging sea. Fellow Vincentians, we are all on this ship called “Hairouna”. Let us lend a hand to keep her sailing in these turbulent economic times. If she sinks, we will all suffer. When she comes through successfully, we will all celebrate. These times are challenging times. The situation might just get worst before it gets better, so we must keep moving forward and stay focused. This is a “Special Period”; we are a Special People; let’s respond in an Extra Special Manner.