This month, October, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Taiwan celebrate anniversaries of their independence as nations. For St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is the forty-second and for Taiwan their 110th. These two nations which are island states have also this year marked 40 years (Aug. 15, 1981) of friendly relations, which were initiated by the late Robert Milton Cato, then prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Chiang Chibng-Kuo, Pthen President of Taiwan.
The farming community of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are very disappointed that our relationship with Taiwan has not resulted in the quality of development that had been anticipated in the earlier days of that relationship. The perception had been, that like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Taiwan was an island state whose approach to development represented a good example for us, that with commitment and intelligently planning, we also could hope to develop and prosper to the degree that our people could have a rewarding life.
The point of contact
The initial contact of the Taiwanese with our people was through agriculture. They got involved in assisting local farmers to establish small units of chicken and pig-rearing systems. The Taiwanese personnel involved in that programme were very keen, committed and reliable.
In the last several decades, however, that level of interaction with the farming community has been disappointing to say the least. The hoped-for “up-swing” in the transfer of technology never materialized so as to boost our productive capacity. There was even a time when our Taiwanese friends seemed to be competing with local farmers for market.
On reflection it seems reasonable to say that there was not an intelligent meeting of the minds, Taiwanese and Vincentian, to inform the best approaches for the advancement of our interests. We did not need wax apples, we needed to get our produce on the market to enhance our GDP. Our energy in agriculture was strong!
Our own undoing
But maybe the Taiwanese should not be blamed for this. They did in fact set up a plant propagation station at Rabacca and that seemed to have prompted our Agricultural Dept. to reduce their interest in the servicing of the propagation stations at Wallilabou and Dumbarton. The ultimate failure of the Rabacca Propagation station may well be to a large degree traceable to the fact that our governments led by James Mitchell and Ralph Gonsalves had taken the position that agriculture was a thing of the past in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that Tourism was the way to go.
Incidentally it was a “painful treacherous stab” to the farmers to learn that Renwick Rose, head of the Windward Island Farmers Association, also shared that view.
So, despite the fact that the Taiwanese had up to a few years ago indicated their interest in assisting SVG with the re-vitalizing of our Banana Industry, we are now not exporting any bananas to the U.K. It is worthy of note that the Taiwanese have since made a significant contribution to the re-development of the Banana Industry in St. Lucia.
In the process, the potential of the help of the Taiwanese has been under-utilized, as our government’s interest is merely to have a source for funding shallow schemes from which there are hardly any chances of effecting the positive development of our society. It seems as if the proffering and receiving of cheques is the prominent platform that the Taiwan and Vincentian leaders share, “almost every Monday morning”. The newspapers bear testimony to that!
The perception has been for some time now that the Taiwanese smilingly provide this “stand-pipe” service because it can comfortably be underwritten from the takings relative to fishing in the Atlantic. Our voicing of their moral right to be accepted as an authentic player on the world state is a worthwhile bonus.
Taiwan: Will it be happy?
It is my opinion that when the people of Taiwan come to reflect on the approaches of their representatives in relation to the opportunities which were on offer to impact positively the development of our people here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, they will not be happy. The time could have been better spent empowering our people through agriculture which would have seen the growth of thousands of Vincentians of the economic stature and intellectual confidence who would have been more effective in representing Taiwan’s cause globally.
Funding the spurious endeavours of politicians the characters of whom history will document as untrustworthy in the eyes of their own people, will not advance the honour of any country on the global stage. St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Taiwan need to look critically at their approaches. Long life and peace to them!