KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves yesterday told supporters of his Unity Labour Party (ULP) that everything in this country is not rosy economically but his government is responding to the challenges with confidence.
He was delivering the feature address at the ULP’s 18th national convention under the theme “Building with confidence a more resilient nation in challenging times.”
Gonsalves said that over the last three years the local economy has had to cope with several “shocks”, where “almost all the serious ones were external to us”.
Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, mentioned among these “shocks” the global finance crisis, which has curtailed spending power in Europe and North America – the main source of foreign direct investment and visitors to this country.
He also spoke of natural disasters, namely the drought and Hurricane Tomas last year and flash floods and landslides in April, which left EC$250 million in damage.
The Prime Minister also mentioned the impact of the collapse of CLICO and British American Insurance Company (BAICO), which has jeopardise EC$375 million in Vincentian investments – 20 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Gonsalves pointed to the Bible book of Chronicles, which said, “… the children of Issachar … were men that had understanding of the times”.
“You can’t go for a different time than this one. These are the times in which we are,” Gonsalves told party supporters.
“… we are a small, resource-challenged, structurally-dependent, open economy with a set of links – not all of them favourable to us – with monopoly capitalism overseas,” Gonsalves said.
He said that even in the absence of the global financial meltdown, the CLICO and BAICO fiasco, and the natural disasters, “it is challenging to build resilience, much less when you face all what we have”.
“… to build the capacity to withstand the shocks requires a special people with a special government,” he said.
“My message to you is not that everything is rosy. My message to you is about the challenges, how we are currently meeting those challenges – and we are doing so with confidence, what we are going to continue to do in meeting those challenges but we must have a united people,” Gonsalves told the convention.
He said this country must have “a resolute and hardworking people” who “would not complicate matters by getting involved in too much crime and violence”.
Gonsalves further said that some citizens, “albeit a minority, … think that they can cheat when they are working”.
“Well laziness is the absence of virtue and we have to lift our productivity,” he said as he also urged citizens to, strengthen their resilience and the country’s capacity to withstand shocks.
Gonsalves noted that Taiwan – one of this nation’s allies – when World War II ended in 1945, had the same level of development as today’s St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Today, Taiwan, a nation of 23 million people, has the world’s 14th largest economy and foreign reserves.
“And they did it by educating their people, by organising themselves in a disciplined way, working hard and making sure that they do not engage in too many antisocial activities to waste resources and to get the small things right,” Gonsalves said.
“If we accept the message that I am giving to you, you embrace it, and every single day of your life we try to live this out, there is no way that any political party in this country could remove the Unity Labour Party from government,” he further stated.