Opinion

Unity and development in 2019 St. Vincent

By *Jomo Thomas

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we are having everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way-in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on it being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”  — Charles Dickens, “A tale of Two Cities”

“Half measures can kill

when on the brink of a precipice

because we can’t jump half across.

Blind is the one who only half sees

the chasms don’t half recoil.

With every half-effective half measure

half the people remain half pleased.

The half sated are half hungry

The half free are half enslaved.

We are half afraid, halfway on a rampage.

Can there be with honour

a half motherland

and a half conscience?

Half freedom is perilous

And saving the motherland half way

will fail.” — Yevgeny Yevtushenko

“For the nation to survive, the tribe must die.” — Samora Machel assassinated former president of Mozambique.

2019 is upon us and the prospects for prosperity for the majority of our people, especially the poor and vulnerable, remain gloomy. The people who toil hardest are finding life increasingly difficult to cope. The disclosure that over 6,000 persons participated in the Christmas street cleaning programme and thousands more were aggrieved because they did not get a chance to work 10 days for EC$250 must be a shock to the conscience for anyone who seriously thinks about our country.

And this is at the very bottom of society. If we consider that thousands more, all trained by the “Education Revolution”, eager and willing to work walk the streets with nothing productive to consume their minds or spend countless idle hours on their smart phones, then the state of our country is thrown into sharp relief. The plain truth is that unemployment remains a major problem in SVG and unless we can put a serious dent into this problem much of our talk about progress and development will ring hollow.

Life and daily living for a large section of the population is totally and completely dependent on remittances from friends and relatives. Over 30 per cent of our people live in poverty. About 20 per cent of those employed work for less than a living wage. Wages are so low that the state refuses to tax anyone earning less than EC$20,000 per year. When 16 per cent VAT is paid on purchases we get a clear picture on how the lower half of the population exists.

Clearly, there is an enormous amount of money floating around. We see it in the tourism and infrastructural developments across the country. We spent EC$700 million on the airport. On Canoaun, the developers’ build, demolish and build again with such frequency so as to make it impossible to count the moneys “spent”. Estimates of more than half a billion US dollars have been spent in recent years. Millions more are earmarked to be spend on the geothermal project, the port in Kingstown and the hotels at Mt Wynne/Peters Hope and Diamonds. Since last year, our country has been awash with tourist. A foreigner, who buys lands at a gluttonous rate, owns the most lands in SVG.

Somebody is making a lot of money. What is evident, however, is that much of these millions are going to very small elite. Enough is not targeted towards the poor and too little is trickling down to those most in need. We need to pay attention to the amount of persons selling clothing, food stuff or other body care products out of the back of the vehicles and on the streets. Look closely at the large amount of people who drown their frustration in alcohol and cheap oily, fatty foods. Look, too, at the resulting strain on the health system, obesity, disease, organ failures.  

These are important policy issues that escape high-level scrutiny. Part of the reason why there is hardly any discussions about policy and the way forward is because the entire society has been sucked into a political “black hole”. Everything takes on a Gonsalves or Friday, ULP or NDP flavour. The best opposition idea is rubbished and the ULP policies and programmes that have proven effective, and partly explain its four consecutive electoral victories are dismissed without a serious thought. Rather than direct the conversation in a national developmental framework, emphasis is placed on ensuring that everyone sees everything from a narrow partisan perspective.

Both the ULP and NDP, regrettable the two most powerful socialising agencies in our country, having eclipsed the family, school and the church, demand that all and sundry fall in line. Each side perceives the other as evil. A large swath of their supporters, especially those with least stake in the system and stands to gain little or nothing no matter which party is in power, do not speak to each other. In fact, they are encouraged and celebrated as party warriors when they curse and ridicule each other on the streets or over the airways.

We can shout as much as we want, but what we have in SVG is development on the margins. We have not yet begun to address the structural fault lines that keep our country underdeveloped and so many of our people poor. To be sure, the international economic, financial and trading architecture is to be blamed for much of the sadness and despair in our world, but we can do much more for the poor and vulnerable.

What we need going forward is more policy rather than political rhetoric. We need more unity and friendship among the people. We need to rebuild a sense of community in this country. In short, we need more light and less heat. We can have all of this and still love Gonsalves and Friday, ULP and NDP. We cannot have disunity and development. One has to give and as 2019 unfolds, the wise choice is unity and development.

*Jomo Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

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 news.iwitness@gmail.com.

Comments (10)

  1. Jomo you hit the nail on the head, you speak truthfully and nonpartisan. I am afraid somehow they will ostracize you. Stand firm I say.

  2. So many of our nations are at war with each other. That is why we as a black nation are still at the bottom. We are given the crumbs and instead of working together with what we have,we are always trying to kill each other to get the bigger piece of the pie. Wake up my black brothers and sisters. Become the Gods and kings and Queens that you are. Take stock of your life. Stop depending and looking g for hand outs from others. Demand equal shares from your politicians who are pocket ing everything for themselves. Take a stand black people lead your own countries be strong and confident in your abilities. Stop your colonial ways of thinking. Stop giving those with the lighter complexion presidence over you. Your worth and value is as high as theirs. Stop selling out your countries and killing each other while the white and lighter skin races move in and take what is rightfully yours. Stop depending on churches to be your saviour. The strength is in you and collectively you can conquer. We have been divided for far too long. We are the only race on this planet who do not work or stand up for each other. It is time to stop all of this madness. Those who have help those in need to rise up. Show the way, encourage each other. God is not coming to save you. I also believed that at one point in my life. Now I can see my saviour is in me. Everyone knows right from wrong. Value each others life in fact value all life. The bible was created to keep order, but we have been doctrinised or brain washed to believe in it literally and we sit back and wait on God. He isn’t coming to save you. Get up. Rise on your own feet and take a stand. If God was the God from the bible and he was as mighty a d great as they say he is there will be no suffering. We are the Gods and the Devils of this planet. You just have to choose. Which one are you.? Take a stand my black Gods.

