Our regional institutions – indispensable to our safe existence
The challenges that we face today have highlighted the indispensable role played by a number of regional organizations in the governance, safety and resilience of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Our response to the pandemic to date would have been impossible without the support and technical experience of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Regional Security Service (RSS)……..”
(Quotation from budget address of Finance Minister Hon. Camillo Gonsalves , Feb. 1, 2021)
In stressing the vitality of the regional connections, the Finance Minister went on to mention as well, the indispensable role of other regional organisations in very practical ways. He made a particular reference to the threat posed by the Soufriere volcano, as follows:
“Similarly, our monitoring, analysis and preparation for any eventualities at the La Soufriere volcano were made effective through our cooperation with the Caribbean disaster Emergency management Agency (CEDEMA), the CARICOM Implementing Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS), the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, Caribbean Meteorological Services, and the Seismic Research Centre……”
There could not be a more appropriate demonstration of what such regional cooperation means to our own national development. And that does not include the critical role of such institutions as the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority and the OECS, vital cogs in our development wheel, referred to by the Minister as “an extension of the local functions of our government…inextricable from the work of a modern nation-state.”
In essence it validates the expression that “no man [or country] is an island”; we are all inter-connected and inter-dependent. We in the Caribbean are just too small to individually resource these organisations or to find the resources necessary to fulfil critically important responsibilities. Our external relations and support from regional and international organisations are essential for the maintenance and improvement of the livelihood of our people.
However this cannot be a one-way street, a state of recipient status without reciprocity. Those regional and international organisations depend on resources for their functioning. These derive either in the form of contributions from larger international organisations, or from the recipients themselves. We cannot expect to receive without making efforts to give or contribute in whatever way we can. Our payment of fees and pledged contributions indicate both our embrace of the work of these organisations as well as our continued commitment to them.
From the tone of the Budget address, one gets the impression that sufficient priority is not paid to the funding of these organisations. It is easy to take them for granted and to allow indebtedness to them to mount as we address what we consider to be more urgent needs.
It is a phenomenon not restricted to SVG alone, many of our sister states are also guilty. It is therefore a welcome step for the government to try to raise the estimated EC$9.6 million from the increase in the Customs Service Charge to meet our annual contributions. We wonder however if this will adequately meet our commitments and cover any outstanding arrears.
Nevertheless, it is encouraging that official recognition of the need to meet our commitments comes side by side with our expressions of gratitude to the contribution of these regional organisations to national development. We must continue to honour this commitment and to let our people know and appreciate the invaluable role that these organisations play in ensuring our well-being.