Gonsalves: Embrace Vincentian diaspora
NEW YORK, Oct. 7, CMC – Stating that substantial migration from St. Vincent and the Grenadines over the past 100 years is “a fact of life which is likely to continue way into the foreseeable future,” St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has reiterated calls for the full embrace on the Vincentian Diaspora.
“The sensible policy option for Vincentian policy-makers is not to decry such migration or to turn from it, but instead to embrace it as a vital on-going plank in our nation’s socio-economic development,” said Gonsalves in delivering the feature address on Saturday at a St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Diaspora and Development Conference in Brooklyn, New York.
The Vincentian leader, who returned for the conference, a week after addressing the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly Debate, noted that up to the 1990s, the bulk of Vincentian migrants, on entry into the labour market of the host countries, “occupied more or less the lower rungs of the ladder in the international division of labour.
“Our policy aim has to be, increasingly, to provide migrants who are sufficiently skilled to enter at a higher level in the chain of the international division of labour,” he told the conference, organized by the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, Inc., in collaboration with the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Consulate General.
“It will cost St. Vincent and the Grenadines more to train them, but, with their more advanced skill-sets, they are likely to attract higher salaries from which increased remittances are likely to flow back to St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” he added.
The Vincentian leader estimated that remittances from abroad to St. Vincent and the Grenadines amount to about EC $120 million annually or roughly 6 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
He said this figure has the potential to rise to 10 percent of GDP, and beyond, “without extraordinary effort.”
Gonsalves said the remittances increase wealth and job creation in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and contribute to the further training of other prospective migrants, adding that he does not accept the “stylised thesis” of the “brain drain” as possessing a “one-sided deleterious effect on St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
He said anecdotal evidence and empirical data indicate that migration has been of “much socio-economic benefit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Gonsalves also said enterprising Vincentians not only migrate and settle, but they seek seasonal job overseas.
For instance, he said Vincentian farm workers and hotel employees are recruited annually for seasonal work in Canada, adding that about 3,000 nationals are employed on an “on-going basis” on cruise-ships, primarily United States-based.
But the prime minister said there are some downsides to migration in which some children of migrants in the Diaspora suffer psychological damages, prompting, among other things, deviant behavior, poor self-esteem, depression and poor school performance.
In addition, he said some migrant parents in the Diaspora experience grief, anxiety, and guilt in leaving their children behind.
Gonsalves said his government and the Vincentian Diaspora must work closely on the five strategic goals highlighted in the Draft National Economic and Social Development Plan: Enhancing Global Competitiveness; Ennobling Human and Social Development; Promoting Good Governance and Public Administration; Improving Physical Infrastructure and Preserving the Environment; and Building National Pride, Identity, and Culture.