    • Food for thought. You probably just exposed the secret of the Freemasons and the Illuminati. In the 15th century when Europeans invaded Africa and enslaved the people those people already had a civilization complete with religion and economic systems. Now, after 500 years Europeans are still there sucking the blood of the African to maintain there Empires.(Imagine, the almighty dollar is based on thin air. Taking property and giving paper as a fair exchange) It will take some time but as the saying goes, what goes up must come down. In a few months I will be going to Ghana to shoot footage for a documentary film. It will be my first time going to Africa and I want to see for myself if all the misery they show us on TV here is not exaggerated because mind you, we are living in time of “alternative facts”.

  3. Its all very well Jomo rendering this kind of stuff, but he does not live by what he preaches.

    This angry ant has been annoyed by someone in the ULP, he cannot attack the ULP without equally attacking the NDP in fear of the comrades backlash. So what is he saying about the ULP?

    He did the most disgusting and disgraceful thing possible as Speaker of the house when he allowed the Gonsalves dynasty leader to make mockery of the right in parliament to have a no confidence vote in the way that has been used hundreds of time in the Caribbean. Then he admitted his mistake but did nothing to correct what he had done.

    Sorry old bean, but as far as I am concerned you have pooped in the nest and therefore I am unable to accept your writings.

  4. It was a vote of no confidence. It was a move against corruption. it was a time when you were under instructions from Ralph. it was a time when everyone should have equal opportunity. it was a time when the privileged used the unprivileged. It was a time when we had too many lawyers chatting […]. It was a time when history will record the role of Jomo Thomas in undermining the people’s will. It was a time when you will have to go back to Papa, Traitor.

  5. this is my second comment: Jomo, you are a sellout. so don’t try that, come again.

  6. ok this is more so a generalizing comment written more so than an article that addresses problems and give possible real solutions or recommendations and advice .

    I may not have high education and went to prestigious schools such as Grammar school etc, but I would like to know how those unity translate to better economic conditions mainly for the poor and underprivileged in this sense . That said , maybe it does but it wasn’t made clear or explained in the article/comment .
    Not saying we should be proud of $250 for ten days labor but in much larger GDP countries for e.g. Mexico , the pay would be less based on the type of job of course .

    The biggest problem with SVG , I and most informed people always been saying is the peoples mindset and lazy mentality . A mindset that Gov or others supposed to provide for their every needs . They adopted a lazy mentality to live off their Grand parents and parents and family hard earned earnings overseas . The misconception that life is easier and money comes easy in foreign countries is mentally adopted . they live free in homes pasted down by generations and pay little or no bills except a cell phone bill to place free calls on Whatsapp to BEG for money and clothes . Some live a very short time in the USA , Canada and England just to run back to their free loader lifestyle in SVG because they refuse to adopt to the life of responsibilities and accountability.

    So the most decisive and important aspect to the development and progressiveness as a nation and people in SVG is the MENTAL MINDSET and SELF-MOTIVATIONAL SPIRIT of the people .
    Once these qualities are in place it would automatically lead to better and improves LEADERSHIP, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, BUSINESS, ECONOMICS etc.

    Also free the mind of political bondage , that said one can show political support but knowing a parties policies and agendas should be the main reason and not just because of party loyalty or traditional reasons, as what was mentioned somewhat above .

  7. Your credibility is in utter tatters Jomo. You will need to do a lot more that this in order to recover some respect. You appears to have collected your thirty pieces of silver!

    And perhaps you could explain to us, the wretched descendants of African Slaves to the Americas and the Caribbean, why after all of the past and our yearning for freedom and self-determination, why is the St Vincent and the Grenadines Government, autocratically top down and entirely Family run.

    And while you are at it Jomo, could you say when will us plebs be getting that long awaited “FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL” that you as a former campaigning Lawyer ought to appreciate, is well overdue. Why we are so badly treated?

  8. After eighteen consecutive years of this Gonsalves family dominated ruling U.L.P government in office, St Vincent and the Grenadines remains one of the poorest country in the entire Caribbean, with little or no industry to create employment. What an indictment for any administration.

    6,000 persons participating in Christmas Street cleaning programme as their only gainful employment for the year and earning as little as EC$250 for the10 days and thousands more being aggrieved because they did not get a chance to get that work, may go some way to explain our high crime rate. All this after eighteen consecutive years of this family dominated ruling U.L.P Government being in office.

    The blame for such a catastrophe, surely cannot be excused, but must fall squarely where it belongs, and that is on those responsible for the nation’s economic planning. To shift the blame elsewhere and to say, that disagreement between political parties is what is wrong, is wholly inappropriate.

    Incompetence in government by this family run regime, rejection of the meritocracy and widely practised cronyism, coupled with a high degree of nepotism and misplaced loyalties are partly to blame for this our disaster, together with Ralph’s fawned adherence to a failed ideology.

    An outdated ideology pertaining to government, workers, industry and commerce, postulated by a man, one Karl Marx, who had never done a day’s work in his entire life but is nevertheless loved by all despots, totalitarians, autocrats and charlatans could never have added jobs to so small a nation as St Vincent and the Grenadines. And that Jomo, is why “unemployment remains a major problem in SVG”!

    We as a country needs to get a grip of our very backward politics, stop all this undignified international begging and put the country back to work by creating an environment fit for new start-ups in business.

    Creating an environment where businesses can succeed. Where big business is encouraged and the few existing ones feel confident enough to raise investment finance.
    On can hardly read the press without some, given by this or that, donated by this or that. When will we stop all this international scrounging and get the nation back to work?

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