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Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland "Patel" Matthews, second right, and other persons during the walk last Saturday.
Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews, second right, and other persons during the walk last Saturday.
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The agriculture sector can be used to create jobs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, says opposition spokesperson on the sector, Roland “Patel” Matthews.

“We, in this country, need to be doing stuff, to be expanding our economy so much so that our young people can find jobs,” Matthews, who is Member of Parliament for North Leeward, told iWitness News.

He was speaking during an interview in Pembroke on Saturday, when members of his New Democratic Party, led by party president and Opposition Leader Godwin Friday, walked from Fitz Hughes to Kingstown to highlight high unemployment and crime.

Matthews said agriculture is a sector in which the country has lost a lot of money, adding that the agricultural produce import bill is very high.

“Things that we can produce in St. Vincent and thereby create employment, we are importing them instead.”

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Among these, he mentioned carrots, some root crops, vegetables, poultry products and pork.

“And, at the same time, it is interesting to hear the Minister of Agriculture [Saboto Caesar] say that we are gonna export more to Grenada, in terms of beef and in terms of pork, but yet in St. Vincent and Grenadines, we continue to import more.”

The MP said SVG is a small country that has vast human and land resources.

“And we are not putting it to the test. Because I am confident that if the government does its homework and put in place the necessary things that will create employment, it will happen.”

He said an agricultural census has not been done since 2001.

“So we don’t know where we are in agriculture and we don’t know where we are going. It’s as if we are operating by guess and we need to stop this and operate as a country where people are doing things because it is tried and tested.

“We need to do much better than we are doing now and because we are not doing things the way we are supposed to , it is, therefore, creating this problem of unemployment, joblessness in the country and, in fact, we can claim that this is contributing significantly to the crime situation because a lot of the crimes that are committed are done by young people and when you check some of their backgrounds, they are unemployed.

“So there must be some link there and we need to stop that in its track and that is the reason why we are here today marching.”

Matthews noted that agriculture and fisheries are often twinned.

“Throughout the region, a number of countries have stepped up in terms of their agriculture and fisheries and they are doing tremendous. We have been making the call time and time in the Parliament, telling the government that the way to go is agriculture and fishing because we know for a fact that fishing is an industry that is making a lot of money and we are in a good position to make a lot of money.”

Matthews noted that the government had leased out most of the fisheries complexes to private entities.

“And I hope that this gives a boost to the industry. We have an international airport but we are not capitalising on it, because agriculture produce could reach very far places, but we have to do what is necessary to get our products out there in the market so that we can get good monies for our products and services and St. Vincent, as I said, we are in an ideal position but we are not capitalising on it. We need to do that.”

He said that in addition to the 46 per cent of the nation’s youth who are unemployed, there is an additional 20 per cent of the total population, much higher than the rate when the Unity Labour Party came to office in March 2001.

“And I wonder what is their answer to that. While we acknowledge the fact that we are doing good educationally, at the same time, a person who is educated and not working is still unemployed and that is the problem that we are talking about,” Matthew told iWitness News.

He said the responses along the route of the walk were positive.

“… people came out and greeted us,” he said, adding that people inquired about the purpose of the walk.

The NDP will, this week, walk from Georgetown to Kingstown to highlight the same issues of unemployment and crime.

5 replies on “Agriculture can reduce joblessness — MP”

  1. The youths are lazy they would rather steal than be productive . Last week I caught he vegran in my afocardo tree when crank b up my shot gun he drop on the gun and bawled for leniency. He said Saw (sir) I won’t come back to pick your zaboca. I aimed at him just to scare his balls he almost run in the direction if the bullets to disappeared in the surrounding bush cover.

  2. If we weren’t given the name of the politician making these remarks, we couldn’t be blamed for believing is was Saboto Caesar, the ULP’s minister of agriculture, who has often said many of these same things before.

    How can we raise our agricultural productivity, if there is not enough willing labour, large swaths of flat arable land, modern farm machinery, or well established international markets for farm produce?

    How can we sell produce whose price is so high by international standards? Bananas, for example, sold by vendors in Kingstown is more expensive than bananas sold in America which is shipped there from cheap producers thousands of miles away.

    Yes, “agriculture produce could reach very far places” but not by plane, as Minister Caesar has also falsely claimed.

    The NDP is always full of sound and fury about this and that but never, ever provides concrete and feasible solutions to our many economic woes.

    As for our overall employment rate, it has been around 20 percent for decades.

    Just more evidence that the NDP is not ready to govern our country.

  3. Interesting article.
    In my opinion the main reason why we have so much unemployment in Saint Vincent is because we seem to be going the wrong economic direction. The government believes we will become rich and developed by raising taxes as high as possible, in order for them to afford to do projects like airports and build new cities. Sadly, the majority of all the money that business earns, goes to the government. Not only is there little money for business to expand and employ more people, it also causes any product from Saint Vincent to be so expensive that we cannot hope to compete with other countries that produce the same things. They can do it for less because they have lower costs and prices. We are certainly going the wrong direction by continuing to raise taxes duties and fees and creating new taxes. What gets hurt the most is Agriculture. An Agrarian Society depends on a low cost of living in order to make agriculture profitable. We are doing the opposite. We are so very far down the wrong road that I do not know how the NDP thinks they can turn it around. Even if they can drastically lower taxes, to get prices down, people would still not accept getting paid less in other sectors in order to make agricultural work more attractive. This may be one reason why so many in Saint Vincent have a poor work ethic and instead expect others to pay for them and get all necessities for free, such as at election times.

  4. I know this one farmer who says he can’t get anyone to work with him and he would offer to pay them more than is legally required.He told me these same young men who refused to work would turn around and steal his animals and crops.. That’s a big problem in not only St Vincent ,but the wider seem to be more prevalent in Vincy ;Laziness ..would like to see how NDP would solve this one if they ever get to govern Vincy

  5. Easier said than done, I want to know how are you going to get farmer motivated enough to get back into agriculture. My dad is a retired teacher but he also has lots of lands and every time his produce is ready for harvesting people go and steal his stuff and the police ain’t doing anything when you make report , here’s this guy has no lands in his name but yet he has large quantities of produce by him, nothing was done about it. I know there are good Christians out there who are praying for S.V.G I’m asking you not to stop praying cause only through prays we shall be a better nation

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