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In these difficult times

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Vincentians at last had something to shout positively about on Sunday. Well really, not only Vincentians, but West Indians generally. I am speaking not only of cricket fans because, somehow, victories achieved by our team bring a special glow to West Indians, cricket fans or not.

There are the die-hard fans like Killer Hadaway who never say die, who are behind the West Indian team, come high or low. Killer phoned me to let me know that there is no room on board for traitors.{{more}} I am one of those players who will always be critical of the team when our players are slipshod and fail to deliver. I have to admit that I am now forced to tone down my criticisms of Darren Sammy, because he has delivered what West Indians have been looking for, for quite a long time. No one can deny the spirit of togetherness that the team displayed.

The rift with Chris Gayle appears to have been healed and the team went out determined to deliver. Even the die- hard supporters would have had serious moments of doubt when, on Sunday, the team at first seemed to have been going through the motions, but then rallied like no other West Indian team has done for quite a long time. Sammy has had to withstand many criticisms, but he shouldered the responsibility given him and was determined to move on, despite all of that, and for this we have to give him a lot of credit. What was good about this win in the T-20 World Cup was that it was done without Gayle’s dominance with the bat. Our hope now is that the team will gain a lot of confidence from this win and will carry that same spirit into the other forms of the game. There are a number of relatively good cricketers around. The key now is to harness them into a team that will hold its own and bring back some of the glory of the golden days.

The State of Gloom

That was the good news, but outside of this there is so much gloom. Kingstown is now a depressing place to be. As you walk the streets of Kingstown, you are likely to hear many tales of gloom. It comes from all quarters and Kingstown itself continues to be unkempt. On some days you meet virtually empty stores and even the lines at the banks have been substantially reduced. There is absolutely no doubt that the economic situation is continuing to bite and to bite hard. Erica’s tale reflects the state of things, since we see hers as one of the more successful small businesses. Then there are those other businesses that have been laying off workers. Indeed, a sorry state of things.

After a visit to Kingstown this morning (Wednesday) and coming across a lot of depressing talk, it was good to get out. But then I was confronted with the news that Moody’s Investors Services had downgraded SVG from B1 to B2. This in itself is no major thing. What is worrying is the analysis that it provided. I will list some of the issues that formed the basis for its decision. It refers to the country’s poor growth prospects “following a protracted recession and weak recovery in tourism;” “significant and rapid deterioration of the government’s balance sheet” and “elevated vulnerability to external shocks.”

The report regards as critical improved competitiveness for the tourism sector, “and the completion of a new airport which is subject to considerable uncertainty and expected to strain government finances.” It argues that “the government relies primarily on grants and concessional financing from bilateral and multilateral sources, including several emergency credit facilities from the IMF. It has also increasingly leveraged short-term debt issued on the ECCU’s regional Government securities market, which reflects a lack of access to global markets and may elevate rollover risk.” Certainly the prospects in the short term do not look good. While we blame the global economic environment for many, if not most, of our problems, we must realise that we cannot simply sit back and await a global economic recovery. Some greater effort has to be made to reduce the burdens on the people of this country, and to come up with innovative means to do so.

That Blackberry Story

Senior Magistrate Donald Browne has apparently expressed concern over the frequency with which persons have been arrested and charged, not for stealing food or clothes, but Blackberry phones. He added that in recent times quite a number of charges of theft before him were for stealing Blackberry phones. Really in all of this talk of gloom we have to look at ourselves and our priorities. It is time for someone to do a study of the impact on the country of our serious fixation with mobile phones. How many mobile phones are there in this country? It will be interesting to know. We might be surprised.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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