US REACHES OUT TO SVG

As St. Vincent and the Grenadines celebrates its 34th anniversary of political independence from Great Britain, the United States says it wants to deepen its “strong relationship” with Kingstown.

“I look forward to deepening our strong relationship, and wish you peace, prosperity and happiness in the year ahead,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement, issued on behalf of President Barack Obama.

“On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I send best wishes to the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines as you celebrate 34 years of independence on Oct. 27,” added Kerry on Sunday, Independence Day.

“The United States and St. Vincent and the Grenadines enjoy a close and collaborative partnership on several fronts to the benefit of both our countries and the greater Eastern Caribbean,” he continued.

Kerry said both countries, and those of the sub-regional Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), “work together to strengthen the sustainability of HIV/AIDS programs, mitigate the effects of climate change, improve education for at-risk youth, and prepare young people to enter the workforce in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

In his independence message to nationals in the Diaspora, read two Sundays ago, at an Ecumenical Service of Thanksgiving in Brooklyn, New York, by Consul General Selmon Walters, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said that, by most measurements, the country has made “remarkable” socio-economic strides.

He said a “compelling factual story of improved standards of material living is available to be told” in a number of “central areas.”

He identified, among those areas, “enhanced” income levels; education; health; housing; sanitation; water; electricity; telecommunications; car ownership; road transportation and airport infrastructure; travel by air and sea; social equality; poverty reduction; culture and the arts; sports and recreation; science and technology; and broadcasting and information.

But the Vincentian leader, at the same time, hastened to add that there have been “disappointments and even regression” in other spheres, such as “increased criminal conduct, especially crimes of violence; a disturbing coarseness in public and private discourse; a weakening of citizen security, despite improved levels of policing and the strengthening of security apparatuses; unhealthy behavioral habits, which lead to chronic non-communicable diseases (diabetes and hypertension); and widespread sexually-transmitted diseases, mainly HIV/AIDS.”

He, however, said that the nation’s “outstanding” accomplishments have been “initiated and sustained” by faith and deeds, stating that the two ideals have “seen us through difficult challenges, and has brought us success.”

The prime minister reiterated that hard and smart work are the “centerpiece of a progressive society,” pointing out that “progress is dependent upon productive and disciplined labor, which society must reward appropriately.”

In her independence message, U.S. Ambassador La Celia Prince said St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been “blessed to come though the last year, advancing our development, in spite of the extraordinary difficult global financial climate.”

She said, within the last year, one of the country’s “ proudest moments” was being “one of 18 world-wide recipients of an award from the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) for our accomplishment of halving undernourishment ahead of the 2015 deadline, set by the U.N., for achieving this and other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”

Prince also said in her message, published in the souvenir journal of the umbrella Vincentian group in the U.S., Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A., Inc. (COSAGO), that the government is “steadfast in its commitment to complete and inaugurate the Argyle International Airport before the end of 2014.

“No other investment in infrastructure has the potential to transform St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the way that the international airport can,” she said, thanking members of the Vincentian Diaspora for placing “confidence in the government to deliver this vial piece of infrastructure and have, in turn, made financial contributions, as well as conducted fundraisers, for this worthy cause.”

Alex K.S. Fan, deputy director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York, said Taiwan was very happy to assist St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the construction of the Argyle International Airport.

“We are part of your Argyle International Airport,” said Fan in addressing a gala Independence Anniversary Luncheon on Sunday in Brooklyn, organized by COSAGO, in conjunction with the New York Consulate General. “We want to be helpful to our friends.”

Gonsalves has repeatedly said that Taiwan is among a number of countries that is part of a “Coalition of the Willing” helping with construction of the Argyle International Airport. Among others are Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

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