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SVG needs a total overhaul

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We are still in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic with a great deal of uncertainty as to when things can return to a near state of normalcy, that is if that is going to be possible in the short run. Talk of opening up the borders is foremost in the minds of the authorities in most of these countries, particularly those that depend on tourism. The matter of reopening hotels is a critical one, but this depends on the resumption of international travel. It is being suggested in some quarters that the issue of ‘quarantining’ will continue even after there is significant opening up. The question is, which visitor is going to come to a country only to be quarantined. Obviously, this cannot apply to cruise tourism. In SVG schools have resumed for students writing exams, including the CPEA students. This has met with strong resistance in some quarters with questions raised about finding alternative solutions. We have been truly fortunate here with many people flouting the call to observe the health/sanitary measures that have been advocated. Even so, I note that for the Eastern Caribbean countries up to June 2, we had 26 positive cases, followed by Antigua/Barbuda with 25. Most of these cases were of course imported, brought in by returning nationals. This of course applies to all of the countries.

The big question is, have we learnt any lessons. This is not only for our government, but for all of us, because things are not going to be the same again. What Covid-19 has done is to expose the soft underbelly of our nation. This can be seen with our economy; with our politics where instead of having a united front it is business as usual. The conversations on social and traditional media reflect all of this. What stands out is the lack of hope, for it is difficult to see light at the end of the tunnel if we continue as we are going. We cannot even talk of getting people back to work, because with the exception of perhaps the hotels and a few other areas our business continued during the crisis, but with a slow down as people wondered about the future.

We have to demand a more serious approach to how we handle our country’s business. We have to make greater demands on those we give the responsibility of looking after our affairs. I am totally disgusted with one of our radio analysts who when criticisms are made of the approaches and style of some politicians could only say, “that’s what politicians do”. An absurd position to take! If that is what politicians do, it is time we tell them that it cannot be business as usual. They are sent by the people to look after the peoples’ business and not to facilitate theirs whatever they might be. The old problems continue. In one week, we had five homicide victims, including a ten and 17-year-old. The fire in Union Island and the responses to it must be seriously investigated because there must be a rethinking about how we deal with the Grenadines situation. As we attempt to attract big investors to the Grenadines, they have to be aware that they are dealing with islands that have populations, that those islands cannot become their plantations, earning our gratitude because they provide some employment.

What must we put in place for an economic take-off which has been a buzzword for a long time? The current crisis should remind us about food security, particularly as we find ourselves in the hurricane season. As we look forward, economic sustainability must be our guiding theme. Economic development is only meaningful if it involves sustainability. The putting down of a few structures here and there is not enough, because our people have to fit into the picture, not necessarily as hewers of wood and drawers of water, but in management and technical positions, seeing themselves and the community as having a stake in what goes on. Neither handouts nor increased numbers in poor relief
will do. What is needed is new thinking.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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