Living abroad is the result of intertwining choices and events that impact our lives since our youth. At least, this is the case of most of us who find ourselves in North America, England or the Caribbean.
The belief is that migration would lead to a better life – to job positions that match our training, experience and career ambitions, a higher income, better homes, better lifestyle choices, better healthcare and so on. We all seek to live a life more fulfilling abroad, than back in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Yet, success is measured, constrained by the reality of living in “another man’s country”. The grass is not always greener and you have to work especially hard to get what you seek to amass.
From those abroad:
what they say
The saving grace is not only our skills and work ethic, but also the prevailing sense of entitlement to a stake in our native land – our Vincy passport, the piece of land that a grandmother willed to us, our family and friends, our old neighborhood, our alma mater. We put our money where our heart is, by regularly sending home cash to cover house repairs and insurance, our mother’s medical and utility bills, schooling for the children still at home and other expenses.
Together, we send quite a few million dollars to St Vincent and the Grenadines every year. Most of these hard currency funds filter through the economy relatively quickly and touch the lives of many. On top of all this, we send tens of thousands of barrels to loved ones, especially at the time of Christmas.
Dare we say, our Vincentian economy would struggle immensely without receiving the funds sent home by our nationals living and working abroad.
From those at home: what they say
No numerical comparison of the relative quality of life in St Vincent and the Grenadines and say, New York or London is easily made.
However, there have been developments in our country that offer greater benefit to those who live abroad, cause for strengthening the links – through remittances, sharing skills and ideas, visiting more often and even building homes and businesses.
Argyle International Airport speaks for itself. It is a game-changer that has already made life in St Vincent and the Grenadines so much easier, so much better.
It is to be expected that AIA will encounter operational and financial challenges in the first five – seven years since being commissioned, but it is there and it is fulfilling its purpose. Strides are being made.
Further, we continue the progression of building our tourism plant – room stock, leisure facilities and an overall culture of service to visitors and nationals alike.
A new and major seaport facility, coupled with economic programmes that will bring greater throughput of two-way cargo, will be a reality in a few short years. This will be complemented by an anticipated increase in foreign direct investment, the development of the old ET Joshua airport as a specially designed commercial and residential zone.
There are other significant transformative projects soon to leap off the drawing boards.
In terms of our per capita income, St Vincent has been ranked at, or near, the bottom of the OECS for a long time. Yet, there are indicators which show that the physical quality of life is picking up – better health, better education access, new sporting facilities and leisure centres, fisheries harvesting and processing facilities, hotels to be built and more.
All this is taking place while the government has been able to maintain a very good debt to GDP ratio. We can pay our bills.
They also say
This is not to say that all is rosy at home. There is a need for more well-paying jobs. In fact, unemployment is still quite high. The spike in the cost of living has made life even tougher for those without a regular job.
The plans to improve the nation’s road network has been quite slow in getting off the ground, despite the exhortations by Government leaders.
The murder rate is worrisome and it is a national problem that requires all of us to see something, say something and do something.
Some will stay and some will leave
There will always be young Vincentians seeking better fortunes abroad, no matter the job opportunities and lifestyle options at home. We will have nurses and British army recruits heading to England and staying there, after securing citizenship. There is also a demand for computer-trained young men and women as well as for truck drivers, auto mechanics and others trained in a wide range of disciplines. Some will leave. This is to be expected. What we need to do,is to keep everyone linked for the sake of a common cause – SVG.
Linking Up – Those of us abroad and Those of us at home
Those of us abroad are as important to sweet SVG as those of us at home. This brings me around to saying, that we sometimes take the Vincentian Diaspora for granted. There is so much more that can be done by a vibrant Diaspora Unit, working in tandem with our excellent High Commissioner and consuls general, so as to reinforce our bonds as well as to link health, social and economic programmes, all
in the interest of our homeland.