The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
Every October 27, the big question surfaces — how far have we come?
According to history, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) declared Independence on October 27, 1979 — a 35 year journey that’s has brought us nowhere. The nation has come into being from British oppressive dictatorship ranging from military interventions to resource exploitation to slavery. Decades later, there are ongoing clashes between defenders of the old order and supporters of independence, which marked the emergence of thousands of theories and perspective of SVG’s sovereignty.
Today, the nation has seen growth in its demographics; however, there have not been too many changes in the eco-political arena — still the nation is politically disabled and Vincentians are economically disadvantaged. Like yesteryear, the Vincentians people are faced with oppression coined by government policies, victimization, corruption and lack of respect for the people.
My observation is SVG is in a state of “ceteris paribus”!
The definition for “independence” seemed clear until its being analysed from an SVG perspective. According to scholars — it “is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory.” They went on to say that the opposite of independence is a dependent territory.
Simultaneously, let’s define this same word in the current Vincentian context — it is having control within the eco-political boundaries of the multi-island nation where Britain and other foreign voices are excluded in its decision-making and economic development. In short, it is giving power to the Prime Minister (PM) and, thereafter, allowing him to do whatever he feels fit — three and a half decades of drawbacks is the result!
In my opinion, independence means nothing to SVG, as a nation thriving for status within the realm of the eco-political arena.
Having said that one must analyse the economic and political environment in SVG and see the disconnect between the status quo and the scholarly definition of independence.
Let’s identify these disconnects!
Frighteningly, the neo-colonialism of SVG, which constitutes imperialism and hegemony, is perhaps the most dangerous threat to the eco-political arena. In theory, the nature of neo-colonialism is that the State, which it is subject to, is always an independent state that mirrors the outward trappings of international sovereignty. Furthermore, its techniques exist in various shapes and levels — utilising the means of business globalization in the form of multi-national corporations and cultural imperialism to influence the country through military intervention and indirect political control.
In so doing, the European and North American business gurus are used foreign capital to exploit, rather than developing the nation, considering SVG’s under-develop status; hence, decreasing the gap between the rich and poor nations. Recently, a well-established hotel hired a number of Vincentian workers to fill jobs found at the bottom of the hierarchy and outsourcing its management jobs to Europeans and North Americans –dishonouring the so-called education revolution that SVG’s government boasts. Apparently, these ills have not reached the hearing of government officials or the labour department, which is designed to protect local employment.
Meanwhile, foreign soldiers are grazing the ground looking for clues, while Vincentians remains clueless!
Additionally, the constitution is still acknowledging Queen Elizabeth II as the head of State; having the Governor General as her representative to the nation. To date, the country has not defined a proper constitution that fits its culture and politics, but still relying on the British constitution that exists with little changes from time immemorial. Although an attempt was made by the ruling government to change the constitution through a referendum the mass of the populace rejected the idea — purporting that it was designed for two men — a dictator and a son!
Conversely, another reason for the big question — how far have we come, is the ill state of the eco-political dynamics of SVG — demonstrating a frightening steep. As it stands, SVG is near-total collapse, experiencing a revolutionary change in political elites and the mode of governance, and significant shifts away from democratic adapting authoritarian principles of governance defined by ignorance and self-gloried policies.
Today, SVG is experiencing the worst outbreaks of uncontrollable criminal activities and increased risks posed by its healthcare system, which remains fragile, consequent to many years of economic and social destruction by a repressive regime. Coupled with this, SVG has amassed a public debt amounting to billions of its gross domestic product (GDP) — the largest public debt throughout the three and a half decades of independence. This pyramid of growing deficit has forced the government to borrow from within and adding to the national debt. In this capacity, the government is forced to adapt austerity measures in an effort to meet daily demands.
Similarly, the country’s agriculture sector was placed in a coma waiting for the right moment to pull the plug by a government that refuses administer the correct dose of medicine to resuscitate the county’s agriculture pulses. Subsequent to this, SVG is categorized as a dependent of imported foods; henceforth, the constant rise in food prices; hence, inflation.
In the meantime, unemployment is growing and the nation is faced with exacerbating poverty. It is clear that unemployment has led to financial crisis, which reduces the overall spending capacity of the nation; hence, poverty –disallowing citizens to maintain the minimum standard of living.
This is not all!
Vincentians have been slapped with the biggest dose of corruption in its history. This phenomenon has impacted the administration, institutions and politics –undermining the democratic process and good governance. Within the judicial system, corruption disputes the country’s law and creates inept services inside public administration. Evidently, corruption has also impacted elections and the legislature — crippling accountability and perverting representation of policymakers. Moreover, its effect on humanitarian aid, the economy, environmental and social constituents are enormous — from machine politics to environmental destruction to high cost of conducting business.
In retrospect, a single Vincentian cannot deny the fact that all of SVG’s leaders have demonstrated one or more, or diagnosed with some of the shortcomings: incompetence, self-centred leadership qualities, bigotry, partisanship, lack of vision, little interest and respect for the people and power bound.
There is no doubt in my mind that if SVG had remained formally dependent instead of formally going independent, it would be better off today — socially, environmentally, politically and economically. If one is still not convinced ask the departments and territories of the region: Martinique, the Netherland Antilles, British and US Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos and Bermuda just to name a few.
From my own perspective, SVG’s condition clearly features failed governmental policies.
However, it would be irresponsible for me to end this insightful journey without admitting that there are some developments. Some positive changes are evident in the education system, the housing strategy is an important one and the transportation and communication sectors have been modernized to some extent; however, the overall changes occurred in these areas are not significant enough to categorized as real progress.
These pitfalls are certainly not what the residents of SVG have bargained for when they supported independence. Through independence they were expecting that the government would cut ties with the colonialist State, elect a government that would eventually acquire a means of developing economic self-sufficiency and collective autonomy.
However, all is not lost as there are young, promising an ethical leader emerging within St Vincent and the Grenadines, which could make a difference in nation development in years to come! Until then, I believe that SVG should remain a dependent State – the reasons being – the Queen is still head and SVG’s leaders have not demonstrated competence in developing the nation.
Yet, 35 years later they are still struggling to meet expectations!
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