Round Table with Oscar
January 24, 2014
Budget 2014

Budget time 2014 comes at a special time for us in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Pulling ourselves together after the damage we suffered at Christmas calls us to develop special measures – A special budget. We expect the budget that goes to Parliament for its “appropriation” may very well be framed as a large solicitation or begging budget for the rehabilitation and reconstruction work we have to do this year.{{more}} However, the budget which we as citizens must appropriate or “own” must be different, funded in our own currency. We know what makes our time special, we have a feeling for the condition of SVG at this time and we need to design a budget for 2014 that takes us in the direction that seems best for us all. What then are the resources that we must pull out from ourselves to rebuild our society at this special time, 2014?

The last week of 2013 revises our estimates for 2014. It must dictate the budget for 2014. Already during the past four weeks our business houses, our charities and our individual persons have contributed to the general relief and rehabilitation budget in material, management, moral and other items. Let us plan the budget for the rest of 2014. Examine these proposals as I open the debate on our capital and recurrent expenditures.


The priority and structure of our investment budget is to expand and distribute social justice as a Vincentian product. How do we produce a penetrating Vincentian justice? Investing in proactive agriculture is one urgent justice project. You know, even during plantation slavery, reinvestment of earnings in agriculture was very small-up to today. Disinvestment or taking away investment from agriculture is the root of today’s structural injustice. The flight of young men and women to cruise ships and to the city, to the hills, to gun justice and their parents to jobs in security firms, and other forms of adjustment result from our concept for agriculture and agribusiness. Government capital investment in agriculture including feeder roads is relatively invisible. To replenish the rivers with justice especially at this time, is to invest in proactive agriculture – a source of renewable incomes, communities, innovation, food supply, and industry inputs- not to mention wellness and wholeness capabilities. What then are our forms, as citizens, of investment in proactive agriculture? Here are a couple of suggestions for social and personal capital investment. Could we get our credit unions to not take up agriculture lands for their building estate projects, but seek other options? In a similar vein, could we seek a strategic partnership between agribusiness co-ops and the co-op/credit union league to research and develop packaging promotional/marketing tools for our health rich agricultural products? Could a similar partnership be engaged to research and develop two green agro-industrial plants – one on the windward and one on the leeward district for national co-op shareholders? One could be for arrowroot, another cocoa or coconut.

At the personal level, we can invest with a vendor/farmer partner a 30% share of our food budget on a monthly basis. Currently we are likely to spend 10% of our food budget on our home grown items! Social justice can have a monetary investment “face,” but it also has a personal relationship side. Let us look and treat agriculture stakeholders with honour and respect. Now if the Government’s budget already has these proactive agriculture items in it’s capital program, it gives us room to go deeper into our proposals. We can produce Vincentian justice by our investment choices as citizens at this special time.


What we put into the recurrent side of our budget is what keeps us operating as running our system at it’s best. At this time of unevenly distributed damage and loss, our recurrent expenditure must be targeted and even handed. I often reflect on an evaluation exercise, assessing who would pass or who would fail the final screening. The judgment was simple: “when I was hungry, you gave me food, …when I was sick, you tended me” and when I was a nobody or roofless you still cared for me. At this time, nobody must get less than others because of how we see them. Our recurrent budget is for our neighbours, unconditionally. And that is unequivocal word from Jesus in Matthew 25 v 45. Compassion, especially now, cannot be limited to those whom we know, those in our church, those in our party, those from our community. 2014 recurrent compassion is called to find a structure that can use this social and spiritual resource to relieve hurt, restructure lives and replenish the material integrity and productive emotional forces in our nation.

The political party dominion which the Government calls us to accept and respect in this 2014 recovery cannot be accepted unless we disrespect the embracing ethics of compassion, unless we disremember or idolize the ugly experiences of 2010/2011. The 2014 budget must be special as love is special and enables justice to flow like a river in flood.{Amos 5 v 24} . The trough system brought us floods, now we must return the compliment.