Fri 1st Jul 2005


'Taiwan holds back SVG's development'

Our Family with Taiwan

In late June 2005, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Straker said that both the ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP) and the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) agree on at least one issue: continuing diplomatic relations with Taiwan. He went on to say that "In SVG you will find that the statement of the government and the opposition with respects to Taiwan are one and the same: we are friends and we are family".

It seems that maybe the ULP and NDP are happy with Taiwan and their cosy arrangement is family-like. They are unable and unlikely to break this familial tie. I think this relationship does not benefit our citizens, especially the poorer ones. My main concern is that Taiwan is well aware of our economic problems, and the difference of standards of living and education attainment levels between Vincentian nationals and Taiwanese nationals, but does nothing to help us. Our nation lies in poverty and yet Taiwan overflows with riches. The question Vincentians need to ask themselves is 'what kind of family member is Taiwan, when it does not reach out and invest in our country to assist us, its kin?' Let me explain:

(i) The average Taiwanese citizen earns EC$ 68,563 each year. Hands up Vincentians if you earn that much.

(ii) Unemployment in Taiwan is around 4.5% , whereas in St Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG), it is over 10 ten times higher at approximately 48%. Hands up if you or someone in your family is unemployed.

(iii) Only 1% of Taiwanese citizens are below the poverty line. Here, in SVG, the story is something quite different. And remember, their indicator of poverty is substantially higher than ours, as Taiwan is a more developed country.

(iv) The majority of school-leavers in Taiwan automatically go to university. Taiwan has over 50 universities . The Taiwan government knows the value of education to the development of a country. We do not have one university and Taiwan has not bought one brick to help us build one to assist the development of SVG.

(v) Taiwan is a very industrial country producing electronics, petroleum refining, armaments, chemicals, textiles, iron and steel, machinery, cement, food processing, vehicles, consumer products and pharmaceuticals . Why has Taiwan not put one of its thousands of factories here in SVG to assist the development of SVG?

(vi) Taiwan imports approximately EC$ 290.78 billion's worth of goods each year. I hazard a guess that Taiwan imports not even EC$ 1 of goods from SVG, and continues to fail any development of the SVG economy.

(vii) Taiwan imports approximately EC$ 5.38 billion's worth of vegetable products each year. Yet, to assist our country's development it has not even imported one banana from us. Our banana trade has been devastated by the World Trade Organisation's ruling and many farmers are now without a liveable income for themselves and their children. Taiwan has not lifted a finger to alleviate these problems.

(viii) Lets us not forget that Taiwan has the world's third highest reserve of foreign exchange and gold, approximately EC$ 668 billion . This is just the lose change Taiwan carries around in its back pocket while the national of SVG rises to almost twice our GDP. We are the poor and neglected relation in the family, and Taiwan gains from us. Briefly, Taiwan has:

(i) gained hundreds of millions of EC dollars from us by fishing in the Atlantic Ocean under SVG's flag of convenience. It has approximately 115 ships that carry our flag and make money from us.

(ii) gained representation at international institutions through our government. Taiwan is not recognised by a number of World institutions and so can only have its voice heard through the lobbying of governments such as ours. This representation assists Taiwan's development, not ours.

For the benefit of our nation, the NDP and ULP regimes should step aside and leave others to the running of the economy, if they wish to continue with Taiwan as it is. The present arrangement seems to have benefited only the ULP and NDP regimes, but not our nation or the economy. This 24-year relationship with Taiwan has only weakened SVG and strengthened Taiwan.

When Taiwan donate money to us, they are donating our own money back to us - and we have to bow and be grateful for this! If they gave back the hundreds of millions they have earned from fishing, every citizen in St. Vincent and the Grenadines would be an instant millionaire. Why after so long are we still eating from the hand of Taiwan and not it's equal?

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