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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says fishing and farming are two sectors of the Vincentian economy that the Unity Labour Party administration has neglected.  (iWN file photo)
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday says fishing and farming are two sectors of the Vincentian economy that the Unity Labour Party administration has neglected. (iWN file photo)
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Agriculture has declined in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and fishing, which has tremendous potential, is still a minuscule component of what it should be, says Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday.

The opposition leader made the points as he accused the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) of ignoring some of what should be the main drivers of the Vincentian economy since coming to office in March 2001.

“It really is a disgrace that you will have a government, they’ve been there they say for 23 years, and all they’re boasting is about the length of time that they’ve been there rather than demonstrating the accomplishments they’ve made,” he said on Monday on New Times, his party daytime programme on NICE Radio.

Friday noted that the ULP administration built the Argyle International Airport.

“That is an infrastructure project that really is the basis from which you can start developing the economy but what have they done with it since it has been open?” he said of the airport, which opened in February 2017.

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“They have been limping along without any real plan to accelerate the development of the country,” the opposition leader said, adding that the people do not have unlimited time.

“… when people are voting for a government, they want to see within the lifetime of that government that their lives improve. This is not some long-term project of 200 years or whatever,” he said.

Friday noted that the constitutional lifespan of a government is five years.

“… the idea is that during that time frame, your circumstances will improve. That’s why you vote for them.

“And this is why I said that people should not feel that if they voted for one party in the past election — let’s put it more bluntly, if they voted for the ULP in the last election, and you helped them to come to power, that you must feel that somehow you know you have to stick with that plan, even though it’s not delivering for you.”

The opposition leader said electors should vote for the party, the government and the leadership that is in their best interest.

“That’s what politics is about. This is not religion. It is about how … you improve your living standards. It’s not an ideology. It’s about how … you find work for the young people coming out, how …you provide hope for farmers that farming can be turned around, how … you get fishermen and fisher folk in general, the capacity to become more productive so that they can produce more so that fishing is not seen as an occupation of last resort.”

He said it is “nonsense” to believe that people in the fishing industry cannot to have a good standard of living.

“That is nonsense; because we know that it can do better. We’re not reinventing the wheel. In many other countries, that is clear that it is a lucrative industry that we can develop but the government here they see fisher folk in the same way that they have done in the past. As I say, as the least of the least…”

Godwin Friday
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in a Nov. 18, 2023 photo.

Friday, however, said fishing is a lucrative industry in which people can make enough money to save as well as buy and maintain a vehicle.

“So, these are things that we have put our minds to, and this is why we say that we have developed a plan which is based upon the four pillars, the productive pillars of our economy,” Friday said.

He noted that the NDP plan for the economy is based on the pillars of agriculture, tourism, the new economy (which includes information technology, sports, information, entertainment, arts and crafts, etc.) and the blue economy.

He said the blue economy includes fishing and the yachting industry primarily and also repairing the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard.

“That facility, mark my word, we will rebuild it in the way that it was intended because the concept there’s nothing at all wrong with it,” he said of the marina, which was the subject of a commission of inquiry about its financing under the former NDP government.

“And it will provide very good jobs because that is one of the problems with this economy that we have here as well, with the country. Is that even though you’re in jobs, the jobs not paying you enough so that your living standards can improve; so that you feel that you really have a future here.”

Friday said this is why many Vincentian young people go off to greener pastures. 

“Well, we want them to be here to help us develop this beautiful country of ours.”

He said the NDP built the marina as an important economic engine to diversify the economy around agriculture.

“But of course, this ULP government, they politicized it. And they had a commission of inquiry and tried to make it look like if Sir James [Mitchell] and the NDP were so corrupt and so forth,” Friday siad of the marina, which was built before he entered politics.

He noted that the “bogus decision” of the commission of inquiry went all the way to the London-based Privy Council.

“The interim decision was challenged in the court, and they lost big time and since then, nothing has happened. They have just allowed that facility, out of spite, what else could it be? — to just simply rust and rot,” Friday said, adding that the marina is being used as a storehouse for all kinds of things.

At the same time, boats are rusting at the bottom of the bay and the dry dock is completely mashed up because of government neglect.

“The floating pontoon lift, completely rusted through. I mean, the place is a disgrace. And remember what I said that this was built as part of the economic plan of the government of the day, which is the NDP government, to diversify our economy around agriculture,” the opposition leader said.

“But they did not allow it to flourish because they did not want that dream or that project to become what it was intended to become. They wanted it to look like a failure and to blame the new Democratic Party when in fact, it can succeed and we will make it succeed because we want to create jobs,” Friday said.

“This will create good jobs, well-paying jobs, electricians, divers, welders, painters, you know, and all the ancillary stuff around that as well that will give a lot of opportunity to our young people. That is what we want to do,” he told radio listeners.