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Embracing the Change in SVG

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A Simple study of any living organism will reveal that change is inevitable. Similarly, our body politic in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is not change resistant. A straightforward analysis of the theme of the Hon. Prime Minister’s 2008 Budget Address – The quest to build a modern, many-sided, competitive, post-colonial economy, which is national and regional reveals within itself a quest for positive change.{{more}} Clearly, this is an expression of vision and foresight. Simply, it is a noble ambition to do better. As we embrace the positive developmental changes currently churned from within, we must be attentive that under the present administration we are the very embodiment and leaders of this progressive change.

Why should a people readily clinch to the ideals which seek to manage a transition from a colonial to a post-colonial economy? Should our policy makers be directed by ambitions to transform the economy of the state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines into one which is competitive in the modern global environment in which we must now operate? To answer the latter question in the affirmative and to make good sense of the former reveals that we are not only a nation of empty changes, but that we are in the process of charting a course which will further cement the gains of our political independence as a small nation state and at the same time strengthen the chords of our economic interdependency. Any discussion of vanity by the idle in thought and speech, which finds no place in the realm of development, will not be allowed to derail this movement.

Central to the sustainability of a post-colonial economy is a well trained work force. This justifies the launching of the Education Revolution in 2001. Within the colonial context, the role of education to the sustainability of the plantation economy and the formation of a free society were never seen as integral to the process. Instead, creative forms of miseducation were used as a part of a repressive ideological apparatus to ensure that those whose labour was coerced were kept in perfect check. In so doing, the status quo was preserved, education as an instrument of social control played melodiously and the plantation economy flourished.

Almost two centuries after the peaking of colonialism, for the first time in St Vincent and the Grenadines there is a well planned, structured and conceived effort to revolutionise our education system so that our nation can move forward along a clear developmental part. It is at this stage that it is worthy of quoting the three fundamental principles upon which the education revolution is premised:

Firstly, to train critical minds in such a way as to educate the whole person to receive and transmit universal culture, including science and technology, but with a particularity resonant with and grounded in the ethos of our Caribbean civilization.

Secondly, to produce sufficiently skilled and trained persons in the requisite numbers to man and enhance, in the most satisfactory way, our productive apparatuses at home, and for employment in the overseas market of this increasingly globalised world.

Thirdly, to facilitate and foster the building of a many-sided, modern competitive post-colonial economy which is at once national and regional. In short, the education system must be linked appropriately with the manpower needs of the country.

With this mammoth task ahead, it is no surprise that the recurrent and capital spending on education and training for 2008 amounts to $152 million or some 20% of the entire budget. The principal items of additional expenditure on education outside of the Ministry of Education include $4.5 million to the University of the West Indies; $4 million for nursing education; $4 million for training through the Public Service Commission; $7.2 million for the construction of the Modern National Library and $1.5 million for constructing learning resource centres. These statistics clearly prove that the Government’s commitment to educate its people is one which is deep seated and profound.

The reality is that the ability of a country to follow a sustainable developmental path is determined to a large extent by the capacity of its people and its institutions to critically address the prerequisites, which guide social, political and economic achievement. It is in this light that our communities must at all times be seen as fundamental institutions in the development process. The challenges that we face as a people are not static. Growth and development is never unaccompanied by challenges. The solution lies in the development of the capacity of our people to ensure that we can effectively and efficiently govern our lives and the future of this our blessed nation. The greater the challenges the harder we must work. The greater the challenges, the more we must also read and think as a people. Our young people must equip ourselves with the requisite tools so that we can grapple with these changes.

Human empowerment is, therefore, our focus. The text of the 2008 budget clearly particularised the need to give special attention to early childhood, primary, secondary, university, special, adult and continuing education. Basically all levels of education must be bolstered.

As we manage the transition of our nation we must look ahead confidently and at all times be guided by a national interest. We must continue the fight. Although the enormity of the challenge appears insurmountable at times, we must maintain that our greatest asset is the determination and commitment of our people to surmount all difficulties and take our nation forward. If we are to maintain economic growth we all have an integral part to play in the process. Without doubt the present administration is correct when it details that the State has an over-riding obligation to put everything in place to deliver a quality education to its people. This is a part of the common intention that we must always put forward the best set of policies for the advancement of our people.

Next week’s article will assess the role of agriculture in the post-colonial economy.

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