Tue 30th May 2006
2020 � How�s your vision?
Looking ahead some years, there will be a few things that will be serious issues in SVG, unless plans are made to overt the problems. In the present day, we are seeing SVG's energy bill rise, increasing imports of food into SVG in a time when many farmers' incomes are dropping and SVG being left behind in the race to accumulate knowledge. I do not think the present ULP government is putting these issues high on the agenda, but instead are wrongly pursuing a one point plan - an international airport. The airport is not a priority for SVG. I don't say these things to bash Mr Gonsalves, I say these things because I love SVG and I'm concerned about the long-term future of its social, economic and environmental stability. By the year 2020, SVG needs to be a different, highly modernised country, that is energy, food and knowledge secure.
With present problems in the Middle-East, we have seen that the price of oil is not stable. With China demanding 20% of the world's oil , the price can only rise. Already Vincentians can see the increasing higher price of electricity and the alarming effect the surcharge can have on their electricity bill. SVG cannot rely on an oil tanker turning up every week and it would be very naive to do so. As oil prices rise, more and more Vincentians will be unable to afford electricity.
SVG needs to work towards a greater degree of energy independence and this can be done by a rapid uptake in the use of renewable energies, such as solar power, wind power and ground-source heat pumps, to supply a significant amount of SVG's energy needs. Government should be leading the way by zero-rating import tax on renewable energy products and converting all state-owned buildings so they run on renewable energy.
Relying on food made in other countries leads to food dependency. SVG needs to have greater food independency. With more of the food consumed in SVG being made in SVG, SVG will have more control in the supply of its food. It makes no economic sense for any food to be imported if it can be produced in SVG. This type of trade drains SVG of money and increases the foreign exchange deficit. A simple example: if there are four Vincentians, Mr A, Mr B, Mr C and Mr D. If Mr A buys from Mr B, Mr B buys from Mr C, Mr C from Mr D, and Mr D from Mr A, then money stays within the country. If however, Mr A, B, C, and D all buy from Mr F (who lives in a different country) then money leaks out of SVG, and Mr A, B, C and D will become poorer and lose their purchasing power.
Government needs to set up structures to make it worthwhile for farmers and others to earn a living producing foodstuffs. Also, food that is grown in SVG needs to be organic, as money will be wasted importing pesticides. The label 'food' includes water too, and to guarantee an abundant source of fresh water, the cross country road project must stop. Cutting a road through the secondary rainforest will destroy the source of fresh water SVG is blessed with.
Children in western countries are growing up in worlds where computing and IT are a significant part of their lives and second nature. They have greater access to information and hence other spheres of knowledge. SVG needs citizens who have the knowledge to resolve health, trade, education and other issues that SVG will face in the future. Government needs to educate and skill people so that SVG can have knowledge independence. SVG needs a population that can innovate and create, in order for the country to have the ability to resolve and avoid detrimental issues that it may face in the future. SVG cannot continually rely upon foreign consultants - this is costly and the country will never learn to resolve its own issues. Government needs to modernise the education system and expand it to provide SVG's people with free education from preschool to university in SVG.
Things we should buy with $700 million for SVG
Equality for women
Poverty and illiteracy eradication
Long-term food and water security
Long-term energy security
Long-term knowledge security
Job security for government paid employees (if debt gets significantly worse the IMF will come to SVG and slash the majority of state-paid jobs)
Long-term health security
A nation with the knowledge to sustain itself.
Things we should not buy with $700 million for SVG
Three-quarters of 'Gonsalves' International Airport. Why do I say three-quarters? By the time Mr Gonsalves has enough money to build it, the cost of construction will be higher and these types of projects always go over the initial estimation cost.