By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(“Plain Talk” April 14, 2023)
Each day Ralph Gonsalves remains prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, he reveals his neo-colonial plan for this beautiful slice of paradise we call home. No progressive, nationalist or anti-imperialist patriot could possibly reconcile their love for SVG with these harmful, destructive and irresponsible statements.
Celebrating yet another loan agreement with Taiwan, Gonsalves taunted the nation by saying, “these agreements put a hook in the gill of anybody who wants to change the relationship in St. Vincent and Grenadines. Go ahead. If you think you’re a big fish. Leh we see how you can deal with this”.
These are not the words of a technocrat or university academic analysing our economic reality and the dismal and reckless debt trap our leaders are waltzing into. These are the words of the head of our government joyously pointing to our debt dilemma, a debt burden for which he is the chief architect.
Whatever happened to our early anti-colonial demand for “Genuine Independence, People’s Ownership and Control”? National hero Chatoyer, Caspar London, Jim Maloney and Oscar Allen must be turning in their graves. Patriots Mike Browne, Renwick Rose, and Adrian Saunders must be squirming in their seats. Our prime minister is designing and implementing our economic enslavement.
Gonsalves is spitefully handcuffing our nation and killing off our options for sustainable development. In the previous 42 years of relations with Taiwan, our country’s debt with Taipei was EC$99.9 million. In the last year, Gonsalves has borrowed upwards of EC$400 million from the Asian state that 181 of the world’s independent nations shun for diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China.
Our nation’s debt to Taiwan of EC$577 million is more than 20% of our national debt, which stands at EC$2.5 billion. Our national debt is 87% of the gross national product (GDP). Had it not been for the recent debt forgiveness of EC$106 million by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the debt to GDP would be close to 100%.
This crushing debt means that our country finds it increasingly challenging to meet its obligation to citizens. For every dollar generated in the economy, we potentially have only 13 cents of to satisfy our most basic needs.
Listen to our prime minister as he celebrates locking our country into relations with Taiwan that may prove our undoing:
“if you go and you change — the agreement doesn’t say it explicitly, but the language tells you that the change in circumstances, you can’t manage the loan… you say you’re taking up your marbles, and you’re going play the game in Beijing. The agreement says that you have to pay back the money right away. And the law of the state of New York applies.”
These are not threats of the Taiwanese president or its ambassador. These are the treasonous boast of Gonsalves. As if to say when my government is done with SVG, it will never be able to get out of the “marriage” with Taiwan. Whatever happened to the foreign policy dictum of no permanent friends, only permanent interests?
Something must be wrong with Vincentians. This anti-national rhetoric comes close to misbehaviour in public office. There is no way a prime minister of any independent country should be comfortable uttering these words. There is no way the PM should be allowed to get away with such irresponsible statements. You cannot celebrate tying the hands of your nation to a foreign power and be working in the interest of the country.
Rather than line up to show support for Taiwan as did opposition parliamentarians Dr. Friday, Fitz Bramble and Daniel Cummings, the opposition should immediately table a motion of no confidence in this leader and government.
Do we have any pride left? Are we so drained of national consciousness that we celebrate our own destruction? Is this what we demanded independence for? Are we so feeble-minded that we can see no further than the false glitter of trinkets?
This most recent outrage comes less than a week after Gonsalves announced that his government is close to an agreement with Aecon for the mining of sand just off our EC$700 million Argyle International Airport, the most expensive infrastructural project in the nation’s history.
In January, Plain Talk broke the story that Aecon received the government’s permission to dredge sand near the airport. Dr. Andrew Simmons pointed to the fragile marine life in the area, the fact that fishing grounds on which fisher folks make a living will be destroyed, as well as the potential for flooding in and around the airport.
Contrary to Aecon’s announcement, Gonsalves claimed that his government had not granted a permit, that he had heated conversations with the Aecon executives and that he was alert to the nation’s environmental concerns. “They muse think I am a cunumunu,” Gonsalves railed.
In a few short weeks, we now see who is the proven cunumunu. When Plain Talk asked the Aecon executive in February how much money the company would save if it dredges the sand here rather than import it, the executive said the answer was a “commercial secret”. Plain Talk did say that Gonsalves was like a “cheap whore” whose tryst could turn acrobatic if the price was right. For a few dollars more, from EC$4.5 million to EC$20 million, Gonsalves and his clansmen are now prepared to throw caution to the wind. They will pay off the fisher folks and gamble on the nation’s environmental security.
This unwise move is compounded by the fact that our government spends nearly EC$100 million on climate change mitigation and adoption. We are forced to spend millions on sea and river defences.
What makes Gonsalves’ “hook in the gill” statement even more galling is he celebrates the fact that his reckless and unsustainable borrowing policy with Taiwan allows that nation a literal stranglehold over our country.
SVG is not only open for business. St Vincent and the Grenadines is for sale. Everything must go as auctioneer Gonsalves conducts a fire sale of our heritage and birth right.
Enough! No more! It’s time we let Gonsalves know SVG is much more than a big stone with plenty of sand and good soil.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and a former senator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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