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Vincentians encouraged to work harder

Vincentians encouraged to work harder

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On the 32nd anniversary of the independence of the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, its citizens have been encouraged to work harder and shoulder their responsibilities.{{more}}

In his address to the nation at the military parade yesterday, Thursday, October 27, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told the crowd gathered at the Victoria Park, and those listening on radio, television and on the Internet, that a worthy nation and satisfying individual lives cannot be built unless certain limitations and weaknesses are corrected.

“We must work harder and smarter; be more peaceful, tolerant and good neighbourly; be committed, in practice, to shouldering our multiple responsibilities; and seek daily to lift ourselves, our families, and our communities,” he said.

Stating that we have made immense progress over a relatively short period of time, the Prime Minister gave as examples: improvements in living standards, a more robust democracy, more widespread freedoms, greater cultural awareness and self confidence.

He however lamented that criminality and violence against each other have increased, a sense of good neighbourliness has diminished, community cohesion has been “sacrificed on the altar of a rampant individualism”, common courtesies and respectfulness are too often regarded as old-fashioned, rights have been “one-sidedly enthroned”, and laziness in too many citizens has become celebrated.

The Prime Minister again spoke of the challenging economic times in which we live, and said our economy and socio-political institutions have been placed under immense strain.

“Still, amidst all these profound challenges, our people as a whole, in concert with their leaders, and with help from friends overseas, have shown remarkable resilience, tenacity, and creativity in holding things together and advancing progressively on several fronts. Our efforts, including those of the government, have been most commendable, particularly since around us in several Caribbean countries and richer neighbours, things are falling apart and their centres cannot hold,” Gonsalves said.

The Prime Minister disclosed that the revenues of the Central Government have been falling as a consequence of “slow, or no, economic growth and limitations in tax administration”, and that the deficit has been increasing, “though not in an unplanned or unrestrained fashion”.

Despite this, he said an economic growth rate of 0.8 per cent has been forecast for 2011 for this country, with growth of 3 per cent projected in 2012.

Immediately, and in the next year, he stated that the government intends to focus on: the rehabilitation of agriculture; the expansion of the tourism sector; the enhancement of air transportation, especially the continued construction of the Argyle International airport; the expansion of the information communication technology sector; building upon the recent expansion in manufacturing output in flour, animal feed, beer, and agro-processing; the further expansion of the construction sector; and the thrust towards renewable energy, especially in the areas of wind, solar and geo-thermal.

Traditionally, the Prime Minister uses his Independence address to announce a basket of Christmas and New Year “goodies” to the nation. This year however, Santa’s sled was decidedly and understandably lighter, and included initiatives which will not necessarily impact too heavily on the national purse.

In 2012, the process to elevate one or more persons to the status of national hero will begin, he said. Additionally, beginning next year, and in each succeeding year, twice per year, “Exemplars of Production” will be commended, acknowledged and proclaimed, in celebration of those who have been exemplary in the production process in their respective fields of endeavour.

This week and next week, banana, plantain and other farmers will receive another tranche of income support. The total support package is in excess of EC$2.5 million.

The EC$5 million road repair programme which is scheduled to conclude by the end of November, will be followed by an EC$2 million Christmas road cleaning programme.

Six national scholars have been named, with the recipients of the National Exhibitions and Special Awards to come shortly.

The Prime Minister also disclosed that the government will soon announce a series of further initiatives to assist the elderly and retired persons, including those retired teachers who served at non-State schools and who are not currently eligible for any retirement benefits from the Consolidated Fund.

In relation to a full, comprehensive regional solution for policy-holders of BAICO and CLICO, the Prime Minister said barring any unforeseen hiccups, he expects a satisfactory resolution before our next anniversary of independence.

The annual concessions for duty-free barrels will be available from Monday, November 21, 2011, until December 31, 2011.

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