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Storm in a teacup


The brouhaha over the Produce and Commodity Act appears settled now that the Chamber of Commerce has met with the Prime Minister and accepted the “what is” principle as compared to the “what if” argument.

It made good copy for the news media while it lasted but the truth is that from a development perspective it was frankly a total waste of time and hopefully this will be a lesson for the Ralph Gonsalves administration in developmental communication.{{more}}

Everything that government does must be about the people it serves. This and all administrations are unquestionably government by the people and of the people. All proclaim that they are government for the people as well and this has to be tangibly demonstrated in more ways that one.

The action of the Ralph Gonsalves Administration to have a first, second, and third reading of the bill in one sitting gave rise to the perception by the Opposition that it was “rushed” through Parliament and if that is so then the obvious questions that follow, as day follows night, must be: “Why the rush?”, “What do you know that you are not telling us?”.

The Administration has its blueprint for development of the country. Would it hurt to involve the stakeholders in the implementation process? Would that not lead to a more sound and less contentious implement, generally?

We ask the Administration to review this retrospectively. What would have been the outcome if the Chamber of Commerce had the opportunity to see the bill beforehand along with an appropriate brief? They would still have concerns but those would have been ironed out behind the scenes rather than in the public view. Behind closed doors is where business ought to be conducted.

This whole event was but a storm in a teacup and we hope that appropriate lessons were learnt which would dictate future actions.

Reassessing our need of CDERA

Today is the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Janet which missed mainland St Vincent by 53 miles, though its strong winds did affect the island. The fearsome Janet left a trail of death and destruction starting in Barbados, continuing through Grenada, Carriacou, some of the Grenadine islands, British Honduras, and Belize. More than 680 lives were lost, including those on board the P2V Neptune hurricane hunter aircraft which left Guantanamo Bay and was last heard when it radioed that it was about to enter the Category Five Hurricane. The total cost of damage was US$50 million which in today’s value is worth US$340 million.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is one of the countries which signed the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) into existence 15 years ago after the closure of the Pan Caribbean Disaster Preparedness and Prevention Project. Last week, CDERA quietly marked its 15th anniversary without fanfare.

The taxpayers of St Vincent and the Grenadines have been among other taxpayers across the region funding CDERA over these past 15 years and the time has come to critically review its role and ask some hard questions about the continued relevance of this poorly staffed, poorly-equipped, and poorly financed organisation especially against the background of well-staffed, well-equipped, and well-financed organisations such as the Red Cross, the United Nation’s OCHA, and the full suite of UN Agencies properly represented in the region with numerous tentacles reaching into areas with resources. Questions must be asked about to what extent St Vincent has benefited compared to what its needs were. Is our level of preparedness and our hazard mitigation programme at the stage it ought to be given 15 years of financial subscription to CDERA? Is there not duplication in the work of CDERA with that of the UN agencies and other non-governmental organisations and if we are to start cutting what should be cut? These are questions to which answers are needed by the taxpayers and in the 15th year of operation, now is a good time to put the agency under the microscope.