Under an NNP administration, the year 2002 was dubbed, The Year of Improved Food Security. In my opinion, we could do nothing better that to designate the year 2014 as the Year of Improved Food Security. I add the word Real, because it is imperative that we go beyond just an empty show of naming and do all that is necessary to ensure that during this year, there is a significant and sustainable increase in the production of what we eat and drink.
Around the end of November last year, Professor Emeritus of UWI, Barbadian, Dr.Charleston Brathwaite, a former food consultant of the Inter-American Cooperation for Agriculture, prophesied that Barbados would never achieve its millennium goal of developed nation status by 2020, if Barbadians did not radically change their attitude towards agriculture.
Lamenting the fact, that annually that country spent over one billion dollars in importing food, he asserted that “giving away that kind of money to others” was a hindrance to its economic development. About that same time too, the President of the Barbados Agricultural Society was calling on the nation’s private sector to get more involved in its food production. I make a leap of faith that no Barbadian would have seen anything sinister in the words uttered by the two men.
Both of them are right. Refusing to see the important role agriculture should play in the economic development of small Caribbean states like ours, in my opinion, is not only blind, but to indulge ourselves in a negative game of trying to escape from reality, responsibility and productive effort.
One of the saddest things in Grenada in our modern post-colonial era is the attitude of our politicians to this important sector. The way they seem to devalue it, the low level of planning and promotion that is expended on it. Probably that is why we often hear them say that the private sector, meaning the business community, should be the main engine of growth. But they never tell us how the private sector is expected to engineer this growth; if it would be export-led growth or growth by internal consumption, for instance.
This shows how misguided and how severely lacking in direction we have been in Grenada, for some time now, as far as our economic development is concerned. What our political leaders seem to mean when they envisage the “private sector” as the main engine of growth is growth by internal consumption, not of locally produced goods, but by massive importation of foreign products. At present, there should be few Grenadians who are unaware what the effect of this is, as far as our economic development is concerned.
Mr. Nazim Burke, economic growth of a nation like ours, with our particular political and economic history, cannot be divorced from ensuring that, by and large, our people are well fed, well clothed, well educated, have good health care and good housing, among other things.
And I am not aware that our private sector has ever accepted this significant and honourable mission. Indeed, no Grenadian who is sufficiently aware would believe that the present Grenada “private” sector is capable of delivering these things. Sir, does it ever seriously worry you that at the moment, this country is still importing things like pigeon peas and corn flour from abroad?
A wise person once said that a people and a nation should be reasonable enough to accept direct taxation. I profoundly agree. If people are not reasonable enough to accept and strive to attain. Political leaders in countries like ours, with our political and historic past, are expected to prepare us for socio-economic development. They should also show respect for our intelligence and for truth, so in their politicking and their implementation of taxation systems, they should not engage in games of escapism, fantasy, political immaturity and irresponsibility. In my opinion,they do just this when they base their taxation regimes solely on indirect taxes like VAT and other types of consumer taxes.
We all reap some benefits from the taxes we pay. Therefore, people see paying taxes as a burden only if the taxes are oppressive or if corrupt politicians are stealing from the public treasury. If governments are responsible to provide us with jobs, good health care, adequate educational opportunities, etc, in a country with limited resources like ours, we have a moral responsibility to ensure that they make the best use of our limited financial resources.
In our fortieth year of independence, it is high time that we, Grenadians, come of age.