Round Table with Oscar
February 4, 2014
Arise, Statesmen!

Recovery and Reconstruction after the Christmas trough system is a large and serious business and it will take some years for us to reach a point where we can be satisfied. This means that all of us must make up our minds to share the costs, to mobilize our compassion and raise our critical consciousness and courage to shape a truly noble national project for harmony and wholeness in SVG.{{more}}

In this Round Table #4 of 2014, let us do our bit to open up the conversation with more clarity and focus on some principles for a parliamentary bill to deal with the urgent 2014 recovery and reconstruction programme. Our starting point is this. This budget is to have a framework that both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition agree on. It is to be designed and drawn up by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and budget team. It is to include citizen input. Can we accept this starting point?


Prime Minister Gonsalves and Opposition Leader Eustace are both elected in national and party polls. They hold responsible positions and in this process of preparing the budget, we ask them to agree to do four (4) things. These four things constitute a very broad framework for preparing the document.

I. The two leaders must agree that the Christmas 2013 trough system had a devastating impact on us in SVG and needs an appropriation bill that will start the recovery and reconstruction in a rational and equitable manner.

II. The two leaders must receive, study and discuss the assessments of damage and loss, then come to a general agreement on the size and depth of our disaster problem and its readiness.

III. The two leaders must put together and support the broadest possible platform for securing financing and other resources. One pool of resources for one task of recovery.

IV. The two leaders must agree on the principles for selecting priority projects in the areas of human need, infrastructure repair, economic recovery, solidarity, et al.

Now, when we approach the supplementary budget in this way, we are heading in the direction of shared and effective recovery. Note that we are not asking the two sides to prepare the budget but only importantly to agree that we need this budget; to agree on the size of our need, to agree to make one appeal for support – locally and overseas – and to agree on a methodology, a principled way to choose the urgent projects. When they present this agreement to us, a quiet joy will surround the nation and we will look forward to the actual parliamentary meeting with hope and deepened commitment to the work of caring and clarifying.


As we examine the four things we want our leaders to agree on, we can see that they may be considering the first one. Take a look at the second one – sharing the information about damage. It seems to me that the damage data the Government receives from its officials and from regional and international observers should be shared with the Opposition. The huge information gathering capacity that the Government has, comes from taxpayers’ contribution. That information is not a national security risk and citizens, especially the parliamentary opposition must have access to it as a matter of course, not from ministerial peer conferences, nor as a result of request. How else can they be of service to the nation? When these damage assessments and costs are shared with the Opposition, it gives us more confidence in the Government and in the Opposition’s statements and we grow in depth as citizens. We must insist on a respectable treatment of the Opposition in this matter of recovery and reconstruction. Our country needs us to speak and call for principles of statesmen/stateswomen conduct from our leaders, especially now.

Even as we give our best to the recovery and reconstruction from the storm damage, it has become obvious that we need a relief and reconstruction in our national political life. The framework agreement for preparing March 2014 supplementary budget is one but of therapy for healing and rehabilitation of our politics. We challenge Dr Gonsalves and Mr Eustace to take off their ‘Tarzan King of the Apes’ and ‘Suffering Servant’ masks respectively and rise to become militant and distinguished Vincentian statesmen. As we face this moment of hurt and brokenness Dr Gonsalves, do not rub our faces in the dung of crass electioneering and virtual disarray as you are doing now. Rise Sir Ralph and Mr Eustace, Tarzan in reverse is not for you. Do not show us Tarzan’s evils; call him up to the top of your tree. To you both let this March budget serve as a crossroad when the best welfare of our nation brings out the best, the astute statesmen in you.

A Blessed 2014 to you, yours and all of us.