Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has chided developed nations for not fulfilling their pledges to poorer nations. (File photo)

ST. VINCENT: – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has told the United Nation (UN) that St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the 2015 target date.

He, however, told the international organization that the developed world has provided less than half of the development assistance that it pledged to developing nation.

World leaders are meeting in New York this week to take stock of the progress made so far towards the eight MDGs.

The MDGs include slashing poverty, combating disease, fighting hunger, protecting the environment and boosting education – and to accelerate progress to reach the Goals by their 2015 target date.

Gonsalves told the High Level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs on Wednesday, Sept. 22, that SVG “has made tremendous strides in achieving many of the MDGs”.

“Indeed, even in the face of an increasingly difficult international economic environment, we have achieved many of the MDGs far ahead of schedule,” said Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party came to office in March 2001 and was re-elected in December 2005.

He said SVG has over the past 10 years reduced extreme poverty from 26 per cent to 2.9 per cent, exceeding the UN’s target of reducing by half those persons who live in extreme poverty. (Go to the homepage to subscribe to I Witness-News)

Gonsalves, however, said “poverty, more broadly defined, remains a stubborn and vexing challenge” in SVG.

“We have reduced non-indigent poverty by one-fifth in the past decade, but 30 per cent of our population continues to struggle with less extreme forms of poverty,” he said.

He further said the multi-island nation of 110, 000 people has exceeded the UN’s goal of universal primary education, having achieved universal secondary education – improving access from 39 per cent to 100 per cent in just five years.

Gonsalves said that by 2015, SVG will have achieved universal access to primary, secondary and early childhood education.

“Our ongoing “Education Revolution” remains the cornerstone of my government’s people-centred development policy,” he said.

Gonsalves told world leaders that his health ministry has reduced under-five child mortality by almost half, and now approaches developed world standards.

He said HIV in SVG “has stabilized”, adding that the country hopes that it will “begin to claim measurable success in reversing its prevalence in the coming years”.

Access to pipe-borne water has increased from 70 per cent to over 98 per cent, Internet connectivity has tripled (to about 10,000), and there are now more active mobile phone subscriptions than citizens, Gonsalves said.

He however told the UN that “despite these tremendous developmental strides”, the collapse of the world economy, climate change, inequitable trade regimes, and the impact of transnational crime, “all threaten our fragile gains”.

The eight Millennium Development Goals.

He said that for SVG, the most woefully unmet MDG is Goal 8, which speaks of “A global partnership for development”.

“While developing countries continue their heroic struggle to advance in an increasingly difficult economic environment, many of our development partners have replaced their firm and measurable commitments of assistance with platitudes and empty rhetoric,” Gonsalves said.

He said the UN has reported that developed world has provided less than half of the development assistance that it pledged to deliver. (Follow I Witness-News on Facebook)

The developing world received $120 billion in 2009, far short of the $300 billion that was pledged and the Gleneagles commitments to Africa are $20 billion short,” Gonsalves said.

“The Official Development Assistance pledge of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income remains a cruelly unfulfilled promise for all but a few countries,” said Gonsalves, who is also SVG’s Minister of Finance.

“The limited trickle of available assistance is unreliable, unevenly distributed and heavily influenced by political, rather than developmental, considerations. The financial crisis and the failed Doha Development Round belie the Goal 8 pledge to ‘[d]evelop . . . an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system.’ From the perspective of the small, heavily indebted states of CARICOM [the Caribbean Community], the Goal 8 commitment to debt relief rings similarly hollow,” Gonsalves said.

He said that the developing world “remains mired in a situation that is not of our making”, adding that SVG is blameless in causing climate change, the global financial crisis and crises in food and fuel prices.

The nations “culpable for these crises unacceptably cite the very calamities that they created as the basis upon which they can avoid their commitments to developing countries,” Gonsalves said.

“They resort to thinly disguised code words like ‘aid effectiveness’ and ‘governance structures’ to mask their failings to meet their own assistance targets.

“Somehow, we are expected to soldier on, with less assistance than promised, and in an international environment that is hostile to development, while the creators of the crises and the deliverers of empty promises often look askance at out developmental needs,” Gonsalves said.

“… For the next five years, Goal 8 must be the engine of further development, and the fulcrum by which we leverage our own national and regional best practices. The difference between achievement of the MDGs and failure is the difference between real commitments and empty promises; between responsibility and avoidance.

“… A renewed global partnership to development, evidenced by measureable and demonstrable efforts to honour past commitments, is the only sure way that we can collectively attain meaningful and sustainable global development,” he added.

Continuing his drive to achieve the MDGs, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also on Wednesday rallied his “superheroes,” a group of eminent personalities he appointed to boost the effort to slash hunger, poverty, disease and lack of access to education by 2015.

Ban had earlier this week told developed nation not to use the global financial crisis as an excuse not to meet their commitments to the developing world