TAIPEI, Taiwan:- 2010 will be a challenging but hopeful year for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) as the nation tries to stabilize its, economy, respond to internal and external challenges, and possibly elect a new government.
Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told citizens this week that his optimism comes from the prospect of an improved economy internationally, SVG’s natural resources, his government’s policies, and the blessings of God.
He called on citizens to work harder, smarter and more productively; care for their families and friends; stay away from crime; resist the temptations of greed; cease senseless bickering; be honest in words and deeds; act for love of country; and, walk well with Almighty God.
“Together, we shall provide our nation with further excellent governance,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said notwithstanding the global recession since September 2008, SVG has been able “to hold things together, keep our heads above water, make progressive strides in vital areas, and solidify the basis for even more profound and self-sustaining advances”.
Unlike in several other Caribbean nations, Gonsalves said, workers in SVG have kept their jobs, with increased employment “in some services”. His government has also paid on time state employees, pensioners, and public assistance recipients.
He also spoke of the $EC30M (US$11.11M) “stimulus package” at Independence in October, then announced as a “gift to the nation”, including EC$10M (US$3.7M) in direct payments to 30,000 students and 11,000 elderly persons.
Important private sector investments have continued in tourism, information technology services, wholesale, retail, and transportation.
Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party (ULP) will this year seek a third consecutive term in office, said he would detail “the priorities and other endeavours” of his government for the year in his Budget address on Jan 25. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)
Meanwhile, the opposition New Democratic Party this week announced that it would stage protest action throughout the budget exercise.
“The picket action will be used to highlight the major issues confronting the nation, chief among which is the state of the voter’s list ahead of elections which are constitutionally due to take place this year, the purported money transaction of more than US$1 million involving ULP executive members and members of their family and the state of our nation’s economy,” NDP Public Relations Officer and candidate Vynnette A. Frederick said in a media release.
Gonsalves mentioned some of “the major matters” on which his administration will concentrate this year.
Among these, he spoke of the International Airport Project, the Cross-Country Road Project, the Modern Medical Complex at Georgetown, a study for the relocation of the country’s main hospital, and preparatory work for a project to build a new city or an extension of capital Kingstown at the E.T. Joshua Airport in St. Vincent.
Gonsalves said his administration would also focus on stabilising the country’s financial system, including the indigenous banking and insurance sectors.
SVG had established diplomatic relations with 12 countries in the past 19 months and Gonsalves said the nation’s “central challenges arise from the contradictions inherent in our many-sided relationship with the developed countries overseas”.
He summarised these challenges as the adverse consequences of the global recession, “the sell-out of banana farmers by Europe in league with the Americans”, the external pressure on the international financial services sector, climate change, terrorism, national security; and “the rapacious nature of advanced monopoly capitalism internationally”.
“Accordingly, this context and the actual texture of our nation’s foreign relations are vital public policy considerations. We proclaim ourselves to be friends of all and satellites of none in this epoch of modern globalisation,” he said.
This year, Vincentians can also expect “further deepening of the regional integration movement particularly between the member-countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS)”.
“I am very hopeful that 2010 would bring our nation, collectively, and our people, individually, continued progress, peace and prosperity,” Gonsalves said. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)