Our Readers' Opinions
March 2, 2018
Agriculture: A pillar of the economy – 2018

EDITOR: Despite the fact that the happenings of the last few days have nudged me to the conclusion that this year’s Budget session was a fiasco, it was noteworthy to hear from the new Minister of Finance, that agriculture and fishing are to be “pillars” in the economy this year. This seems to be a noteworthy departure from the approach our distinguished administrators had been clearly pursuing over the last dozen years.

It is common knowledge that they pursued a path, which was in effect one of disdain for the farming community. There is the perception and this is prompted by the administrators’ callous indifference to farmers’ interests, that players in the administration had set their hearts on crippling the apparent independent spirit of the farming community. In support of this view, cited are the crippling of the St Vincent Banana Growers Association and the neglect of Government to respond to the threat of Black Sigatoka infestation; they had refused/neglected to act, for up to two years, after they had been properly informed, despite the fact, that they had given an undertaking to address the management of “Pest and Diseases Control”. Directly related to that mismanagement, has been the loss of over $1 billion, which we could have earned from our export of bananas to the UK.

So, it was a shock to hear the new Minister of Finance boldly pronounce that agriculture was going to feature prominently in our Government’s 2018 economic activity. It seems reasonable to say that he has the support of his colleagues in Government in this approach, for even Senator Julian Francis, the Minister of Works, expressed the view that agriculture is important to us.

Mr Francis, on the basis of his utterings, has been perceived as being indifferent to the supporting of the agriculture sector. The neglect of the feeder roads is seen as testimony to this.

Some in the farming community have not been taken in by this declared new approach, however, for there have been quite a few promises fervently proclaimed in the last several years, which have not yet been effected and there have been no explanations given to the farmers who continue to feel the pressure.

It is not at all an easy task for the new, young Minister of Finance to deal with the realities of his “inheritance”: i.e. the finding of a way out of this crisis of credibility, weighted down by a plethora of unfulfilled promises, in an atmosphere where stifling dust clouds are impeding access to justice by socially disadvantaged citizens.

His is indeed an unenviable task!

Leroy Providence