KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Persons here who think that this country, because of its small size, should not get involved in foreign policy issues are “narrow minded” in their thinking, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said this week.
He further said that thinking that monetary and financial policy is the only instruments at the state’s disposal is flawed.
“I just want to make a broad point. There are some narrow minded people in our country who hold a view that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a very small place and what you should do is keep your small self to yourself, know your place, fix the little road here if you can fix it but don’t get involved in any foreign policy set of issues and the prime minister who takes an activist part in foreign policy, [they say] ‘Ah, [he’s] travelling!’” Gonsalves said at a press briefing this week.
He was speaking on his return to the country after a 15-day trip over the Christmas and New Year period to Bethlehem, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.
Gonsalves told reporters that travelling “is a tiring business” and every time he leaves this country “it is for the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.
He said that he would address the issue of narrow-mindedness in his budget speech on Monday.
He, however, said, that because of the nation’s small size, it means that “we must use all the instruments at our disposal to enlarge our economic and political space in our own interest”.
The nation’s foreign policy, Gonsalves said, “must be predicated on the requirement to enhance our capacity to deal more efficaciously with our external environment — challenging as it is — and the condition within that external environment in our own interest.
“There are some people who think that the instruments which governments have are the instruments of monetary policy and fiscal policy,” he further stated.
“But that’s an extremely narrow reading of the instruments available to states like St. Vincent and the Grenadines. There are several other assets to be used and … a bundle of them are the assets of sovereignty and independence to be utilised in our people’s own interest.
“Without the utilization of those instruments, we couldn’t dream of starting the international airport,” Gonsalves said.
He further stated that there are several development projects here, which are “connected to the way we utilised in a principled manner and in a practical way our instruments of sovereignty and independence.
“So, those who just want to confine St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the 150 square miles and the 100,000 here and maybe then the diaspora — because they are now forced to consider the diaspora — those narrow-minded persons, they are making a profound error.
“And you have to go; and you have to go and look for resources for your country and the instruments to be utilised are the instruments of sovereignty and independence along with other instruments, of course, but these are critical in the process.”
Gonsalves said that islanders tend to look inwards because they are surrounded by water.
‘But our history has taught us that while we must have an inward look, there must always be an outward gaze. And that outward gaze takes different forms. At an individual level, it takes the form of migration.”
He noted that from 1991 to 2001 net migration from this country exceeded the natural increase in population — the difference between births and death — and this was the reason for decrease in population.
“So people themselves go for all sorts of reasons,” he said, mentioning family reunions, education, and “a small group seek refugee status”.
Gonsalves said that the government, too, must also look outwardly while it is linking it outward gaze with and inward look to develop country.
“That is the concept and that is the basis. It is so self evident …”
He said that it does not make sense to tell people they must not migration, especially in a democratic country like this one, there is “a pull” from Canada, the United States, United Kingdom and other Caribbean countries.
Gonsalves said that that the migration pull, hitherto, came from South and Central American and the Caribbean.
“This is the history of our people over the last 100-120 years.”
He, however, said that the country must train its people at a higher level so that on migration they enter the international division of labour at a higher level.
This country, the prime minister further stated, must balance brain drain so that person that the state trains fulfil their obligations to the nation.
“These are large concepts which take you away from the narrow views which you will hear parroted from time to time,” Gonsalves said.