Our Readers' Opinions
February 3, 2017
Survival of the microstate

As is to be expected, given the tiny size of our country, we follow a very simple development model. Three of its key components are agricultural exports, tourism and remittances. In recent times, at least two of these have been adversely affected by globalization, global warming and diminution in emigration outlets.

In simple terms, globalization implies that goods ought to be produced by those countries that can do so most efficiently and then freely traded. It does not say what is to happen to those nations that cannot produce anything efficiently due to poor resource endowment nor to those countries that are in transition from the production of one type of good to another. In SVG we took an early hit from globalization when we lost much of the protection afforded to us in the banana export market. We protested; but, except for the EU, no one bothered too much, as we are a small insignificant place. The shit only hit the fan when Chlna and India started to displace the US and Europe as manufacturers to the world. It is now accepted that that globalization is not an unmixed blessing and careful attention has to be paid to its adverse effects.

We harbour no doubts about climate change. How could we? We have been living with it for some time now. In Alaska there have been severe landslides as a result of global warming and there are proposals for moving entire towns at a cost of millions. Let us hope it never gets that bad here, for we have neither the millions of dollars nor the space in our tiny mountainous island to do much moving. Indeed, for this reason better endowed countries ought to afford our people more opportunities for emigration. After all, it is the big countries that did much of the pollution though we, too, now have to bear the consequences. The way things are going at the moment, our best bet for emigration would seem to be Canada.

Years ago, our people did not need visas to go to Canada. Far from it, emigration was positively encouraged. Young ladies went as household helps and quickly moved up the ladder.

They then sent for their relatives, many of whom became solid professionals. Today, we must have vlsas to go to Canada. The Mexicans were also required to have visas. Ironically, this is now changing for the Mexicans. The Canadians want more access to the Mexican market and so are granting the Mexicans visa-free entry. Our market is far too tiny to be a bargaining chip in anything. Our case has to rest on other grounds.The impact of globalization and of climate change on our microstate, as well as the importance of remittances in our economy should be part of the case we make. After all, we are only asking the Canadians for a tiny fraction of what France does for Martinique and Guadeloupe, Netherlands does for Curacao and Aruba, and New Zealand for some Pacific islands. How else are tiny states to survive? By selling passports?

Indeed, wherever you look, tiny nations like us, unless they have minerals, rely on the same productive sectors as ourselves. It will not be easy to change our development model.

What we can do, however, is to work in unison to ensure that the model functions as efficiently as possible. Talk of unity in SVG sounds like braying at the moon, but we have to keep hope alive.

Now that the airport is complete, there is no point in our people being divided about its construction. It is done. It can increase the efficiency of our tourist sector no end. It is a magnificent achievement. Its timing has been exquisite. Castro, Chavez and Gaddafi are now dead. Who now would have been our helpers?

Buccament is having difficulties, but so too are some other hotels in the Caribbean.

Baha Mar and a certain Marriot, to mention two. Trials and tribulations have long been part and parcel of the Caribbean tourist industry. Indeed, over 50 years ago, Herman Wouk wrote a book about it, ironically called “Don’t Stop The Carnival.” With many of these projects, it is said that it is the third owner who makes a go of it.

In agriculture, we need to get our crop selection right, use the most efficient means of production and persuade people to go into the sector part-time or full-time.

Apart from the airport, our best prospects are with the energy sector, with all its implications for power generation and transport. We are in with a chance with all the main alternative sources of energy – solar, wind and geothermal. Interestingly enough, the Icelanders, having long made use of the hot water produced by the volcano, are now talking of going to its very heart and producing power from there!!