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Deepening our Vincentian pride for 2009

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Editor: Let me first take this opportunity to wish you, your staff and this newspaper God’s continued blessings for the New Year. 2008 has been a very challenging one for our people and the entire world.

As we move forward in building our modern economy to become more integrated in this one global space called earth, the phenomenal rise in oil prices over US $100 per barrel for most of 2008 and the meltdown of the world economy caused mainly by the global financial crisis have created many challenges for us.{{more}} The recession of the world economy is projected to worsen in 2009, which could create further hardship and challenges never seen since our period of Independence. We are in no way insulated from the negative impacts of the global financial crisis, as we see it unfold on TV and in the foreign media. Unfortunately, the impact has already started to hit home. Our Government had projected growth in 2008 at 5%. However, in the 2009 Budget presentation in Parliament, 2% was presented as the growth rate as at the end of September 2008.

Hoteliers are seeing the cancelation of bookings and many companies have seen a decline in sales. Some have lost thousands of dollars in investments abroad and our families and friends in the Diaspora are losing their jobs and are seeing their investments’ value decline rapidly.

The stimulus package outlined in the 2009 Budget for the private sector is a good one based on our limited resources. $25 million will be available in loans at concessionary terms for key targeted areas such as tourism, agriculture, agro-processing and IT. Monies are also available for the fishing sector and there is the continued reduction in our taxation. Corporate tax will go down to 32.5% from 35%, with the intention of taking it down to 30% by 2010. Individually, there is an increased focus on poverty alleviation, with increased monetary assistance and spending especially in the rural areas. The significant importance of the 2009 Budget is that Government is proposing increased spending in key targeted areas, reduced taxation and most of all efficient debt management as key to riding out 2009. If the world economy continues to go deeper into recession as projected in 2009, the above strategies by Government alone will not be enough; it would require all of us at home and abroad to make the necessary sacrifices in our own budget. Also, businesses must come up with their own incentive packages to stimulate their customer base to generate the necessary cash flow or income to help meet expenses along with their financial institution being creative in providing the “umbrella” to cushion any negative impact in 2009.

Editor, I am presently holidaying in North America with family and friends, some of whom have not returned for over 15 years. There are many of us who could easily identify all the problems and weaknesses in SVG while taking the same opportunity to elevate other countries above us. Yes, as a poor and developing country, we have many challenges confronting us, especially in the areas of crime, education, health, poverty, infrastructure, productivity and our own competitiveness, globally and internationally, to name a few. However, in these same areas, we have achieved much advancement since Independence and should never allow perfection to be the enemy. At times we blindly forget that the same countries we are elevating are challenged by the same problems as us. Let us rise above the political divide in 2009 and rally around the common things that unite us as one.

Remember, this little rock called SVG, the home of the blessed, is our home and the home of our generations to come. What better place to start than our Vincentian pride as we deepen it for 2009.

Cerlian “Maff” Russell