How honoured am I to address my fellow citizens this 27th October, 2019, our 40th year of Independence from Great Britain!
Our Independence, like that of so many progressive movements, has been hard fought. And, like other small island developing states, our Independence movement did not see the realization of our hopes and dreams for sovereignty and self-determination in the dramatic lowering of a weathered Union Jack and the raising of the starched, new flag of our fledgling nation, but in the desperate battle that ensued in the earliest decades of nationhood.
The past 40 years have been as undulating, as up and down, as our landscape is mountainous. In surprising respects, these 40 years have mirrored the 400 years before them. Now as then we have borne witness to the rise of would-be slave masters and the consequent creation of the slave; so too we have seen the popular uprising like those of 1937 and elections 2015. As under our colonial rulers then, we have withstood, of late, the rise of the neo-colonial overlord parading in revolutionary fatigues.
Our lows of the 2001 – 2014 period have been humiliating: We nosedived from consistent economic growth in the 1980s and 1990s and an IMF rating of “much to praise little to fault” to 3 years of negative economic growth and low growth in the years 2008 to 2014 and a reputation as the regional begging bowl. When Trinidad and Tobago declared that it could no longer operate as anyone’s ATM, the rest of the region gave St. Vincent side-glances and whispered about us none too softly. As we approached the 2nd decade of the millennium, unemployment soared and local institutions of which we were proud started to buckle – Building & Loan and the NIS have found their footing since 2015, but we still mourn the loss of the NCB. The precipitous rise in violent crime, in particular robbery, murder and rape, helped to create a state of national nervousness, and deep political divisiveness ripped through the social fabric. As parents lost employment, so too did children lose education. The few church leaders who spoke out did so at a dear cost. Our youth disengaged and lost interest. We lost our Independence.
Now on our 40th anniversary of Independence this 27th day of October 2019, we are cautiously optimistic and determined to recover and to grow. In the 2015 – 2019 period, we have seen the signs of social, economic and political renewal. Since the NDP victory at the polls in 2015, government has set about the business of governing and not politicking. There is no NDP Government, just government, plain and simple. The civil service is run more efficiently and with improved morale as civil servants and the general public observe the promotion of Vincentians of all political stripes to high-level government positions on the sole basis of merit. Also, the government no longer competes with the private sector and as such entities like Vincy Fresh are creatures of the past. Government instead works with the private sector to stimulate economic growth. The government is aggressively repaying its private sector debt. Since 2015, our diaspora no longer simply sends remittances to their families but is actively involved in trade and investment in the Vincentian economy. When the private sector grows, so too does employment. To this end, the government has attracted investments in the information technology sector which too have impacted positively on both employment and small business development. Similarly, government leaders no longer stifle free speech by suing every critic for defamation of character, and the press investigates and speaks more freely to the issues impacting our nationals. Following the prosecutions of several corrupt government officials in the post-election 2015 – 2016 period, graft and corruption have fallen to record lows. Some of the public’s faith in the judicial system and the protection of their right to freedom of expression has been restored. Our calypsonians belt out commentary with abandon. The tenders’ board operates transparently. For the past four years, farmers have been realizing profits for the first time since 2010, and there are now the beginnings of an exodus of nationals from unemployment to self-employment as farmers. And, with the operation of the large-scale primary and secondary schools book loan scheme, student enrolment and attendance are up. The proliferation of smart labs has made free internet access a reality for children and adults alike. We are also by and large a healthier people as we complete the second stage of our state-of-the-art national hospital in East St. George, replacing the beleaguered Milton Cato Memorial Hospital in Kingstown. Now fellow OECS nationals come to St. Vincent and the Grenadines for healthcare. People also come from the OECS and further to enjoy Vincy Mas once more. A simple sign of national optimism is the return of house parties as Vincentians once more can afford to celebrate and fraternise, and the caustic divisions created by divisive politics fade away and guest lists are no longer dictated by political affiliation.
This October 2019, as we prepare for elections 2020, Vincentians can see clearly that whatever their choice, it shall be reflected in the official outcome of our first free and fair elections in fifteen years.
I have no fear of the future, and neither should you, for now we all master our collective destiny.
Happy Independence, St. Vincent and the Grenadines!
Arnhim U. Eustace
I am totally confused reading this commentary
Are we in 2014 or as is suggested 2019.Somewhere along the line I seem to have been lost in time. Both Mr. Eustace and Mr. O’Neal seem to be giving divergent or even confusing views of what the real realities are in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are today which leaves people in the diaspora to wonder who really are telling the truth
I am waiting to read what the Prime Minister has to say.
