Farms near to where the rally took place in Greiggs on Sunday. (iWN photo)

Help is on the way for the farmers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Leader of the opposition Godwin Friday says.

He told his New Democratic Party’s 40th convention on Sunday in Greiggs, an agricultural village, that in 2000, before the Unity Labour Party (ULP) came to power, the banana industry was operated and managed by Vincentian farmers and banana exports contributed EC$28 million dollars to the nation’s GDP.

“Since taking over government, the ULP government essentially took over the management of the banana industry from the farmers,” he said, adding that the industry’s contribution declined “to less than EC$1 million, and probably even less as we speak.

“In other words, the banana industry in SVG is dead! The people in this part of the country know it better than anyone else because who feels it knows it,” said Friday, who is also president of the NDP.

“It did not have to be that way.  Look at St. Lucia, where the management of the banana industry remained in the hands of farmers and the industry is growing and doing well.

“This shows that our banana industry, which was one of the largest productive sectors in this country, was killed by the incompetence and mismanagement — some say spite — of the ULP government.

“The result has been painful, especially for farmers,” he said.

Opposition Leader Godwin Friday speaks at the NDP’s 40th convention rally in Greiggs on Sunday. (iWN photo)

Friday said that he recently heard a farmer speaking on NICE Radio about the state of the industry.

“He was passionate and eloquent, as he spoke about the plight of fellow farmers in the country.   And he was also right!  He was right when he said that farmers have held up their end of the bargain the government presented to them; they have worked hard and produced good banana to bring to market. But, the government has let them down; it has not held up its end of the deal.

“Black sigatoka, as you know, was left to cause havoc in your fields.  Post-Hurricane Tomas relief was given out like charity, mainly along party lines, rather than on the basis of personal need and the requirements for recovery of the industry. Credit has dried up.  Fertilizer is beyond the means of most farmers.  The government has left farmers to struggle and fend for themselves.  Many have simply given up,” Friday said.

He added:

“What a difference a government makes! This area of the country, under [Sir James] Mitchell’s leadership was the focus of a government land reform programme that made farmers owners of land and gave them the means to develop themselves.

“Today, the government says nice-sounding words to you, but in reality you know they have left you on your own.  Even if the Minister of Agriculture [Saboto Caesar] comes from your area, this area, it makes no difference. Because he has no say.  You are on your own. “This is one reason why the people of South Central Windward need Israel Bruce as their representative. He will deliver,” Friday said, referring to the NDP’s candidate for the district in the next general elections, constitutionally due in March 2021.

“But I say to you farmers, hold on.  I promise you, help is on the way. Let us change things in government and together we will change things on your farm. You have suffered too long.  I have heard your cries and feel your pain.  The NDP will help.   We know you are not looking for handouts or party favours.  What you want is a government who cares about you and believes in you.  I pledge to you that you will get that and more from me, from Israel Bruce and an NDP government.”

Friday said that such a commitment should not be news to farmers.

“It is in keeping with how I have said we would govern and manage development in this country. This is why we hold consultations and town hall meetings with various sectors of society—with young people through our innovative youth dialogue; with farmers in Fitz Hughes and elsewhere to talk about the problems in agriculture. We will continue and increase such consultations, with fisherfolk, trade unions, health workers and teachers, van drivers/operators.  Your input will shape our policy going forward,” Friday said.

NDP supporters at their convention rally in Greiggs on Sunday. (iWN photo)

Higher taxes, more gov’t debt

The opposition leader also used the speech to comment on the general state of the Vincentian economy.

“If you need any reminder of how badly the ULP way has failed us, simply reflect on the poor performance of our economy over the time they have been in power,” he said.

Friday said that the International Monetary Fund said in its December 2017 report that economic growth in SVG has been stagnant since 2009, at an annual average of 0.2 percent up to 2016, and the future does not look much brighter.

“The unemployment rate in our country stands at 25 per cent (IMF again). This is worse than it was in 2001, when the ULP came to power. At that time, it stood at 20.9 per cent.  Today, the youth unemployment rate is estimated to be a staggering 46 per cent.”

He further said that the national debt has gotten much worse.

In 2001, SVG’s debt-service ratio was below the Eastern Caribbean average.

“Today it is higher than that average.  In fact, it is the highest in the Windward Islands and the highest in our country’s history,” the opposition leader said.

He said that government has engaged in massive public spending “without accountability” and has “imposed an oppressive debt burden on taxpayers, with little benefit to them.

“Our people are paying more taxes every year to pay the growing government debt and are getting less for their sacrifice.  Our country now has the highest taxes and the lowest wages in the OECS.  Ralph Gonsalves and the ULP have taken us to the bottom of the OECS, while boasting and bragging all the way in their lies about the economy,” Friday said.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Staggering 46% youth unemployment. Let’s see, according to the IMF report 2017, 15-24 years old are unemployed. I’m of the opinion, most 15 year old are still in school, so how could this be? Agree that little has been done regarding Banana export to traditional markets, however, our Regional export is up, that’s a plus. Any plans in place to revived the Banana industry? We haven’t heard of any plans for hotel development on mainland, what’s up with that Sir? “The country will soon have an international hotel brand operated here; this after the government secure a loan from Taiwan. Prime Minister Gonsalves on Thursday 7th June 2018 said he was notified by the Taiwanese’s embassy here about the approval of US 50 Million dollar loan. The US $50 million or EC 135 Million dollars soft loan will go towards the construction of a 250- room hotel at Mount Wynne.” According to the PM, they are hoping to start construction in early 2019.

