Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace. (File photo)

ST. VINCENT: – Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace has bemoaned this country’s removal from the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), saying “That is a disgrace to this country.”

This year’s HDI is a composite national measure of health, education and income for 169 countries.

It proposes that national development should be measured not just by economic growth, but also by health and education achievement.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) was among 14 countries, including six Caribbean nations dropped from the HDI “due to a lack of internationally compiled and verified data,” according the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Antigua and Barbuda, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts/Nevis, and Saint Lucia have also been dropped from the list.

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“Annual changes in national HDI rankings don’t tell us much about the reality of development, which is inherently a long-term process,” said Jeni Klugman, lead author of the report.

However, Eustace, a former prime minister, said he felt “ashamed, as a Vincentian”.

He told supporters of his New Democratic Party (NDP) during a campaign rally in Kingstown on Wednesday, Nov. 10 that the list is a “very important publication”.

When the NDP, which has been in opposition for the past ten year, was in office SVG ranked number 73 among over 170 nations, Eustace said.

He said that under Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who came to office in 2001, SVG’s ranking declined to 91 and 92.

(Read: St. Vincent ranks 91 in human development index)

He said Gonsalves told the United Nations in September that SVG had improved, and poverty was down.

“In just a … few weeks after Gonsalves [said we were] doing so well, we have been removed [from the list]. … The people who prepared the index could not accept the information that we sent and because it was unreliable, we have been removed from the index,” Eustace added.

“That is a disgrace to this country.  … We find ourselves in a position where they are measuring the quality of life in a country and we now find that we not even listed in it,” he told his supporters.

Eustace said the development was worse than the decline in the country ranking in football internationally, which moved from 73 in 2007 to 126 in Oct. 2010.

“It’s as if we don’t exist as a people, as a country. That is what this country has come to under Ralph Gonsalves. They can’t even accept the information we have sent and they deem it unreliable and now we are off the index,” Eustace further said.

Eustace said that while St. Vincent has been dropped from the list, Barbados, its eastern neighbor, which ranked 42 on this year’s list, “is now listed on the index as a developed country”.

“What’s Gonsalves really thinking about? But he won’t tell you that. He won’t tell you that this country has been removed from the list. He too shame to do that because he just went to the United Nations and tell them how well we are doing. But they don’t believe them (government officials).”

Eustace said he could not comment on the other Caribbean nations that have also been dropped from the list.

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“I will talk about St. Vincent and the Grenadines the land of my birth, the land of your birth …. But you know, they [are] right…. We gotta wait for the NDP to come back there to go back on the list,” he said in reference to the upcoming general elections.

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. (File photo)

Eustace said Gonsalves always tries to “embellish things, make them more than what they seem.”

“[Y]ou on the ground know from your own life that you are worse off under Ralph Gonsalves than when it was under the New Democratic Party. Nobody can doubt that. People had more money under NDP and were able to live a better life, have a better standard of living …

“That is what we have come to in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. … And I tell you, for me, it is a day of shame … when our country has been brought to the point where the United Nations development Index says what we [are] telling them, that information we [are] giving them, is unreliable,” the former minister of finance said.

Gonsalves does not understand what it means to improve the lives of people,” Eustace further said.

“He has only one concern and that concerns is to look after himself. … We need an administration that is looking at the concerns of all, not some,” Eustace added.

He said he has demonstrated his commitment to the nation even before he entered politics, adding that he worked as a public servant and at the Caribbean Development Bank, and passed up better jobs to serve SVG.