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The responsibility for our progress rests with us

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Fri, Oct 21. 2011

As this country marks its 32nd anniversary, some may be tempted to ask, what is there to celebrate? Almost every week, our tiny nation is hit with a new challenge, making us wonder, how much more could we possibly take?{{more}}

Besides being in the midst of the global economic downturn, which seems not to want to lift its gloomy cloud; since our last independence anniversary, our faith has been severely tested by several occurrences, some of which were acts of nature; others were of our own making.

Hurricane Tomas, which wiped out much of our agriculture and severely affected our housing stock, some of our tourism sites, our water supply system and our communication infrastructure, hit just a few days after Independence Day 2010. Hundreds had to be placed in emergency shelters, damage to the agricultural sector was estimated at EC$67 million, with our vital banana industry being virtually wiped out.

In April this year, while some persons displaced by Tomas were still in emergency centres, torrential rains came, causing flash flooding in some areas of the North Central Windward and North Windward constituencies. Again, persons had to be evacuated to emergency shelters and our communication infrastructure, especially our roads and bridges took a battering.

Our trials were not all acts of God however. Just when our replanted bananas and plantains were coming to maturity, our banana farmers were hit again, this time by the scourge of the Black Sigatoka disease, the spread of which was a result of officials in the Ministry of Agriculture dropping the ball, we have been told.

Over 6,000 Vincentian entities, including individual policy holders, have been exposed in the CLICO debacle to the tune of $135 million. This is in addition to the policy holders who have been exposed with BAICO. Again, persons or persons in positions of responsibility failed us.

Last weekend, part of the second floor of the government Administrative Centre was burnt out. Thankfully, fire fighters were able to contain the spread to just the area of the Census office. Unfortunately though, the census exercise, which had a budget of EC$1.5 million, will have to be redone next year; yet another setback.

Despite these challenges, difficult as they are to cope with in times such as these, arguably the most distressing development we have had to deal with is the expressions of man’s inhumanity to man in our Vincentian society. We have had disturbing reports of sexual offences, assault and murder; in many cases, not at the hands of strangers, but by persons the victims were close to.

All is not lost however, and we should never lose faith. There are many positives taking place in our society, of which we should not lose sight. The international airport project is making good progress. While the level of intimate partner violence is worrisome, in the past year or so, we have managed to keep other types of violence fairly well in check. The police should be commended for this. After waiting so long, we now a CT scan machine at our hospital.

The progress being made in education is also commendable, despite weaknesses in a few subject areas and insufficient resources to deal with students with learning disabilities and special needs. The playing field, though not level yet, is not as uneven as it once was.

Vincentians at home and abroad seem to be reaching out to help each other in unprecedented levels. When Hurricane Tomas and the flash floods of April hit, it was pleasing to see how Vincentian individuals and organizations readily stepped up to assist. Many organizations, some corporate, like the Mustique Charitable Trust, others grassroots, such as VincyCares, have been doing great work in helping our people, particularly our children, to lift themselves out of poverty.

These are good signs, for as an independent nation, the responsibility for our progress rests squarely on our shoulders. It is only if we work together that we will walk more quickly along the road to peace and prosperity for all our people.

Happy 32nd anniversary of independence St. Vincent and the Grenadines, may God bless us all.

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