    • If any government funds the building of a hotel, be afraid, very afraid.

      This is the same regime that built a jumbie airport at Argyle.

      No brand-name hotel chain would ever manage let alone build a hotel on our tourist attraction-less mainland.

      Every promise of developing tourism on the mainland announced by this and the previous NDP government has either failed or consisted of a lot of hot air only.

    • Why are you so focussed on him speaking about hotel development on the mainland. Why not ask about hotel development in the grenadines where it stands a better chance or turning a profit. The government should not burden us with more borrowing to build a hotel and work instead to get the private sector interested. More borrowing more debt and more taxes. Work instead to improve the dismal occupancy rates in the present hotels which is about 50% according to a leading hotelier. Yet they are going to build a hotel to compete with these guys without increasing visitor arrivals. This building of hotel is another smoke screen.

  2. Wages in this country are really low indeed. Am usually embarrassed when I speak with colleagues from the other OECS countries. Their income and spending power are significantly higher than ours.Poor we.

    • Low wages should usually mean that our cost of production is low meaning in turn low-priced products, meaning we should export alot and be a wealthy nation. Unfortunately that is not true of Saint Vincent, mainly because of our heavy taxes and customs duties. The key is to have low wages and prices but we have low wages and high prices and high taxes and duties. The lower classes cannot rise to middle class. which insures we have a very small middle class when a large middle class is what is needed for a prosperous nation. Obviously we need to drastically lower taxes that attract investors and investment. We have little investment because investors do not want to come to Saint Vincent to pay more and get less as thier enterprise collapses; what seems to be the norm for our country.
      the government needs to stop attracting shady entities like Mr Ames and stop thier greed of sucking all the wealth out of the good entities that makes money and brings jobs and wealth to the country.

  3. When people put their faith in government this is what happens, look at Venezuela just to name a few. Government is not in the business to run business, their are in the business to guarantee the safety of all the people, protect us from foreign and domestic threats and to allow free people to use their God given talents to make their lives better.

    Yes, we need roads, better schools more access to better health care, but I can’t think of one thing that any government in the worlds runs effectively.

    When they’re not making money, they raise taxes,

    • May God bless you for this comment praising the inalienable right of people to be freed from government control and mismanagement.

      Too bad that our people have been brainwashed to believe otherwise.

  4. Much of what Friday says is true, if only because they are based on hard facts.

    But his promise that an NDP government would bring back bananas is like piss*ng in the wind: without subsidies and trade tariffs we could never produce at the high level and low cost to even break even.

    As for “handouts and party favors” are concerned, this is what most of our people are looking for.

    As for our high and grown debts, most people don’t care as long as their bellies are full.

    All of this is why the ULP has won four-in-row.

    Also, when politicians say, “I promise you, help is on the way“ any intelligent person should be afraid, very afraid. As Ronald Reagan said, the most frightening words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

  5. The Ministry of Agriculture lacks innovation and foresight. There are so many different profitable crops that can be introduced in SVG. These include various varieties of mangoes, strawberries, Irish potatoes etc. Mangoes grow in abundance in SVG. However, there is no strategy to develop a viable mangro industry. Haiti, which do not have the level of soil fertility as we do is a major exporter of mangoes to the USA.

    It’s simple. Look at the high valued items that are in demand globally and try to grow them at home. Aside from this we can produce vegetables that we usually import in high volume such as onions, Irish potatoes, etc, by creating economies of scale. Jamaica now produces 90% of its Irish pottatoes locally.

    Irish potatoe is a tropical plant, which originated out of South America and was adopted in Europe and North America. Even Israel produces various varieties of Irish potatoes and avocados. Jamaica and Columbia have various varieties Irish potatoes that can do well home. Mexico, USA, Peru and South Africa produces Haz Avacados, which is in high demand globally. Any variety of avacado can grow in SVG. Process meats and seafood is another area that is highly profitable. Items such as sausages, hamburgers, smoke and pickled meats and fishes are in high demand.

    We are not innovative enough that’s why we are lagging behind in Agriculture. Our country have some of the most fertile soil. The only crop tha seems to occupy our thoughts is banana. It’s seem that we have “banana metality”. How could we be so focus on cultivating a crop that is highly susceptible to hurricanes and deseases? The Ministry of Agriculture needs to get its act together to better advise and serve the people.

  6. Has more likes than the GARBAGE you put out to the public. You are nobody Ben, minority CLUB is where you belong, 1% always. Compare 75 and AIA see which stands out. Booth licker, WESTERNIZED Pratt!

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