They are more or less both saying the same thing the only difference is Mr Eustace message is saying that with an NDP government things are looking better where as Mr O’Neil is referring to how how things are now and to improve things the UK government has to go
While reading I was wondering if the international airport is operational in 2019 apparently not because it wasn’t mentioned here. Am I to believed since you took office in 2015 you stopped the completion of the airport or are we still using ET Joshua airport? Arnhm you need to wake up and live in the present enjoy the moment while you’re the opposition leader because you may not have that position and certainly not PM with such disrespect. I hope my Vincy peeps read into this closely.
So I heard about this speech but could not be bothered to read it until now.
A lot of people do not get it but it is simple and it would be a really good one in some other forum.
What he is doing is being forward looking and visionary and I like that sort of thing, however, as I said, it may be better suited for another occasion.
At this time, these speeches should be about independence and national pride.
The political leaders should put aside their natural tendency to self-aggrandise and instead guide the nation through a period of celebration. They should shout why we should be proud to be Vincentians and should exalt the achievements of the nation.
But then again, maybe there is little to celebrate.
Maybe we as a nation have not achieved anything significant since 1979.
Maybe there is so little good out there that the best the politicians can do is to keep us focus on division and party politics.
Maybe that is the way forward. After all, it has worked very well so far; hasnt it?
Elma Ash Morgan, I guess your school uniform was being washed the day satire in English literature was described. You also seemed to have missed Sunday school the day biblical prophecy was discussed.
Well done, Mr. Eustace!
Oh my! Maybe my school uniform was in the wash too. I read this article ten times, trying to find some semblance of satirical outpourings but my obvious limited schooling is clearly hindering my efforts to find this elusive genre, that C. Ben-David so glibly speak of…So my question to C.BEN-DAVID…where exactly is the satire in this commentary by Mr Eustace?
Now, this was a clever attempt on the part of Eustace, but not necessarily smart. In politics, there is a maxim, that goes something like, what have you done for me lately? People don’t want to hear about the future when they catching hell in the here and now…this speech reminds me of the preacher in the church, who tells his congregation about all the “milk and honey” they will receive when they get to heaven…but what about now? Am I to be eating nothing chops and wind-pie while I am living?
It would have been refreshing if Mr Eustace had simply be a bit patriotic and find some nugget of goodwill within the country and its people to highlight rather than trying to be the next Nostradamus. Is it so hard for the Opposition to just take off their political hat for a couple of hrs and embrace the birthday of the nation with some pride, joy and dignity? All this political bickering 24/7 is just a turn off, at least for me…is there nothing in our beloved country that we can celebrate as Vincentians and not as a ULP or NDP supporter?
I guess not.
What is there to celebrate? The GG laid out several problems that will take time to overcome. I have to disagree with his views on the health of SVG nationals. It’s no secret that thing are very bad, especially for those who can’t go overseas to be treated.
If one examines the Clare Valley issue, one will see there are promises to help, but it’s a bit too late for some home owners. The price of their property has plummeted considerably and there is no guarantee that another heavy rainfall will not do more damages to the rest of those houses.
I wonder if folks remember that construction was to begin on the Leeward highway some months ago. The airport was to be completed sometime this year. And there are many more promises that never materialized. I wont even mention that cross country road. How can anyone believe anything coming out of Ralphs mouth? Hes a false prophet and it now apparent to even some of his supporters.
I would pay much attention to Ralphs address that Arnhims. The GG touched on Chikungunya but Ralph said nothing about controlling the disease. He didnt even mention how or if the government is willing to work with Vincentians to get rid of the mosquito problem. Here again the GG talked about the effect it has on tourism. I may have to bring one of those Ebola suits on my next visit to SVG.
The GG address was like walking a tight rope. He had to balance his observations with reality, while not being critical of the government. Ralphs address was full of more promises to workers and again thats full of promises that he seldom keeps. Someone asked why Arnhim didnt mention the operation of the Argyle airport in his 2019 vision he cant. It will take close to ten years before its completed. Lets face it: This was a bad venture from day one. It was planned to appease people in the Diaspora who hate travelling to SVG via T&T or Barbados and there are many.
I know wed all love to fly directly to our beloved island from anywhere in the world, but not now love. Thats for our children and grandchildren.
Again let me ask the question, what is there to celebrate? SVG is not what we once knew it to be. The people are divided 24/7 365 days a year. Crime is increasing daily, people are being killed and the police are helpless to solve some of the murders on the island. Farmers are at the mercy of thieves and agriculture is on the decline. There are no new industries and unemployment is sky-high. So what is there to celebrate?
It’s quite astounding that most Vincentians just do no understand the brilliance in this piece. I have heard Vincentions in the streets and bars saying how Eustace made a mistake with the date.
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