Has UWI failed us in SVG?
Editor: When one examines the realities the people of this region have been burdened with over the last several decades, would it not be reasonable to say that the University of the West Indies has been tangentially focused relative to what its core philosophy should have been given the historical origins of this Caribbean civilization of ours.
I do not remember as a youngster ever having been made aware of the Mission Statement of the UWI but I clearly remember my father Leonard A Providence who was at the time the “Head Teacher” of a primary school remark that the university would have to take the lead in our development. That was indeed not an unreasonable opinion, considering the magnitude of the burden of deprivation and the dehumanising treatment which our forebears suffered when they were taken from their homes in Africa. When one thinks of it soberly, dispassionately it is reasonable to accept that the exhibition of occasional anti-social demeanour by some of our people today may well have origin in the history of that dehumanisation under slavery. It could be said that the Caribbean man needed to be nursed back to normalcy!
The UWI should have featured prominently in that process!
I have not been to many territories in the Caribbean where UWI has grown to have influence but I have the sneaking suspicion that the impact of the UWI presence is the same as it has been in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. From here the view seems to be that quite a bit of the energy and resources of UWI seems to be directed to “Cosmetication” and therefore is not as impactful as it has the potential to be in the development of the people.
It may well be, that the UWI is being starved of the resources that it needs to be able to make the impact on the development of the people that I am complaining about. How is this to be corrected? UWI in recognition of its strategic position will need to be more assertive in pointing to corrective courses when it is evident that a member territory is headed in the wrong direction. Considering that quite a number of persons who now occupy the prominent positions in administration of these territories, have had close ties to UWI, dialogue should therefore not be a problem.
Let us examine the case of St. Vincent and the Grenadines since Emancipation in 1838 the community of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has survived on the strength of their agriculture and fishing. The British colonialist left us with a reliable network of roads which allowed farmers to get to their lands on which they planted peas, corn, potato, yams, tannias, dasheen, cassava and other crops. They also raised cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. We traded with the neighbouring islands!
Then came the Banana Industry in the mid 1950’s and that dramatically transformed the lives of the farming community.
On The strength of their bananas they accessed loans from the banks; they modernized their houses, bought vehicles educated their children up to University level because of bananas all the other sectors prospered.
In 2008-2009 in response to the “Global Economic Down Turn” the ECCB proposed a stimulation plan in which they injected supposedly significant sums into Tourism, Fishing Construction and Manufacturing, our farming community, the Agriculture Sector was not considered for similar funding, despite the fact, that we then had 8000 banana farmers on the books, with a capacity to employ every week over 24,000 workers. Yet the Government and the ECCB then headed by Sir Dwight Venner, neglected the Agriculture Sector. Not even the element of our Food Security was taken into account.
As a matter of fact the then Governor of the Bank Sir Dwight posited that our region could get food cheaper if we bought collectively from outside of the region.
Today we are hearing of big discussions on food security by FAO, UNDP, IICA, UWI and others.
Where were they in 2009, probably engaged in more urgent cosmetic matters!
I t must be remembered that for three consecutive years after the great STIMULATION AND GROWTH PLAN by Sir Dwight and ECCB the targeted sectors experienced NEGATIVE GROWTH for three consecutive, years.
I have been saying for some time now that we ought to have a well ventilated examination of that plans to see why it failed. I would consider it “infra-dig” to be asked to accept any new plan from that body until we have had a comprehensive examination of that failed PLAN! Had the Agriculture Sector been maturely addressed in 2008 we in St. Vincent could have been more reliable in our support for UWI.
It must not be forgotten that Ralph Gonsalves and his team have not yet honoured the promises made to the farmers who supported the ULP in 2001. Remember the St. Vin Ban growers Assoc.
The UWI is well placed to play a leading role in these necessary discussions to determine the reasons for the failure of the ECCB’s STIMULATION AND GROWTH PLAN of 2008-2009 St. Vincent and the Grenadines because of its agricultural orientation can still play a useful part in the development of our sub-region.
Let the discussion begin!