Returning to SVG – no land for the young?

2 05 2011

LIAT aircraft landing at ET Joshua Airport, SVG

Now more than ever, the youth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are being afforded the opportunities to venture overseas to pursue their education at university level and beyond.

Not only have they migrated to the usual USA, Canada and UK, they have taken up residence in the more far flung corners of the world… Mexico, Malaysia, Taiwan, Australia… the list goes on.

On completion of their degrees and/or training, many complain that there is nothing for them to go back to if they wish to return to their homeland. Many feel that the island has not progressed sufficiently to cope with their newly acquired skills and social interests.

However, there are those who argue quite the opposite. The onus is on young returnees to carve a niche for themselves in Vincentian society.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Is the government doing enough to encourage and accommodate young Vincentian returnees? Do returnees expect too much? Is returning to SVG best left for retirement age?

Whatever they may be, let’s hear your views!




11 responses

3 05 2011
Lorenzo Oliver

I am returning to St Vincent at billionaire age thank you! lol No but on a serious note the last time I was at home (Dec 2007 – Jan 2008) I was in a meeting with the PM along with fellow students from Mexico where he made a comment/asked if we were ready to return about half answered yes and the other half stayed quiet. I assumed that half of those who said yes were really thinking what the half who said nothing was thinking – HELL NO! … One of the students made him aware of what I had murmured under my breathe, that I was not returning at least not soon. Mexico is dangerous, I still remnants of the Culture I experienced when I first came here. But when I came here the economy was the 9th largest in the world and today I think it has slipped to 12th.

Besides the fact that I am somewhat selfish and think that I can do more for my mother and by extension the country by staying here and accumulating some wealth using Ideas that won’t be dashed at the side by fumbling non-experienced bureaucrats, selfish self centered attention whores and establishment wealth, I have problems with living in St Vincent. Every time I go home I feel intellectually stifled and I become somewhat carefree, complacent and conformist. Not that everyone back home is like that but it happens to me. The other thing is I am accustomed to a certain level of competence at least in the circles I find myself in which is the result of a the newly educated and globalization friendly middle trying desperately to clean up the world image of it’s country which is something I can learn from and something that can never happen in St Vincent because quite frankly it doesn’t have a world image to speak of, at least to the big fish nor sufficient people to break free from the nice time mentality.

I love St Vincent that is why I can be so frank and I would love to see it improve but it can only do so if those of us go back with the tools to do so not just the education we garnered, but the know how and funds to combat the rampant pull strings and favoritism that exist.

Daz my two cents

P.S my Spanish is better than my English lol

3 05 2011
Lorenzo Oliver

middle class*, its*

3 05 2011

St. Vincent, I love you a million. I really do. You have provided me with a strong primary & secondary education, you have raised a friendly & caring young woman so I’ll forever be grateful for that.

I am proud of my culture (the food, the music, heck I feel special telling others about my childhood & my country) BUT I say this “plain talk” St. Vincent is perfect (IMO) for vacationing. Not for living (At least not for me). I have gotten used to a certain lifestyle as I’ve been in NY for a decade. When I return to St Vincent on “holidays”, after the first week, I’m ready to come back to NY. A lot of my friends have already migrated so it’s hard to even think of starting over in St Vincent.

I spent 60K USD on my first Bachelor’s degree. If I were to return to St. Vincent to work, when will I be done paying back my student loan? There are a lot of opportunities where I am, I meet all types of ppl every day, I do things that I have never done & wouldn’t really have the chance to do on a consistent basis were I to move back to St. Vincent.

PPL make the islands sound so idyllic but I guess “paradise” is subjective. There’s not enough to do there & it’s just not developed for me. Someone has to do the “developing” right? And I will applaud them once/when they do….They say it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness but I’ll just take the other route.

Each place offers different things & it’s up to the individual person to determine the type of life they want to life. I’m a city girl. I like the hustle & the bustle. I like being able to go somewhere @ 11 o clock @ night and not feel like I’m a ghost town. I like earning the money that I do. My mother has a Masters degree & is the principal of a primary school in St Vincent & I just laugh at her salary. I mean I suppose it’s a good salary to survive there but I couldn’t imagine after paying all that money for education abroad just to earn a salary that just barely covers the monthly bill for my loan.

I’ll return home to live but after I’ve made a life for myself where the grass seems a bit greener for the time being.

Disclaimer: These are MY personal thoughts & feelings on THIS matter. It was not my intention to offend any Vincentian (abroad or at home) & I am in no way insulting OUR country.

3 05 2011
A. Harry

Quite frankly I share a lot of Lorenzo’s sentiments. I don’t see the need to repeat every detail, so this is going to be short. That being said, I do see a lot of potential in the country. Heaps of it in fact. The lion’s share of the problem as I see it though, lies in the mentality of our people. As Lorenzo put it “care free and conformist”. Of course a lot of people would say the onus is on the government to do this, or that, but why wait for them to take initiative? Many Vincentian people lack the capability to “think outside the box”.

