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Looking down the road

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West Indian cricket very often flatters to deceive. Some of us are still waiting and hoping to see our cricket begin its ascent, if not back to the glory days, at least to a point where we regain some of the respect we have lost and reclaim some of the fans whom we have driven away. Those hopes, however, seem more and more elusive as the conflicts between management and cricketers continue to create an environment that is not conducive to the growth of our cricket.{{more}} On the field it is obvious that something is seriously wrong. What it is we are still not sure. As I sit before my computer at 5:30 pm on Wednesday collecting my thoughts, I realise that we have lost yet another wicket and the score is now 81 for 3, Simmons just having made his way back to the dressing room. As so often happens, we have allowed our opponents to get out of a tight spot, moving from 6 for 85 to score 246, which sad to say we were unable to reach. Our first innings score was what one expected from a limited over contest, not from a test. I have, however, said more than I wanted to at this moment. Cricket was certainly not on my mind when I started writing. I, however, checked Cricinfo to follow the score and could not help making a few comments.

So it is Carnival time and the build up continues. There is, as usual, an air of expectancy. In these hard economic times, it serves to take us away, although for a limited time, from the harsh realities that we face. There are those who hope whether by ice boxes or by other creative entrepreneurial means to at least do what they had not been able to during the earlier part of the year. After all, gas prices have just gone up, so, too, the prices of Diesel and kerosene. The Mini-Vans might just be forced also to raise their fares. Then other things will fall in place, and we can never be sure how it will all end. Vincentians nevertheless like their carnival, and they make tremendous sacrifices to participate in the activities. Every year we face the prospect of a rain affected Carnival, although as it is said ‘Rain Can’t Stop the Carnival.’ This year the rains have been coming with a vengeance as the people in the north of the country experienced not so long ago. It will not surprise me if it rains like never before during the Carnival period. It is really so difficult to predict the weather, so we must expect anything and be prepared.

Recent statements from the Prime Minister strike a sombre note. He is admitting that tough economic times lie ahead. What worries me is the word ‘ahead’. The economic pressure is already on. It is not ahead! Is it that things are going to become rougher before they get better? The Prime Minister has been focusing on the elusive international economic recovery. He speaks about the situation in the developed countries reflected in the numbers on food stamps and among the unemployed. There is no denying all of this, but what is different from us is the existence of safety measures and the hope and expectation that things will improve. The hope in the United States of America is that some of their large companies will start rehiring large numbers that had been laid off. In our case, this type of scenario just does not exist. The economic recovery in the developed world, particularly in countries like America, does not automatically spell better days for us. True enough it will assist with remittances. It will impact on the Tourism industry. We have to note, however, that our economic infrastructure is still weak and feeble. Our Tourism infrastructure is underdeveloped and we are not likely to capitalise on a global economic recovery as much as those countries that have a well developed tourism infrastructure.

Obviously the hope by those in authority is that the airport when it is completed will make a significant difference, but an airport by itself will not solve our problem. Many other things will have to be put in place. Hopefully the kind of environment will be created that will interest persons in investing in the country whether in tourism related projects or others which can benefit from the reality of an international airport. But we are talking down the road and, of course, it is necessary to look down the road, but there is also an immediate problem of survival. So while looking at the longer term we have to see what could be put in place in the short term to bring things back on track.

In any event the challenges will remain. There is no silver lining behind any dark clouds. We have to face the fact that things are not going to get any easier. Ours is a rough world and it might come down to the survival of the fittest. Even the great United States of America seems to have gone past its glory days. We need an environment that will allow us to face these challenges as a united people rather than as a people divided by party affiliation. This has been our problem for some time. Our human capital is what will help us to survive but we have been failing in this area. We have been investing in education but not doing it as well as we can or should. What are the priority areas on which our developmental thrust will hang? Is this well known and publicised so that our students will be guided in pursuit of their higher education? One of the issues that demand urgent attention is the fate of the hundreds of students who graduate from our High Schools and Community College every year. Some of them will go off to University although this is becoming harder because of the economic situation. What happens to those who return? Is it expected that the public sector will be able to find places for them? Is our private sector in a position to attract them or are we hoping that they will be able to find employment in the region even without a Single Market and Economy? Not forgetting, of course, that other countries in CARICOM face equally challenging situations.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.