“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” – John 5:24
I was once asked: “how do I decide on the topic for my weekly column?” Which comes first – the title, the quotation or the content? I do not remember what my immediate response was but if that question were asked of me again, my response would be “either of the three”. What I am sure of is that the content tends to be linked to my experiences in the recent past. Hence, the series of columns over the last 14 years has helped to chronicle my life.
Last week one of my colleagues, at a project meeting, showed me the above quotation and said “here you are, here is a passage from the Bible to start your next column”. It served as a reminder that the newspaper deadline for submitting the column was the next day. I had temporarily forgotten because of the intensity of engagement on the project at hand. I thanked him, used the passage and, on this occasion, chose the title and then proceeded to put together the content which would be consistent with the quotation and on my recent experience in St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG).
The promise of Eternal Life is a driving force for many of us as we pursue our purpose of Life on Earth. ‘What is the purpose of life?’ In my ‘book’, it is to create happiness and avoid pain for oneself and all those within one’s sphere of influence. This is the ideal. In my experience, one will never make a perfect score because of the complexity of the human being manifested by one’s physical, intellectual, spiritual and emotional needs. I will provocatively state that the purpose of life is to accumulate wealth, but will hastily add that the real measure of your wealth is how much you’d be worth if you lost all your money. We must therefore focus on holistic wealth or, in other words, on the comprehensive development of the human being.
It is now almost forty years since I returned to the Eastern Caribbean after my academic training abroad. I have travelled extensively in the Caribbean during this period and can reflect on the changes in many of the Caricom territories. In general, all Caricom states have been forced to respond to the forces created by the information and communications revolutions. From a socio-economic perspective, some states have progressed better than others but what we can say is that each state is unique and has plenty of untapped potential which needs to be exploited.
Tourism is the major industry in the Caribbean and every country has its own offerings in this service industry. Sunshine is abundant in all states but beaches are a greater attraction in some than in others. Community tourism has potential and festival tourism has its own unique offerings as we move from territory to territory. Some countries offer an excellent eco-tourism experience while in others this service is not as well developed.
St. Vincent & the Grenadines, in spite of the idyllic settings, especially in the Grenadines, has been at the low end of the Caricom totem pole in terms of visitor arrivals and total foreign exchange earned from the sector. The reason is – no International airport, but things are changing.
Two years ago, the Hon. Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced his government’s decision to construct an international airport at Argyle at a cost of EC$480 million. This figure includes Site Acquisition; Earthworks; Apron, Runway, Taxiway; Roads & Support Services; Terminal Building & Control Tower, and Project Management & Contingencies.
The International Airport Development Company (IADC), led by a Vincentian, Dr Rudy Mathias, is very active in getting this project off the ground. He expects to turn the soil in November 2007 after the site acquisition phase has been completed.
In a recent report in the weekly Searchlight newspaper it is stated that the IADC is almost certain that the cost of the Argyle International Airport will be significantly less than the $480m originally estimated by overseas contractors. Much of this cost reduction is the result of insightful policy making, proper co-ordination and support of several government departments and skilful use of local intellect. It goes to show how much can be achieved when sensible decisions are made, when there is belief in ourselves and when we work together.
There are plans for the construction of hotels and other accommodation in anticipation of the new air access to the global market in four years’ time.
In St. Vincent & the Grenadines conditions are conducive to the sustainable production of a wide variety of fresh or processed products including roots, fruits, pulses, herbs, spices, vegetables, fisheries, livestock and forestry, as well as flowers, cotton and agro-tourism and related services. The increased trading of these commodities in local, regional and international markets is now being developed to replace the trade loss caused by the decline in the traditional banana trading regime.
Vincentians are now faced with the task of dedicating their lives with passion to overcoming the challenges that lie ahead with the promise that belief in Him will be met with the reward of eternal life.