Let us not squander opportunities to bring our nation together
In delivering the 2019 Budget Address, Finance Minister Camillo Gonsalves announced that his government had committed itself to an ambitious EC$15 million programme in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the reclamation of independence by St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was to be a programme not only of celebration but of renewal under the catchy title Renewal @ 40.
The Minister took pains to point out that this was not just to be a big activity around Independence, but an ongoing programme. “Renewal”, he reminded us, is a “process not an occasion”. The Finance Minister went on to develop the idea further, saying that we should “reflect on the path trod (since 1979), celebrate our accomplishments and refresh ourselves for the next stage of the independence journey”.
This must have been sweet music to the ears of all patriots who have year after year been complaining about the danger of our people losing appreciation of the significance of Independence due to the lack of a strong focus on the issue.
Minister Gonsalves went even further than raising patriotism and indicated his lofty expectations for the Renewal in these words:
“We expect our 40th anniversary to be the catalyst for a cleaner, better organized Kingstown, a general refreshing of public infrastructure, a re-engagement with the Diasporas, a celebration of outstanding citizens and a renewed appreciation of our unique history and culture.”
All of this was pledged some eight months ago and one therefore looked forward to the roll-out of this programme in a build-up to what, if plans materialized, would be one of our most memorable Independence celebrations. Sadly, actions have not matched words and we are already into the month of October, our month on Independence with hardly a goose pimple raised.
The expectations we had of a progressive movement towards the climax have not been met to any significant degree. The government has stubbornly ignored calls to take the programme outside the comfortable and familiar folds of the public service and party personnel, to genuinely involve the Vincentian people.
The call for a “Cleaner, better organized Kingstown” for instance should have encompassed the involvement of the opposition party which has controlled the three Kingstown constituencies for more than a decade now. Was this even attempted? If by now there has been no major action to rectify this eyesore, what can we expect more than cosmetic patching and decorating, only for us to slide back into the squalor and confusion by next month?
Kingstown, our capital city, has been the subject of many discussions about its disorganized and ill-disciplined nature. Several have been the promises and attempts to rectify this situation, all to no avail. If we are serious about our tourism thrust, the Renewal @ 40 would have provided an ideal opportunity for a new approach, linking pride in our nation with its appearance, including that of its capital city.
The delivery has been very disappointing so far, and whatever flurry of activity is generated between now and October 27, we can only rue the fact that we appear to have wasted a golden opportunity. This government came into office under the refreshing slogan of “Together Now”. We have not been able to achieve that noble aim, not just because of the government, mind you.
But when we squander opportunities to bring our nation together, whether by accident or design, we make the task even harder and contribute to that very lack of patriotism about which we moan so often.