It is now accepted by the bulk of our population — all informed and reasonable people — that St. Vincent and the Grenadines is advancing in peace, political stability, prosperity, and sustainable development as never before in our history.
Yet it is at this very moment that the jaundiced, self-seeking politically partisan oppositionists and their opportunistic fellow-travellers are screaming and shouting mindlessly that “nothing going on” in SVG and thus it is time for the ULP government to be removed from office by hook or by crook — mainly by crook! But “big things ah gwan”, and the ULP is on track for a sixth consecutive term in office when elections are held towards the end of next year, 2025.
Economic progress amidst challenges
The economic progress of St. Vincen and the Grenadines over the last 23 years since the ULP government has been in office is nothing short of remarkable for a country of limited resources, small size, historic legacies of underdevelopment, repeated disruptions by natural disasters, and externally-induced vulnerabilities arising from the nature and functioning of the global political economy.
Let us look at the broad macro-economic indicators for St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the period 2001 to 2024:
(i) The nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — the aggregate value of all the goods and services produced in a year — was under EC $800 million in 2001. In 2023, the GDP was in excess of EC $2.8 billion, some 3 ½ times that of 2001. Even if one deflates the number for inflation, the real GDP has, remarkably, more than doubled since the ULP has been in office. Indeed, in CARICOM, the GDP in Purchasing Parity Power (PPP) has grown faster than any other country except Guyana which has been boosted considerably in recent years by the new oil industry. More wealth has been created in St. Vincent and the Grenadines than ever before.
(ii) Correspondingly, the nominal GDP per person, on average, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has increased from under $8,000 per year to over $25,000 per year. Real incomes, on an average, have more than doubled under the ULP government. The average person is far better off economically under the ULP government than before; his/her standard of living has improved immensely!
(iii) Personal and company taxation has fallen sharply under the ULP government. The top marginal tax rate has fallen from 40 percent in 2001 to 28 percent in 2024. At the bottom, personal income below $25,000 annually is tax free in 2024; in 2001, only the first $12,000 was tax-free. Earners of wages and salaries have more money in their pockets; businesses retain more of their income.
(iv) Far more persons are employed today in SVG than in 2001, way in excess of the increase in the population as a whole. Using the number of active registrants at the National Insurance Services (NIS) — that is the number of employed persons actually paying NIS contributions — increased from around 30,000 in 2000 to some 44,000 in 2023. The actual increase in the population in the same period is around 1,000. Take note that only about 80 percent of employed persons pay NIS contributions. It means, therefore, that another 8,000 or so persons are employed; thus, the total number of employed persons is in the region of 3,000; an unemployed person is around 52,000 out of an estimated labour force of 55,000. Accordingly, the number of unemployed persons is in the region of 3,000; an unemployed person is defined as someone of working age (15-63 years) who is able to work, who is looking for work, who is prepared to work, and who cannot find work. Those who ignore actual NIS data and rely on bogus estimates of unemployment are way off-mark. Still, for those who are unemployed, there is an increase in opportunities for them to get work and/or to be trained/retained for the job market. The NIS data constitute the best proxy for employment in SVG.
(v) Poverty levels have fallen in SVG between 2001 and 2024 despite the loss of the preferential market for bananas, the economic depression globally of 2008 to 2010 and its knock-on effects, the terrible economic disruptions of COVID-19, the volcanic eruptions, droughts, storms/Hurricane Elsa, and extreme global turmoil between 2020 to 2024. In 2001, extreme poverty (indigence or “dirt poor” poverty) was 26 percent of the population; in 2009, it had fallen to under 5 percent. A poverty study is underway. Proxy data suggest that COVID and the volcanic eruptions pushed some vulnerable persons into poverty but social support systems of the government and economic recovery since then have restored them above the poverty level. The war against poverty continues under the ULP on several fronts!
(vi) According to the Human Development Index (HDI) measurements of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) SVG has moved from a country with a “medium” level of human development in 2001 to a “high” level of human development by 2023.
(vii) All other indicators of material life and living (housing, education, health, personal effects (clothes, shoes, etc.), modern amenities — personal motor vehicles, washing machines, fridges, stoves, other household appliances, cellphones, and the like) have shown a massive uplift for the people of SVG.
The people of SVG led by the ULP government managed the COVID pandemic, the volcanic, the volcanic eruptions, Hurricane Elsa, the droughts, and extreme global turmoil between 2020 – 2022 quite well. And there has been an amazing economic recovery. In 2022, the economy grew in real terms by 6 percent; in 2023, by 5.5 percent; in 2024, real economic growth is projected to be in excess of 5 percent. Only Guyana in CARICOM is recording better numbers than these.
The nominal GDP of SVG increased from EC $2.33 billion in 2020 to EC $2.87 billion in 2023, an increase of EC $550 million! Amazing! The people of SVG as a whole are benefitting from this economic recovery; indeed, an economic transformation.
[See page 848 of the 2024 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for all data in this regard.]
SVG is successfully on its quest to build a modern, competitive, many-sided post-colonial economy which is at once national, regional, and global. All the strategic elements of this quest are being elaborated in practice in an era of rapid technological change, globally.
The ULP is the only entity in SVG which has articulated a compelling developmental narrative and is actually pursuing this strategic thrust. It is all unfolding before our people’s eyes in the advances in our economic pillars (agriculture, fisheries, tourism, manufacturing, ICT services, financial services, construction, etc.); the strategic state-drive initiatives (the Education Revolution, the Health and Housing Revolutions, Argyle International Airport, Canouan Jet Airport, Modern Port Kingstown, Rabacca Bridge, Bridges and Roads, etc.); Social safety nets and Social Protection; Science Technology, and Innovation; Sports, Recreation, and Cultural Developments; Mature Regionalism; and an Activist Foreign Policy.
SVG on right track
SVG is on the right track despite challenges and limitations, given our objective resource circumstances, historical legacies, and contemporary hurdles. The ULP has elaborated and implemented the following: A people-centred vision; a philosophy of social democracy as applied to our circumstances; the shaping of a vibrant multi-party democracy with real stability; a cultural rubric grounded in the further ennoblement of our Caribbean civilization and its magnificent Vincentian component; a strategy of building a modern, competitive, many-sided post-colonial economy; an economic pathway of a tripartite economy (private, cooperative and state sectors) in a cohesive harmony; the articulated economic outcomes of job-creation, wealth creation, low-to-moderate inflation, financial and banking stability, fiscal soundness based on prudence and enterprise, and improved living standards; many-sided public policies and detailed programmatic initiatives in all areas of public policies; mature regionalism; and an activist foreign policy in the interest of our people’s humanization; and vitally, citizen security.
Some of our ongoing problems relate to certain anti-social behavioural expressions and tendencies of a small minority of our people. These are complex. Their resolution resides not only in the regulatory dimension (law and order) but much more so in the socio-cultural (family, schools, churches, the media — local and imported —, community, historical), and the economic; but most importantly in the choices made by individuals. Individuals commit serious crimes, not the society.
Through all the changing scenes of life, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is on the right track! Under the ULP government in concert with the people, continued progress is assured. Properly-speaking, there is no alternative to the ULP, save and except stagnation, regression, and collapse. Our people will never embrace that alternative!