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Is there for us a hollow ring to Independence?

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At this time of Independence, amidst all the celebrations, parades, speeches, shows, parties, special school programs and picnics, it is important for us to underscore the fact that in the geopolitical reality of today not even the G-8 nations can claim independence in the definitive sense of the word. Inter-dependence is more descriptive of the relationships which exist in this global village in which we live today.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, small state as we are, must find a way to give meaning to our national celebrations that can elicit pride of achievement and motivate citizens to work harder towards achieving an improved quality of life, greater freedom and a stronger sense of identity than existed in the pre-Independence days. {{more}}It is only when we achieve these objectives that the word independence will not have a hollow ring to it.

Our inter-dependence, nay indeed our dependence on foreign powers for developmental aid is well documented. Our friend and ally the Republic of China on Taiwan, the European Union, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela and other countries and donor agencies provide assistance to almost every sector of our economy. St. Vincent and the Grenadines receives injections of millions of dollars from foreign donors each year, without which there surely would be hardship.

And even when we do receive developmental aid, we are often called upon to adjust our developmental goals to satisfy the requirements of the donor. Additionally, our institutional capacity to use the funds to achieve our goals is way below the required level. This has been the case for many years. Many social commentators agree that our laid-back and complacent approach to work and a human resource deficit in key areas mean that we can expect this to continue for many years to come.

Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of Taiwan’s book. Through sheer hard work and ingenuity, they were, in 50 years able to transform their country from an agrarian economy to one of the top 20 economies of the world. We need to increase our productivity so that in our inter-dependence, even though we may never achieve a level playing field with other nations, at least we can reduce the slope.

Our national pride has definitely grown in the last 26 years. You can see it in the way young people proclaim that they are “100 percent Vincy.” We feel the improvement bears a direct relationship to the achievements of Vincentians like Alston “Becket” Cyrus, Kevin Little, Dr. Cecil Cyrus, Pamenos Ballantyne, Adonal Foyle, Sancho Lyttle, Sophia Young, Kyoka Cruickshank, Sean Sutherland, Kamal Wood among very many others. They have put St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the map and have made their mark all over the world by excelling in the areas of music, sports, technology, engineering, medicine. Our young people look at them as very tangible examples of what is possible.

The work that is done in our schools cannot be overlooked. Our teachers work hard, especially at this time of the year to get our children to recognize the tenets of nation building, to feel a sense of pride about our country and to love it above all others. It is to be hoped that they will take the lessons learnt into their homes. We may then see a turn around in the adult population, not only in terms of pride, but productivity and an improved work ethic.

When these things happen, the word independence will truly mean something and will help us to hold our heads high as we take our place among the family of nations in this global village in which we live. After all the festivities are done, these are what will make our observance of independence meaningful.

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