By C ben-David

Jomo Thomas’ recent analysis of economic development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is flawed in several respects.

  • We are a relatively poor country by global and regional standards but are very far from the bottom in term of extreme global destitution with only five per cent of our population living in abject poverty (https://worldpoverty.io). The figure that Thomas gives (over 30 per cent) refers to relative poverty, i.e., the level of income inequality in our country. Even rich countries like the United States have considerable poverty defined as the gap between those have more and those who have less. A relatively poor person in America SVG would be well off in SVG. A relatively wealthy person in SVG would be classified as a person of average wealth or less in America.
  • Overall, our people are far better off in income and possessions today than 20 years ago. Most poor people in 1999 were also better off than their counterparts in 1979. Our progress has been very slow; but it has still been progress.
  • Income inequality — the gap between the rich and the poor — has also decreased over the decades.
  • That there are so many vendors on the streets partly reflects the fact that ordinary people, both income earners and those dependent on remittances from abroad, have far more spending power today than ever in our history.
  • Migration and remittances have been with us since the abolition of slavery in 1838 when the ex-slaves migrated to other lands to seek their fortunes and send money back home to family and friends.
  • Disunity and other negative forces do not necessarily adversely affect development: two of the most disunited countries on earth, the United States and Canada, the former by party politics and the latter by culture (the Quebecois vs. all other ethnic groups), are also two of the richest and most developed.
  •  “… [O]ur country has NOT been awash with tourists” since last year unless he means the one-off surge in cruise ship visitors because of the devastation to port facilities by two devastating hurricanes in the northern Caribbean. As for overnight visitors (those landing at AIA), the maximum 2018 figure would be one per cent higher than in 2016, according to my preliminary estimate. (Stopover visitors in 2017, the year AIA began operation, saw a 3.5 percent decline from 2016: 78,751 to 75,972, according to official records.)
  • The “structural fault lines” he fails to mention as keeping us poor as well as the “international economic, financial and trading architecture” he fails to detail (but which surely includes free trade, a curse for a tiny economy like ours which has nothing much to sell without preferential market access) are overwhelmed by the fact that we have no natural resources on the mainland that would allow us to ever prosper.

We simply have very little potential for development (exacerbated by a poorly educated and motivated work force and poor public policies like high taxes), an assertion few patriotic Vincentians and no elected politician would ever admit.

Scores of nation-states have risen and fallen in power and prosperity over the past 5,000 years, a pattern that is likely to continue for the next 5,000. During that time, some parts of the world enjoyed near continuous prosperity for many of its residents while others saw nothing but grinding poverty for most of its people. Our own Vincentian era of relative global wealth was a mere 50 or so years between the late 18th and early 19th centuries based on cultivating sugar cane using slave labour.

Though the world may well go back, at least temporarily, to the economic protectionism that ensured our survival during much of the post slavery era, it is unlikely to help us very much in the future since we are unlikely to ever have as good (and wicked) a patron as Great Britain again. And if the developed countries of the world close their doors to mass immigration, as they are likely to do in response to enhanced labour-saving technology coupled with artificial intelligence, not to mention ethnic chauvinism, we would be royalty screwed.

I am no fortune-teller, but except for increased tourism in the Grenadines, our developmental options are close to zero.

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.

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.

18 replies on “Economic development in St. Vincent in 2019 and beyond”

  1. C.ben-David analysis I would say deserves an A- to a B plus. However, I am not in total agreement with him for saying that having no known mineral resources means that we cannot develop our economy . Our lethargic growth is a direct result of the manner in which our macro system is structured along a planned economy model.

    If one were to analyze Singapore for example, it is not evident that that they are well endowed with minerals resources of any great signifance.Their greatest strength lies in their well educated human resources. In general, the writer captured the main points but I will subtract the pessimism to garner an A plus.

    1. Duke DeArment says:

      I agree with your opinion. Maybe C.Ben seems so negative in order to cause energetic people to create a different environment so that we will not continue being stupid and lazy and keep voting for self-serving politicians. In my opinion the ULP has made some great changes lately, (in the environment) but as you say, because the leadership is so incredibly economically stupid in Macro Economics we will never go anywhere until the philosophy changes.
      The appointment of a new Finance Minister is nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    2. I actually noted that — unlike Singapore and other “Asian tigers” — we have a “poorly educated and motivated workforce” so please raise my grade.

  2. Casman Samuel says:

    This story can’t be further from the truth. It uss high time thhat we as vincy people home and away come to our senses an think and act collectively.

    We have a beautiful country with potential but yet are still belittling our selves for petty things an politics to which has not help us as a whole.

    This us now to get up an think outside of the box.
    Stop wasting time and act

    1. Duke DeArment says:

      In effect, you are actually saying there is much truth in the article. Your first sentence should be deleted.

  3. This individual C ben-David is telling us, that we are not that bad off after all, with “only five per cent of our population living in abject poverty” we are doing good, bravo, C ben-David is not one of them, as the Americas have proved to be a far better place for our C ben-David.

    It is noticeable that the poorest countries in the Caribbean, in the year 2018, according to the latest research released by the International Monetary Fund, (IMF) list SVG as the 4th poorest. It is now the 4th as a result of the Hurricane experienced by Dominica, otherwise SVG would have been the third poorest in the Caribbean. Confirming the position it had in the year 2017 as the third poorest.

