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Nothing wrong with ‘genuine assistance’ from ALBA

Nothing wrong with ‘genuine assistance’ from ALBA

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Sir Ronald Sanders, a former Caribbean diplomat, now corporate executive, sees nothing wrong with St.Vincent and the Grenadines being a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) as long as it can receive “genuine assistance”.{{more}}

“If this is genuine assistance, there is nothing wrong with that. But we as a people, who are accepting that assistance, whether it is St.Vincent, Dominica or whoever, have to make sure that we are not paying a price for it that we can’t afford. There must be no dictation of what we as a people decide we want,” said Sir Ronald to SEARCHLIGHT in an exclusive interview recently.

Sir Ronald stated that small island states such as St.Vincent and the Grenadines will never have the money to purchase banks, insurance companies or private companies similar to what President Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela.

“If we do that, it would be a waste of the country’s resources. I cannot believe that is the kind of path that Prime Minister Gonsalves is talking about,” said Sir Ronald.

He expressed that he assumes Prime Minister Gonsalves is advocating that small countries like St.Vincent and the Grenadines should take a pragmatic and practical approach to development.

“And in that pragmatic and practical approach we must recognise that there are some things the private sector does far better than governments will ever do,” said Sir Ronald. He said these include operating banks, insurance companies, manufacturing companies and hotels. But on the other hand, Sir Ronald said, governments also have the responsibility of caring for their citizens, particularly those who are poor. In that case, the government has to provide social services, such as health care, education, and utilities (especially electricity and water), said Sir Ronald.

He expressed that if socialism means that government continues to be the provider of services such as electricity and water, a general hospital, and the main schools, as a result of them being essential services, then that’s fine.

However, he warned that where the productive section of the market is concerned, governments should only play the role of a regulator, supervisor or facilitator.

“But the government must not get involved in those things because the experience has been throughout the world that where ever government attempted to get into areas of production, it has failed. It has cost to country and money, and political patronages come into it,” said Sir Ronald, while suggesting that governments can partner with the private sector in areas of research and development.

Focussing his attention on ALBA, Sir Ronald said: “I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as we do not tie ourselves to having to follow an ALBA position; as long as we are independent to say we bring a certain perspective to ALBA, this is what the perspective is; we want you to respect what our perspective is; we don’t want you to force your perspective down our throats.”

Sir Ronald stated that he believes that if the OECS countries involved in ALBA ever become simply the recipients of what the organization says it wants and follow its dictates blindly, then they should not belong to it.

“We are in CARICOM, for instance the OECS countries, but we don’t go into CARICOM and accept what Jamaica tells us, and what Guyana tells us and what Trinidad tells us. We go in there as partners,” said Sir Ronald, supporting his point.

He said St.Vincent and the Grenadines was right not to sign on to the military arrangements of ALBA or the SUCRE.

“Those things are not in the OECS’ interest. We already have our own regional security system. We already have our own currency,” said Sir Ronald.

Sir Ronald stated that he doesn’t think that socialism is applicable in the 21st century.

“I believe for our countries, we have to take a pragmatic and practical approach to development recognising that there are some things the state needs to do to look after the vulnerable and poor in our economy,” said Sir Ronald, adding that he also believes that the state has to facilitate the private sector.

“What you cannot do in any community is kill the human spirit. The greatest asset we have in the Caribbean has always been the creativity and spirit of the people and that is the individualism that has been in the Caribbean man.”