My fellow Vincentians, as we celebrate our 43rd year of Independence, we do so in a world that has been forever changed by a deadly pandemic from which we are now slowly emerging. We are faced with a catastrophic war in Europe, caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that may yet escalate. We also contend with severe economic hardships that show no sign of easing and with the ravages of violent crime and killings that have disturbed our peace and undermined our feeling of security. Yet, in the face of such challenges, there is always hope, for there is a silver lining in the darkest clouds.
The words of our national anthem prepared us for such times by reminding us of the power of faith to help us forge ahead. Our faith in God is the anchor that holds us steady in turbulent times. That faith and our commitment to support one another, especially in tough times, will empower us to make things better.
When I reflect on the journey as a nation, particularly the challenges encountered in the last two years, I am proud and grateful for the warrior spirit in our people. A spirit not of confrontation, but of determination to prevail against all odds in the pursuit of our national and personal aspirations. A spirit that has helped us weather the storms of COVID-19, a dengue fever outbreak, a volcanic eruption, economic turbulence, and a crisis of governance. That spirit will also help us to overcome new challenges in the future.
When I visit communities across our beautiful country, from Fancy in the North to Ashton in the South, I am deeply moved by the courage and generosity of our people. We dream of a better future and are willing to put in the hard work to achieve it. In building our nation, we must together create the conditions to realize those dreams and live out our true potential. We all want future generations to have a better life, to have big dream, to be happy, and to be safe. But many things have gone wrong with our country and threaten to get worse if we do not acknowledge this and resolve to do better.
Now is the time to unite and put the needs of nation above narrow self-interest to make the necessary course correction and right the wrongs. We must abandon the politics of division that is clearly designed to breed distrust among our people and set us against one another while the perpetrators remain in power and prosper. Let us elevate ourselves by rejecting political manipulation, empty promises, and destructive lies. We deserve better and, therefore, must demand that it be done.
On this 43rd Independence, I choose to discuss the harsh realities that we face. I also challenge all of us to act in the best interest of our country and confront the challenges. Our independence celebration is the right time to re-assess, re-examine, re-think the current trajectory of our nation. I believe our country is currently on the wrong path. Life has gotten harder for most and our people are less hopeful about the future. The government of the day has been found wanting. Too many promises made have not been kept. In government, excuses are made for official failings and slogans are used to mask real problems. We can do better and to do so we must face our problems and challenges honestly, together.
Too often our citizens are unable to obtain proper and timely health care. Most of us cannot fly out to other countries for treatment. Therefore, we must commit now to making those services available here in SVG so that everyone can have access to them.
Our education system has not done enough to develop our young minds and prepare them for employment opportunities here or elsewhere. Too many of our secondary school students fail to graduate, resulting in one of the highest dropout rates in the Eastern Caribbean. We must do better than that.
The cost-of-living crisis has been crushing our people, with food, electricity and gas prices climbing daily. Governments across the world moved quickly and compassionately to support their people against cost increases caused by the pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine. The people of SVG have not been so fortunate. Protecting government’s finances have been the paramount concern here; not easing the burden for our people.
Serious crime and violence shatter our peace of mind and make us feel unsafe in our own homes. Home break-ins and theft are all too frequent events. Across the nation, farmers suffer from the theft of their crops and animals. They often suffer in silence because they have given up on the police, who have failed to help them end the problem. And there is still no action or plan from the government to address the problem of rising crime, including praedial larceny.
My dear people, the years ahead will present challenges. They will also present opportunities. Our people must be ready for them. We should see the coming years as the time for us to build our economy, strengthen our education system, improve healthcare, and deliver for all our people.
Let us remain hopeful and strong! Hope is the beacon that calls us forward and together we will find the way to get there. Whether you are working in a store in Kingstown, as a member of our fisherfolk community in Barrouallie or the Grenadines, as a farmer in the Marriaqua valley or toiling abroad on cruise ships or oil rigs, or working elsewhere in the Caribbean, Canada, the USA or UK, your role is vital to our success as a nation. Perform it diligently and well, for all of us.
On this our 43rd anniversary of independence, we must commit ourselves to renewing our country, rebuilding our economy, and restoring faith in a better future. I urge this because I know deep within my heart that as Vincentians, once we are united, there is nothing we cannot achieve. When we work together for one another, our future is limitless.
I wish us all a safe and blessed celebration of Independence, and in the beautiful words of our national anthem “May peace reign from shore to shore, and God bless and keep us true.”