The New Democratic Party (NDP) appreciates the contribution that is made to the development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines by the Vincentian Diaspora and will work closer with the Diaspora when we return to office. The NDP will bring a new perspective to the significance of the large body of Vincentians abroad. In pursuance of good governance, it is imperative that the NDP works diligently to give, in practical ways, a meaningful voice to the Vincentian Diaspora in the management of St. Vincent and the Grenadines affairs; and remove the unnecessary divide or bias that now exists between these two elements of Vincentian society.
It is unfortunate that our Diaspora, which numbers over one hundred thousand persons in the United States alone, is largely defined by the quantum of remittances to families in St Vincent and the Grenadines by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration. Also, some members of the Diaspora are ridiculed and ostracized by the ULP, and are labelled as “Dog Walkers” and “Internet crazies” by spokesperson of the ULP. While some Vincentians in the Diaspora may have different political views and support different political parties at home; we must appreciate the fact that they contribute significantly to the economic development of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Today, new technologies have brought our Diaspora much closer to home. Vincentians living overseas engage daily in our current local issues; on radio programs, live-steamed on the internet and on social media and even events happening in places like Brooklyn, London, Montreal and Toronto are being advertised here on our local radio stations. With this new, easy accessibility, the NDP sees a consequent new role for our embassies and missions abroad, which can no longer be limited to consular affairs.
To fulfil this new role, the NDP will constitute a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora and create a new ministerial profile for Diaspora matters. In order to give firm recognition to the new reality of the importance and profile of Diaspora matters. We will create and work with a permanent consultative body with Diaspora representatives drawn from the USA, UK and Canada and other countries as possible and representatives from within St. Vincent and the Grenadines to receive suggestions, hear and resolve problems and bring to the attention of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines issues that may be affecting them with a view to constantly enhancing relations between those at home and those abroad. This body will ultimately responsible for disseminating information on Diaspora matters across the Diaspora and tailoring how Diaspora can positively impact and contribute locally.
The NDP will change the role and staffing of our missions to go beyond the typical consular issues. Missions will include a business section, suitably staffed by trade and investment officers, some of whom already work in the public service at home, to facilitate Diaspora-focused trade and investment. Particular attention will be paid to attracting investment in Information and Communications Technology. The new role will include the promotion of trade between businesses in the Diaspora that can offer goods and services to us here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and to introduce and expose investors in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, particularly those in agricultural commodities, agro-processing and fisheries, to specialty markets in the US, Canada and Britain. We will ensure that the mandate of the existing Invest SVG includes a very close cooperation with the business sections of the missions, to facilitate the attraction of foreign investment generally. The mandates of the missions will also be expanded to include the facilitation of cultural exchange, sports and training opportunities for our young citizens.
Our New York Mission, our High Commissions in the United Kingdom and Canada, our Washington Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will facilitate any communication necessary between externally based Diaspora representatives and the office of Diaspora Affairs. It is expected that the enhanced relationship will promote a programme of education aimed primarily at the youth in both spheres so that they will be at one in appreciating each other’s problem and obligations to their communities, facilitate informal cultural exchange, foster collaboration in sporting activities including exchanges, training in the several disciplines and encouraging changes in the attitude of sport person, informally support and assist the respective Diplomatic and Consular offices in ways that are mutually beneficial and utilize our human resources to our mutual benefit.
Further, there are a number of Vincentians abroad who are qualified information technology engineers and who lecture in information technology, medicine, engineer and other areas. Their expertise is welcomed by the NDP as we seek to create a knowledge based economy. We also look forward for the Diaspora to be playing a major role in training, teaching and investing in information technology and its development as a sector. We welcome the investment of the Diaspora in local business which will improve the two way trade between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Diaspora. We also see the Diaspora having an impact in areas such as health care and trade.
In renewing our focus on the European Economic Partnership Agreement; in particular, the mission in the UK will pay special attention to the economic partnership agreements signed between Europe and St Vincent and the Grenadines, with particular emphasis on delivering, to the European market, products from our musicians and other cultural practitioners.
The NDP is committed to working with the Vincentian Diaspora. We are cognizant of the role they play in the economic development of the country, and should be commended for their perseverance and hard work. This suggests that if given the opportunity in other areas to contribute they will do likewise. The NDP will make St. Vincent and the Grenadines work for all Vincentians.