Taiwan has committed to giving EC$800,000 to St. Vincent and the Grenadines to help buy omnibuses to transport students.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on radio this week after returning from Taipei, where he attended Taiwan’s National Day celebrations and held talks with the new government, led by President Tsai Ing-wen.
Gonsalves said the talks led to “several important conclusions”.
He said Kingstown will receive a US$10 million soft loan, but did not elaborate, telling listeners to Shake-Up that he will give further details about the visit in a press conference soon.
Gonsalves said that Minister of Transport, Sen. Julian Francis, and the Taiwan embassy in Kingstown have begun to try to source the buses.
“We need to make sure that the children who are to be transported we don’t have the numbers hanging around for two hours or so at the Grammar School area, the Girls’ High School areas; the Murray Road-Richmond Hill area, generally,” Gonsalves said.
He said he had suggested to Francis that the government buy off the internet some good second-hand, 25-seater buses, costing around EC$80,000 each.
“The system we have, we need to make it more efficient and there is a set of ideas that I have to make it more efficient and I discussed them with him as Minister of Transport, Gonsalves, said, adding that he also held discussions with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sir Louis Straker.
“The Government doesn’t want to get into the business of running buses but we have to do something in relation to the school children,” Gonsalves said, noting that his government gives 75% per cent duty-free concession for minibuses that transport students.
“We have to go beyond just giving 18-seater concession. We have to start giving 25-seatsrs and we have to do some special other things to make sure that the children are taken proper care of.”
Gonsalves said that more Vincentians will receive scholarships to students in Taiwan, noting that 17 persons received scholarships this year.
He, however, said the number of scholarships that SVG will receive from Taiwan is being finalised.
The prime minister said he also discussed with Taipei opportunities for investing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, noting that Chinese businesspeople in SVG are predominantly from China.
“I’d like to see them (Taiwan) get involved with us in hotel construction and tourism deliverables. And there are companies which could get involved in that.”
Gonsalves said he went to Los Angels, United States, where SVG’s Honorary Consul, physician Cadrin, Gill had a dinner with a number of Taiwanese business people and who will visit SVG.
He also mentioned a matter that has “immense possibilities”, saying that a suggestion arose from his talks with Tsai about a few Vincentians being attached to firm in Taiwan after they graduate from universities there.
Gonsalves said he suggested that if these students have a business plan, the Taiwan government could set up a fund from which seeds monies can come.
“So there is a strengthening further of people-to-people relations with several of these ideas and, of course, the continued strengthening of state-to-state relations in line with the proclaimed policy of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
He noted that he was the only head of government to attend the National Day celebrations, adding that this accorded him and SVG more publicity in the media in Taiwan.
“I think we are on the right path,” said Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party administration has recommitted to Kingstown-Taipei ties while the opposition New Democratic Party has said it would recognise Beijing if elected to office.