    ( https://victormatara.com/list-of-poorest-caribbean-countries/ )

    C ben-David sets up a strawman for us, by telling us that this “Even rich countries like the United States have considerable poverty defined as the gap between those have more and those who have less. A relatively poor person in America SVG would be well off in SVG. A relatively wealthy person in SVG would be classified as a person of average wealth or less in America.”

    We note however, that C ben-David has chosen to reside in the Americas, rather than to enjoy our delights and take advantage of “the great leap forward in living standards” that we have made in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Our wonderful Caribbean Paradise!

  4. Dave from Toronto says:

    What utter nonsense! A pessimist to the core. A guy who claims to have so much knowledge should be using this forum to spread positive ideas to spur the pace of development in SVG. But, who are we kidding? He is much more comfortable spreading misinformation and fake news. As is evident from all the garbage that he has put out over the years, he does not love SVG. A traitor to the core.

    Free speech is one thing. But, there should a special law for treachery and a prison cell with your name on it.

    1. Can you not be honest, pessimistic and a patriot at the same time? If you don’t agree with the comment point out the inaccuracies rather than this vacuous bluster.

  5. I disagree with you that we have little development potential, I think this attitude has clouded the thinking of successive governments. The Grenadines in particular are our oil, our gold yet we consistently farm it out for little in return. Typically we sell crown lands for pennies, we provide tax free, duty free, whatever free in return for relatively low paying jobs which are neither secure or provide much scope for advancement. Furthermore we forfeit our rights to enforce our own laws or the requirement to respect our sovereignty. We give everything and demand nothing. We brag about multi-million developments yet see zero $$$ in duty. We bend over backwards to facilitate and accommodate some of the richest people in the world, to ensure their comfort and wellbeing, yet somehow feel no need to impose taxes on them that we Vincentians pay daily. And we wonder why we are poor and they are so rich!!! Despite the protestations of our leaders we practice self-imposed colonialism,

    1. Duke DeArment says:

      Obviously you live in a different SVG. In the real world SVG Customs Duties are VERY HIGH! Some Property Taxes are low but virtually all other taxes, fees, etc… are VERY HIGH! You should come and live in the REAL SVG for awhile and you will find out that probably the main reason why we go nowhere is because we are one of the highest taxed countries in the world. By tax, I include Customs Duty charges that you say are zero. Maybe if you research you will find that although Tourism gets larger tax breaks than other industries they still have to pay other taxes for things such as food and Liat, which is possibly the most expensive airline on earth. I do not know where you live but you should come to SVG and WAKE-UP! Stop spreading misinformation!

      1. I support your message 100 percent. The sky-high various taxes are used to fund many useless vote-reaping government programmes like YES, STEP, and Poor Relief to able-bodied people, and to fund high salaries and benefits for lazy and incompetent civil servants, teachers, and police.

        Around the world, high taxes are the single most important brake on economic development.

        They are also the single most important way a government has to control the behaviour of the population.

        C. ben-David

  6. I would like the author to show how many additional cruises we have coming to St. Vincent and the Grenadines due to hurricane or storm damages in other Caribbean territories.
    So which island lost the port calls? How far ahead do cruise lines book their itinerary?
    I follow the itinerary on http://www.cruisetimetables.com and can say as far as I saw the only addition al cruise visit we got was by Norwegian which docked at the Cargo wharf around Christmas 2017.
    To constantly repeat something does not make it factual

    1. Duke DeArment says:

      You are saying that all of a sudden the world discovered SVG? Is it a coincidence that they began coming here after the storms? Why are they not flying here into our airport? Why aren’t our mainland hotels packed to capacity and instead they come on tour ships that leave the same day? If we are suddenly the hot destination why don’t they stay longer? Yachts come here to experience the Grenadines. What about the Mainland that the world suddenly has discovered coincidentally after the hurricanes destroyed much of the tourist infrastructure of other Caribbean Destinations?

      1. There is nothing wrong with SVG as a tourist destination. What is wrong with you traitors? You seem to suffer from inferiority-complex. Also why do you talk as if the grenadines is not part of SVG? What is wrong with you people? You should all be deported and declared persona non grata. You only badmouth this good nation and constantly insult our people. Why don’t you kill yourself already?

      2. Please research when the itineraries were put in place. Tourism is multifaceted, and we (Government, citizens, private sector) are not doing enough However the fact that our cruise tourism numbers are better is evident.
        Use facts to come to conclusions.

  7. This analysis presented here by C.ben-David is grossly flawed, as he presumes in his analysis that the world economy has remained profoundly static between the years 1979 and 2019 while there were some material improvements in SVG. Moreover, C.ben-David negates to take account of the fact, that the definition and measure of poverty, has always been one of relative standards.

    For sure, unless one is an “on the spot participant observer” it will always be most profoundly difficult in arriving at meaningful conclusions when assessing poverty and life chances.

    Vincentians surely knows much better, their day to day situation of want and poverty, far better that an egotistical armchair commentator.

    Indeed, the arrogance of C.ben-David, who have not lived in SVG for a good many years now, is indeed very telling, as C.ben-David once again makes pronouncements on a situation that is truly foreign to such a malignant narcissist as C.ben-David.

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