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One country?

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Once upon a time not so long ago, residents of St. Vincent and the Grenadines paid different land line telephone rates depending on what part of the country you were calling. If you were calling within your exchange, you paid a flat charge for the call. If you called outside your exchange, you were billed by the minute. People who lived in the Grenadines or the rural areas had to pay for “long distance calls” whenever they made a call to Kingstown, whereas residents of Kingstown or surrounding residential areas did not.{{more}}

When the decision was made to harmonize rates throughout the entire country in the late 1980s or early 1990s, although there was a bit of grumbling at first, we acquiesced as we realized it was the fair way to pay. We are one country.

Vinlec has been the topic of much debate recently. One factor which significantly increases their cost of operation is the fact that in addition to their operations on the mainland, they must also operate generating plants on Bequia, Union Island, Canouan and Mayreau. These smaller electricity generating plants cannot on their own financially justify their existence. However, everyone pays the same rate per kilowatt hour and the same fuel surcharge rate whether he lives on Mayreau or in Villa. This is as it should be as we are one country.

The cost to government of administering our multi-island state is much higher than it would have been had we been a single island state. We have to replicate many of our services on the Grenadine islands, be it airports, hospitals, schools or government administrative offices.

Despite this, no one complains. Not the mainlanders or the residents of the Grenadines. The Grenadines are an integral part of the nation that is St. Vincent and the Grenadines. As a matter of fact, we all get annoyed when our neighbours try to claim the Grenadines as their own.

How is it then that we are now hearing statements like “Bequia is for Bequia people” and questions as to why should “Bequia people” have to sacrifice so much for a project that will be of little or no benefit to them. What is this “Bequia people” thing? Aren’t we all Vincentians? When crown land is sold or used for a national project on the mainland, we don’t hear cries that “Stubbs is for Stubbs people,” or “Barrouallie is for Barrouallie people.” We need to get past this insularity. When St. Vincent and the Grenadines prospers, we all reap the benefits. When there is an economic downturn, we all have to band our bellies.

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