By Tyrone James
From time to time we meet drivers with big, shiny, state-of-the-art cars driving on our roads. Many times, those drivers can only use forward gears. They turn straight corners, cannot park or reverse. Many times, they have to seek assistance and get someone to reverse for them (This illustration is in no way an objection to persons with those cars but merely to make my point). It is also the case that the crew accompanying the drivers appear incapable of positively impacting the performance of those at the wheel.
I use the illustration to highlight the dilemma in which Vincentians now find themselves, with a driver and crew who went out of their way to exalt themselves as credible drivers. Over the last 18 years, the vehicle that is the State of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has been driven along a course that has literally divided the people, created a population of dependents, devastated the economy and left the people in a tailspin of rising crime, record murder rates, violence against women, poverty, nepotism, corruption and victimization, among others.
When we see someone behind a wheel we have some expectation of competence, but, alas, since Gonsalves and the Unity Labour Party (ULP) wrested control of this country from the people, the quality of lives of ordinary Vincentians have plummeted to an all-time low. What is noticeable are the long lines seeking remittances from families and friends in the diaspora and from what we call, “Poor Relief”. Parents are now forced to send their little boys and girls on the streets to sell sweets and corn curls to make ends meet. From time to time, you would see them accosting adults or running between the traffic to ply their wares — a human tragedy in the making. Increasingly, it appears that scores of our young girls and women now turn to selling their bodies for pittance, in their own efforts at meeting the challenges of living in SVG under the ULP regime.
The evidence that the driver is incompetent was clear in the IMF report that set youth unemployment in 2017 at a record 46 per cent. With students graduating into the work market annually, the dwindling of an already small manufacturing sector and businesses (especially local) laying off workers or being closed, the present youth unemployment figures should now be over 50 per cent. One of the worst economic tragedies of our time was bound up in the largest capital project in this country that cost this nation over one billion dollars. This project was so sterile that it is opaquely difficult to identify one local service that benefitted from it. As it now stands, the lack of transparency over expenses on this project is matched only by the fact that currently, ‘the dance can’t pay for the lights’. Staffing appears to be a party project as much as was the construction.
The fact that the driver can’t drive is even more evident in the nation’s health sector. Let us consider the state of our health system. While Vincentians are being told that our health system is second to none, the reality at our medical institutions and our general healthcare system leaves much to be desired. The reality for the average Vincentian is a veritable nightmare in the face of the heart-wrenching tales of pain, suffering and neglect experienced by an ever-increasing number of our people. In the meantime, the Prime Minister seeks his medical attention overseas, the airport is open to fly the families of ULP ministers and supporters out for broken limbs and other minor ailments and their wives travel to other countries to deliver their children.
How can we accept the lack of nutritional meals at our main medical institution?
How can we accept no toilet for patients and visitors to use?
How can we accept leaking holes in our surgeries?
How can we accept the re-use of syringes?
How can we accept lack of technical staff such as anaesthetist, so critical to conducting surgery?
How can we accept a dearth of doctors and nurses especially when we seem to be graduating nurses every year?
How can we have patients requiring X-rays and ultrasound on a waiting list for months?
How can we accept the lack of basic medical supplies?
In the wake of labour love, the once bastion of Vincentian pride, the National Commercial Bank was sold, the National Insurance Services is now a cash cow for the ULP government, while the age for workers to receive pensions are extended willy-nilly. You realise that the Government was not paying into the NIS the deductions from workers’ salaries? Look at the Ju-c building fiasco. The seesawing of the costs and potential buyers appear to have been all aimed at ensuring that in the end there is nothing but a cloud of smoke and a seeming absence of transparency. As a masterstroke, the Government has borrowed money from the NIS and went back to that institution to borrow monies to repay the debt. While on this, has the National Lottery repaid the $6.5 million borrowed for sport infrastructure on the eve of the 2015 general elections?
It has always been evident that the ULP has nothing to offer Vincentians but rhetoric. However, with the overwhelming evidence with which we are confronted, it is more than pellucid that the “driver can’t drive”.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.