Fri 23rd Dec 2016

The weaker the economy, the greater the killing of our rainforest

The weaker the economy, the greater is the killing of the rainforest in SVG. And, the more the rainforest is cut down, the greater is the damage caused by heavy rains under our changing climate.

The final report of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Country Poverty Assessment 2007/2008, volume 1, Living Conditions in St Vincent and the Grenadines, states that North Central Windward and North Windward are the areas with very high rates of poverty.

According to the report, Georgetown and Sandy Bay - which comprised of 9.0% of the population - accounted for as much as 16.5% of the poorest people in SVG. Poverty has forced poorer people to chop down trees in the rainforest, to use the wood for burning coals and other acts of unauthorised agricultural activity to survive.

Aerial photographs taken by the Trinidad and Tobago military helicopters in SVG in 2013, show that areas of rainforest above the Georgetown and Sandy Bay regions, have a significant amount of rainforest loss. This is a consequence of the high rate of poverty in these areas.

In the recent heavy rains of November 2016, it is no surprise then that the most damaged and badly affected areas were Georgetown and Sandy Bay. These areas have the least rainforest protection as confirmed by the aerial photographs taken by the Trinidad and Tobago military helicopters in 2013.

SVG is experiencing heavy rains, serious flood damage and serious landslides much more frequently and much more severely. This is partly because, as poverty increases, we lose our rainforest at a much faster rate, and there is even less protection for our towns and villages in heavy rains. The water runs off the mountain faster and with more ferocity.

The Member of Parliament for Georgetown is Gonsalves and the Member of Parliament for Sandy Bay is Montgomery Daniel. They have done little to alleviate poverty in their constituencies. The gap between the rich and poor in SVG is big. According to the Poverty Assessment report 2007/2008, the richest 10% of the population commanded 33.3% of expenditure, whilst the poorest 10% commanded a mere 2.8% of expenditure.

Gonsalves disclosed to the House of Assembly on Thursday 15 December 2016, that SVG suffered a loss of 5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) owing to the recent November 2016 flood damages.

According to the Leader of SVG Green Party, Mr Ivan O’Neal, who has a Master of Science degree in Macro Economics, Budgeting, Planning and Policy from Bradford University, England, the loss of the 5% GDP in the recent November 2016 floods could easily have been avoided.

Gonsalves’ failure to invest in educating our people properly and Gonsalves’ failure to create revenue for the SVG Treasury, is the cause of poverty in SVG. The consequence of this poverty is the killing of our rainforest by poorer people as mentioned above, and therefore greater flood damage in heavy rains.

The ULP regime has been in power for 15 years and has been looking after the financial interests of the rich and neglected the needs of the poor of SVG. SVG needs a change. We must invest in our people to reduce poverty and strengthen our economy. We must also protect ourselves from the damaging effects of climate change and protect the rainforest.

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