The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].
St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ most valuable asset is its human resources. The ULP government has greatly invested in that asset through the Education Revolution. But it is of grave concern that a government of supposedly democratic socialist inclinations is betraying the nation’s most valuable asset through its approach to foreign investment.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines ought to welcome investment in cocoa and coffee from foreign investors. But not through the model and on the terms being reported in the press. It appears that foreign investors will be providing investment to reap the rewards of the toil of agricultural labourers through an economic model not far above slavery, and almost on a par with serfdom. This model would only serve to help keep St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a hand-to-mouth, heavily indebted developing country. Under this model, we would have little hope of following St Kitts and Nevis in eventually becoming a service-oriented economy. There is an alternative way of investing in agriculture in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is the co-operative or mutual model. The government should insist that foreign investors enter into a co-operative with farmers, whereby investors and farmers benefit proportionately from the cocoa and coffee industries, from both primary and value-added production. Lands should be leased to Vincentian farmers for cocoa and coffee production, not foreign investors. I know that our political leaders are well aware of the global debate in relation to inequality and the need for an economic model that is more sustainable than the prevailing Western neo-liberal one.
Young Vincentians currently at university share this knowledge, too. They will never forgive a government and a minister who leases hundreds or thousands of acres of crown land for several decades to foreign investors and, in so doing, perpetuate inequality and curtail their life chances.
I wonder if it would be a good idea for the Prime Minister to discuss with the Minister of Agriculture the various possible ways of structuring investment in the cocoa and coffee sectors, and for both to choose the model that is in the best long-term interest of our Caribbean civilisation and foreign investors.
L A S Jack
The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].