The southern Grenadine island of Mayreau, despite its great tourism potential, is being neglected by the government, says opposition Leader Godwin Friday.
Speaking on radio on Monday, one day after his New Democratic Party held an event on the island, Friday noted the island’s beauty and the view it offers of the Tobago Cays.
“You’re looking at it and you are wondering, you say, ‘What did we do to deserve such a generous blessing?’ because it is such a wonderful, beautiful place,” Friday said.
“And we have to appreciate that and thank God for it and make use of it in a way that is sustainable and that promotes the livelihoods of the people there on Mayreau.”
The opposition leader said this means putting in infrastructure to facilitate tourism development on the 0.46 sq. mile island.
“The wharf that you have in Mayreau there is falling apart. The road, I think they must have built one road there since God knows when,” Friday said on his weekly appearances on New Times, his party’s daytime radio programme on NICE Radio.
He said there are many areas in which local people in Mayreau are making investments.
“Because when your development comes, if it leaves the local people out, then it’s not really development because development is always about people. It’s not about things, it’s about people.
“And so, if we don’t make sure that they can benefit from the opportunities that are there, and that their living conditions can improve, they can have a better future for their children and so forth, then that is not development, no matter what kind of pretty things you build. So, we have to make sure that we have the people involved.”
The opposition leader said he was glad to see that there is entrepreneurship in Mayreau, noting that some residents are “taking the opportunity to see not just what is present, but envisioning what is possible in the future and getting themselves in a position to make that future happen.
“And I applaud them for that,” he said, adding that these people must get the support from the government by providing the infrastructure to make Mayreau more accessible”.
He said this means repairing the jetty on the island and upgrading and extending the road network to have better transportation, “which then facilitates development and keeps the cost down.
“All of these things need to be done but it needs visions, it needs a commitment to getting that done,” Friday said, noting that Mayreau “is no less a part of this country than any other part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“So, we have to make sure that whatever potential we can develop, to make it more prosperous, it helps all of us.”
He noted that the Grenadines is the focal point of the development of tourism in SVG, even as the sector expands to the mainland, “using more innovative types of tourism product, that there’s so much potential on the mainland for”.
Friday said the nation, however, has to “pick the low hanging fruit first.
“And those are the easy developments that can take place in the Grenadines if the infrastructure is put in place and the interest and encouragement is given to locals to develop, and to others who wish to come to invest, and so forth to be there.”
The potential in Mayreau is evidence and locals are getting involved, Friday said, adding that he was happy that during his visit, residents of the island “had an opportunity yesterday to show us some of the things that they can do — they delicious food and so on; the hospitality.
“The beauty is already there. But the people are, of course, the number one attraction, because they are the people, they are generous and friendly. But development in itself must be for them, first and foremost, for the whole of St. Vincent and Grenadines.”
The opposition leader said that development is not just about building pretty buildings.
“It’s about making people’s lives better. That is my call. That is my vision for development in this country.”
He said that small business owners in Mayreau and elsewhere, including from Canouan and Union Island were at the event looking for opportunities.
“And all we need is for government to sort of look to us, too. Don’t just be always looking to the outside for the big investors who come in with the $10 million and $20 million project and so forth.
“What about us who have $200,000 to invest? We are the ones that should be getting the encouragement and the support so that we can develop ourselves and use our talents and our resources to develop our community.”
Friday said this is his party’s vision and focus, adding that what was very clear to him in Mayreau is that “more of that attention and focus needs to be had, adding, “and the same thing is happening elsewhere in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”.