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Fri 10th Jul 2020

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Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal supports PM Gaston Browne’s opting out of OECS and CARICOM idea

It was reported in The Vincentian newspaper of 3rd July 2020, that Antigua and Barbuda PM Gaston Browne – in relation to LIAT - declared that if no other options are agreed upon, his country may look at operating its own airline, and he took his umbrage even further by announcing that Antigua and Barbuda may have to consider opting out of the OECS and CARICOM.

Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal BSc (hons), MSc, MBA, Leader of SVG Green Party, strongly supports the idea of opting out of the OECS and CARICOM, and believes that SVG should opt out of the OECS and CARICOM, too, as soon as possible.

There is no net benefit for SVG being a member of the OECS and CARICOM. The OECS countries are some of the most indebted countries in the world. The OECS dollar is substantially overvalued and this is choking the economies and export opportunities of the OECS countries.

It is the same Ministers of Finance, whose gross incompetence has choked the economies of the OECS, who are the people on the Monetary Council of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, which is the highest decision-making authority of the Central Bank. They oversee themselves and it is a clear case of donkeys supervising donkeys. No wonder why OECS countries are economically weak.

Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal lived in Singapore from 1963 to 1965 and had a first-hand, eye witness experience of when Singapore broke away from the Malaysia Federation in August 1965, to become an independent economic and sovereign state. Singapore then forged ahead with its own economic plans and became a global economic success story. Now, Singapore has one of the highest standards of living in the world and one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world.

The OECS was formed in 1981 and not one science and technology university has been built for the young people of the OECS. OECS countries just dig a hole to fill a hole - borrowing large sums of money to pay off public debt and increasing public debt in the process.

CARICOM has been a failure. CARICOM’s focus has been tourism and incarceration of young people, and that is why Caribbean countries have high levels of national debt, unemployment and crime.

Over the past 40 years, successive governments in CARICOM have sought to deal with crime by building more and bigger jails, and failed to see that high-quality education is the way to reduce crime.

For example, in its first five years of independence from England, Singapore built three high-quality universities. In contrast, in SVG, after 34 years of independence from England, the incompetent ULP regime built a massive jail and not a university. This example is illustrative of CARICOM countries’ incompetence.

Countries with more highly educated people per capita are more prosperous than countries with poorly educated people. For example, Singapore is number one in the world for most millionaire households per capita, with 170,000 millionaire households. Where do CARICOM countries lie in this list?

SVG urgently needs to leave the OECS and create its own central bank and its own currency to stimulate economic growth. A central bank could undertake the responsibility of economic growth and stabilising the SVG economy. Without economic growth, we are simply burying our head in the sand, relying on the OECS obsession with tourism being the engine of OECS economies.

There is no good reason why our country should remain in the lazy tourism club of the OECS, nor as a member of the sleeping OECS Central Bank. With our own central bank, we could assist entrepreneurs with forward financial planning and offer credit facilities for investment in innovation and research. Our own central bank would set interest rates to keep inflation low and preserve the value of our money.

The fact that Gonsalves killed the NCB shows that the OECS Central Bank is a failure and of no use to the people of SVG.

In April 2015, the OECS Monetary Council ‘decided to extend the timetable to reduce our debt to GDP ratio to 60% from 2020 to 2030’. This alone shows that OECS leaders are incompetent when it comes to finance and economics.

The assumption that countries in the Eastern Caribbean should group together to achieve prosperity is rubbish. After over 35 years of grouping together as the OECS, we are beyond any doubt much worse off. This is a joke, says Mr Ivan O’Neal who has a BSc hons degree in Accounting and Finance and Economics, from Oxford Brookes University, England.

SVG needs to exit the OECS and CARICOM now. PM Gaston Browne’s idea of opting out of OECS and CARICOM is the way forward.

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