R. Rose
May 9, 2008
Food, prices and crime require unified efforts

Prime Minister Gonsalves may engage in his semantics about whether there is indeed a food “crisis” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, haggling about the definition of a crisis and whether the government is advancing solutions to the problems. But there is no doubt at all that we have serious problems in getting access to food, not because of availability but rather affordability. Similarly, sky-rocketing fuel prices, driven by the greed of the multinational oil giants and speculators, are having a spin-off effect on a whole range of prices, our electricity bills in particular.{{more}} Adding to our woes is that of our personal security, given the burgeoning crime scene, especially the unabated spate of murders.

These are enough to drive anyone stone mad. Maybe the fact that the same problems are being encountered by the rest of the global village is a sobering thought since, with the availability of modern communication technology, no one can any longer claim ignorance of the global spread of these effects. But that is no excuse for not paying serious attention to them. The fact that your neighbour is suffering as much as you may bring small comfort, but it will not cure your ailment.

Yet it does not appear that as a people we are prepared to try to do something positive about this situation, making it a national priority above all else. Take our political parties for instance. One in government is busy boasting about its (admittedly positive) steps in tackling the problems (not “crisis”), we are reminded. The other is equally busy with laying blame at the feet of the government and raising the flag of sexual morality.

Neither seems to really recognize the depth of the problems and to conclude that whether NDP or ULP, they can only be solved or at least substantially alleviated by a national approach. No matter what your political persuasion or that of the vendor, the breadfruit price will still be $4.00 and rice rationed. Political divisions and partisanship cannot help in our predicament. While we argue over whether Ralph should step down or whether the ULP is doing good, can’t we lift ourselves above those relatively minor matters to collectively address problems facing us all?

For a time at least, both parties co-operated on constitutional reform. Is it too much to ask them to do the same on food, prices and crime? The much-vaunted Food Plan, the role of Food City in keeping down consumer prices and the Pan Against Crime initiative are all laudable, but limited in nature. Given the nature and scope of the crisis (my words, this time), it calls for NATIONAL MOBILISATION of our people, a serious process of conscientization, and inspiring us all to make the necessary efforts and sacrifices to boost production, cut out waste, reduce costs and limit spending.

It is one thing to talk of boosting food production and “eating what we grow.” The nature of internal trade, our culinary tastes (real or imagined), our attitude towards consumerism, are all important factors to be taken into consideration. There is a Ministry of National Mobilisation. Does it consider these are tasks within its ambit? Is it prepared or equipped to lead the nation to deal with these critical issues facing us? It is one thing to mobilize for a mass rally, another to rally a nation in crisis. Yet, if we are to be successful in these vital tasks, we have to have Eduardo Lynch singing on the same hymn sheet (not a partisan one, mind you) as Burns Bonadie. The Food Plan must be as welcome by, and derivative of the NDP as of the ULP. It must be embraced by the popular organizations of the working people and have the support of the Chamber of Commerce. Is this taking place?

Hungry people can become angry people, but also foolish ones at that. No one is being asked to mask political differences, but on food, cost of living and crime, we are all in the same boat. We must either paddle together or sink.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.