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More opportunities to work overseas coming for Vincentians -Senator Peters

More opportunities to work overseas coming for Vincentians -Senator Peters

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BARRING ANY challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade will continue its efforts to expand its foreign engagement so as to secure beneficial opportunities for Vincentian citizens.

Senator Keisal Peters, the minister of state with responsibility for foreign affairs and foreign trade gave her maiden address in the House of Assembly yesterday, during the 2021 Budget debates.

Peters, who is serving her first term as a government senator, outlined how her ministry will make use of the funds allocated and other plans that are underway in the various departments.

“When I look at our foreign engagement, St Vincent and the Grenadines, we are positioning ourselves on the international stage by virtue of our eight missions and we also had plans to have our resident ambassadors accredited to other countries but because of COVID19, that has been put on hold…,” she said.

The eight overseas missions are the Permanent mission to the UN; the Permanent mission in Washington; the High Commission in England, consulates in Toronto and New York and embassies in Cuba, Venezuela and Taiwan.

Peters attributed the international opportunities available for Vincentians to the hard work of the diplomats at these overseas missions and she proffered that once it is possible, even more opportunities and programmes will become available for persons to participate in.

Existing programmes include the Nurses and the Army and Navy recruitment in the United Kingdom, the agriculture work programme in Canada and the Teach English in Asia programme, which currently includes Taiwan and Japan.

“From looking at the budget, I’ve noticed that by virtue of our foreign engagement, our capital receipts amount to $55.9 million and that is remarkable….it covers foreign engagement on bilateral level, $24.99 million and multilateral level, $30.9 million. This is a clear indicator that our diplomats are working. Our foreign policy is working because as I said, their mandate…is to implement our foreign policy and to look for opportunities for our people,” the minister of state said.

Several local programmes will also be implemented through the help of this country’s international partners.

Some of these programmes include the Barrouallie Blackfish facility enhancement project by virtue of Japan; the Arrowroot factory in Orange Hill by virtue of India; the Soil Fertility Mapping project by virtue of Morocco, the PAVE programme by virtue of United Arab Emirates; the construction of village roads across windward side of island by virtue of Kuwait; the Bequia Desalination project by virtue of Italy and the Grenadines Airport rehabilitation project by virtue of Rep of China on Taiwan.

Currently, SVG has diplomatic relations with 138 countries, just over 70 per cent of the United Nations membership.

And Peters said this is indicative of the country’s foreign engagement thrust, which has also resulted in SVG attaining a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council – the smallest country to date to hold such a position.

The minister of state also noted that the 2021 Budget allocates $20.9 million in recurrent expenditure and $334 thousand in capital expenditure to her ministry.

She said recurrent expenditure allocations will cover salaries, allowances, office expenses, contributions to organisations of which SVG is a member and staff training.

The senator told Parliament that at least $84 thousand of the capital expenditure will be allocated to the Overseas Mission enhancement project.

“Our diplomats are living in another man’s land…we have to make them comfortable and, in this project, we will allocate some funds to the refurbishment of the residence in Washington, the purchase of office equipment for the London High Commission and we will purchase fixtures such as furniture for our Embassy in Cuba,” she said.

Other capital expenditure funds will affect foreign trade, particularly as it relates to the standardisation and certification of exportable service providers and a food safety certification system.

“The budget is being laid at a time where the local economy, the regional economy and the international economy is under serious pressure…when I look at the budget, I am of the firm view that it is positioning St Vincent and the Grenadines for an economic comeback. This is the context in which we find ourselves…,” Peters said.