by Sehon Marshall
Press, Secretary, Office of the Prime Minister
Recently, the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and some of the leaderships of two public sector unions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been pedalling the untruth — the BIG LIE — that from the onset of COVID-19 in the year 2020, the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government mishandled the pandemic in social and economic terms.
One critical indicator of the government’s handling of the pandemic relates to economic performance measured by the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during the first year of COVID (the year 2020). The relevant data from the authoritative United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC) was published in its Preliminary Overview of the Economics of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2021.
On page 128 of that publication there is a Table A1.2 under the heading “Latin America and the Caribbean Annual Growth Rates In Gross Domestic Product (Constant Prices)”. This Table lists the Caribbean countries and their growth rates as follows:
|GDP Growth Rate
In Year 2020
|Antigua and Barbuda||-20.2%|
|St. Kitts and Nevis||-14.4|
|Trinidad and Tobago||-6.8|
The data above show that tourism economies such as Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, and St. Lucia were badly hit. The data also show that countries with relatively small tourism sectors such as Belize, Dominica, and Suriname were also badly hit. More diversified economies like Jamaica and Grenada were also badly hit. The energy (oil and natural gas) economy of Trinidad and Tobago also recorded substantial negative growth. Only Guyana, with its new-found oil production and export, grew, and did so at a huge rate (43.5 percent). St. Vincent and the Grenadines accorded negative growth but relatively much smaller (-3.3 percent) than in the case of the other CARICOM countries. And St. Vincent and the Grenadines does not sell passport and citizenship!
Incidentally, all Latin American countries recorded negative economic growth rates in 2020, ranging from a low of -0.6 percent in the case of Paraguay to -17.9 percent in the case of Panama. The Latin American “economic giants” recorded negative growth rates as follows: Argentina (-9.9 percent); Brazil (-3.9 percent); Chile (-5.8 percent); Colombia (-6.8 percent); and Mexico (-8.2 percent).
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the ULP did not follow the advice of the NDP to impose “draconian Chinese measures”. Instead, the ULP government kept the country open with sensibly targeted restrictions. Moreover, the ULP government’s socio-economic and health policies ensured that the wheels of the economy kept turning as best as practicable in the circumstances.
Similarly, the government also acted prudently and enterprisingly in 2021 in the year of COVID, volcanic eruptions, Hurricane Elsa, and increasing global turmoil. In 2021, the GDP growth outturn was positive at 1.3 percent because of a relatively productive second half of the year; the first half with the volcanic eruptions had an annualised prediction of minus 6 percent. Thankfully, the second half of the year improved matters.
Let us stick to the facts and not the NDP lies!