The external examination “season” is almost at a close. Despite the trials and tribulations of the last two years, our young people have acquitted themselves quite well.
I thought that I could use this opportunity to grade the Government on its last year’s performance, much akin to the CSEC and CAPE. Space does not allow a comprehensive assessment, so brevity is the order of the day.
TOURISM & CULTURE
I can comment on the excellent work done behind the scenes to develop and expand our hotel room capacity as well as to have more planes landing at AIA. I won’t hold the Government responsible for the very slow pace of both the Royal Mills and Black Sands projects, but I expect that they will continue their due diligence work and force the issue. I would also like the Ministry of Tourism to present to the nation, its marketing plans for 2023, and how we will raise our appeal and attract more visitors.
Under the stewardship of Minister James, Vincy Mas has had a successful return. Much more is to be done in Culture but I accept that Covid stymied intended programmes. Still, I give the Government the following grade for Tourism & Culture.
TRANSPORT & WORKS
Despite the work done in capital projects such as Sea Defense on the Windward coast, construction of new homes for persons in North Windward and general restorative work in the Red zone, despite the transfer of homes from Rose Place to Lowmans Bay, the Ministry has some severe performance weaknesses that pulled down its grade. The much-vaunted plans for improving the national road network have not come to pass. In fact, many of our secondary roads have gotten worse. Bequia is in a horrible state. It has been a tough year over-all.
AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, ETC.
Leadership is quite pivotal in these areas of production. Purpose, Innovation and a ‘let’s get things done’ mentality seem to have been a hallmark of the person at the helm. Minister Caesar has led his team in following up and executing several important initiatives linked to both agricultural product expansion and shell-fish harvesting. While I don’t have the benefit of the production numbers, you can’t chastise the Ministry, especially when a significant portion of the agriculture belt was on lock-down. North Leeward may not agree.
The Health Ministry perhaps had more challenges than any other during 2021 and 2022. They excelled in the area of Public Health management but still have chronic pains in the area of hospital administration, general patient care and over-all service delivery. There is still a paucity of critical drugs. Nurses have fled for perceived greener pastures. Despite Minister Prince’s gallant efforts, the heroic sacrifices of Drs Keizer-Beache and Duncan and others, the contributions of the World Paediatric Project, etc we still have to factor in the unabated bureaucratic bungling and general disenchantment among its professionals.
The Ministry of Education continues to do very good work. We don’t sing its praises enough and this is because we don’t hear its ministerial leaders speak enough. We also have many very dedicated teachers who don’t receive sufficient accolades. Credit should be given to PM Gonsalves who has done herculean work in getting so many more students enrolled in tertiary institutions around the world. By the way, the Education Revolution needs to be reviewed, revamped and tailored a bit more towards our evolving development needs.
Despite a drop in tax revenue and so much recessionary pressure, the bills are paid, initiatives such as PRYME and VEEP have been established, Invest SVG continues to do good work, no lay-offs of salaried workers (not including those who opted out from taking the jab), and I add, great representation to international financial institutions and donor countries. Over-all, the impression of good financial management prevails, despite the condition of the roads and the several poorly maintained facilities as well as a notorious reputation for late payments to contractors who need their money badly.
Our murder rate is high. Bringing the perpetrators to justice, is fair at best. We can’t seem to do anything about drug trafficking or about the gangs and inter-gang violence. Behind the scenes, a lot of good work is still being done by those responsible for law enforcement. Still, we have a lot more work to do. A revolution in national security is required (not the violent kind).
A lot of good work has been done in how we relate to countries across the globe. We hear the Prime Minister speak on the subject from time to time and while he has led with a high degree of proficiency, we also have to acknowledge the good work behind the scenes – by his new minister Keisal Peters, the entire team at home in the ministry and those dedicated public servants in New York, Washington, London, Toronto, Tai Pei, Havana, and in Caracas.
PUBLIC SERVICE & SPORTS, SOCIAL WELFARE, ECCLESIASTIC AFFAIRS, TECHNOLOGY, ENERGY, PORTS, GRENADINES AFFAIRS,
I simply don’t know enough about the quality of work done in these ministries and the associated portfolios, to make a fair assessment. I reserve judgement.