Fellow citizens and consumers, good morning and happy Consumer Rights Day 2021.
It is indeed an honor and a privilege for me to address you as the new Minister with responsibility for Consumer Affairs and Internal Trade, especially at a time when the world is plunged into great uncertainty because of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic, which is having debilitating effects of monumental proportions on economies worldwide.
So today, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, notwithstanding the unprecedented times, joins the rest of the International Community in celebrating World Consumer Rights Day -15th March 2021, under the theme “Tackling Plastic Pollution”.
World Consumer Rights Day is an annual observation dedicated to highlighting the power of consumers and their rights for a fair, safe and sustainable marketplace for everyone.
On this World Consumer Rights Day – 15 March 2021, consumers everywhere will join together in solidarity to Tackle Plastic Pollution.
Although plastic can be a highly useful material in everyday life, our consumption and production of plastics has become unsustainable and are a threat to our already fragile environment.
Currently we are facing a global plastic pollution crisis which is further compounded by health and economic crises.
According to Consumer International, a global body that advocates for consumer rights, referenced a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts & SYSTEMIQ – Breaking the Plastic Wave, of August 2020 – calculates that “the flow of plastic materials into the ocean will triple by 2040, if major innovations and changes in policy and behaviour do not occur”. The report also estimates “that by 2050, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish”.
These calculations and estimates are and should be of major concern to all of us as citizens and consumers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, since we too engage in a significant amount of plastic consumption and pollution, annually.
The problem of plastic pollution is not a problem for a select few but for the entirewhole, especially since there is no single or best solution in the fight against plastic pollution.
Hence, now is an opportune time to highlight, address, and tackle plastic pollution especially as the global COVID-19 pandemic adds to the rise of single-use plastics including face masks, gloves, and food packaging.
It therefore calls for maturity in action; frank open and honest conversations; inclusiveness; and the will and ability to make decisions for the greater good of all.
To this extent, the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has undertaken, among other things, the following in its frontal fight in tackling plastic pollution.
A ban on certain types of single-used plastics, which from published reports, account for 50% of the plastic produced every year;
A ban on certain types of Styrofoam;
It must be noted, that our decisions and actions as a Government embraces and considers the best interest of all stakeholders; cognizant of our strengths, inherent limitations and endless possibilities.
Last year, the Parliament approved and passed the Consumer Protection Act 2020, which among other things, recognizes the power of consumers and their rights for a fair, safe and sustainable marketplace for everyone.
To this end, the Department of Consumer Affairs and Internal Trade in my Ministry is in the process of putting together a plan that would give greater focus on consumerism in keeping with the Consumer Protection Act 2020.
So I want to encourage all citizens and consumers alike; let us unite and join hands and minds in Tackling Plastic Pollution in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Together we can, together we must.
Almighty God bless us all and keep us safe.