We suffer from “me too” syndrome, and lack the impetus to be creative in thought as well as business. PyMEs…wait, sorry, SMBs are a huge driving force in most developing and developed economies. It seems to me that almost no one is willing to do anything to start a business unless they see someone else start up and then go “Oh, that looks good, I’ll try that too”. Then you run into having 5 of the same businesses, 3 of which are fairly incompetent at providing the service/goods offered, yet still cause the prices and profitability to be driven down to a point where a business is no longer sustainable. For those that do take initiative, the customs and excise department makes it ridiculously difficult to provide goods/services to consumers at reasonable prices, and if there is anywhere the government can help it’s here. In my opinion, increased activity within this sector can go a very long way into changing the way things are done in St.Vincent.

If young people can live a similar lifestyle afforded to them living overseas right here (By having goods, services – activities, entertainment etc), that could help stem the “brain drain” and hopefully we would have more trained and educated people to contribute towards the growth and development of our nation, not to mention a driving force for the even younger generations to do the same, as well as having an environment that fosters progressive thought.

Just trying to focus on the positive here, because if I dwell on the negative points then I think I’d go off on a 100 paragraph tirade that nobody would take the time to read. 🙂

My $0.02

3 05 2011
Kwesi Cato

As much as I would like to stand up for my country, I have to say I agree with everybody else. But I think I’ll take a set on the idea that returnees must carve out their niche. Quite frankly there is nowhere for this carve out to occur, so to procliam that you must carve it out yourself is ridicolous. Where you supposed to carve it out? Our culture is not one at the time that embraces innovation, and so people who come back full of ideas get burnt out and stifled…and quite frankly i speak from experience.

And the only place for this “carve out” to occur would be in the private sector…of course we have no private sector to speak of, but that seems to be beside the point. Anyway I gone, otherwise I shall start ranting myself lol

3 05 2011

I agree with the majority of what was said before so I wouldn’t repeat it here.

A friend of mine once told me (he lived in the UK for a very long time and now resides in SVG) that ‘we’ have become spoiled….accustomed to a certain lifestyle/pace and have a very low tolerance level when we return to our more slow paced, relaxed country. While I agree with him to an extent, what I dislike the MOST about our country is the mentality/attitude of our people…even the so-called ‘educated’ ones. Most of us return with chips on our shoulders, most of us act as if we are entitled to a certain type of position and or respect and most of us forget that we are no longer the minority.

St. Vincent is what it is and I’m often of the opinion that too many of us have a vision that is greater than the resources and abilities available. I Love my country, I love it to the point where I want it to not develop into the concrete jungle that I’ve grown accustomed to simply because after a while I NEED that break from the hustle and bustle of the big city….but like Tia said….after a few weekends of the same thing I’m ready to leave…however…I don’t think I can nor do I want to live here until I’ve reached ‘retirement’ age. The ceilings in SVG are low and politics saturates every aspect of life here to a point where it becomes irritating.

I’m not sure about everyone carving out a niche. For what I want to do career-wise, I most definitely cannot live here…but there are those who can and will do it…it just won’t be me.

I love getting lost in places. I love going to a country where no one knows me and just melting into the culture…SVG unfortunately does not provide for that

3 05 2011
A. Harry

I think that is one of the challenges we face though. How do we grow and develop as a country without losing the charm and uniqueness that we have and makes Vincentians as a people, and St. Vincent as a country, individual. I don’t think having both are mutually exclusive… Places such as the Bahamas and the British Virgin islands pull this off well. Why can’t we?

4 05 2011
Als Simmons

My intentions was to return. I went back to do my masters dissertation research and got block by the power-that-be at the NIS, even though he invited me to come down and do the research.

Yet, still I wanted to return.

But my dad went back for over 4 yrs and got block.
Due to the political situation of “either for me or against me” on both sides, I cannot see how some people would want to return to St Vincent if they do not have the means to employ themselves and not be dependent on the Government or those in authority.

Unless I have the means that I’m self-reliant, I cannot see myself returning to live in St Vincent. I will visit and help out my family down there, but that’s the most I can see myself doing in the near future. Hopefully things will change in regards to my situation or the country. We have so much talent. But it’s a hard life struggling in Paradise… much less when you know you have so much potential.

4 05 2011
J.S Vincent

I thoroughly agree with you all regarding the issues that make it unappealing for young people to return to live in SVG (before they’re retirement age)… Lord knows being in SVG is sometimes exasperating! And I totally get why that would put young people off… I understand.

But my rationale is this… no matter where you go in this world, there will be issues and problems…whether it’s the weather, the downsides of living in a big city where it’s hard to see a friendly face on the street, taxes, gov’t issues, pollution etc etc (just as long a list as with living in SVG).

The way I see it, I rather struggle in MY homeland, and try to give something back for the greater good, than struggle in a country where even though I hold a British passport, my skin colour will always mark me as a ‘foreigner’ – and mean I will be treated accordingly by the vast majority.

I’m not saying that EVERYBODY who leaves should come back… there’s no space for us all (lol) but I would like to see an increase in those who do return… not saying it has to be forever but make a contribution ya know?

But I do appreciate everyone’s views… and remember the only way to solve a problem is to actually tackle it… I know in SVG stuff gets tied to politics etc and those who try to make a change are often stifled if they don’t support the right party (which has been happening under EVERY party that has been in power since we gained independence)… but there is strength in numbers! If we collectively try to change things for the better, ‘they’ can’t fight us all right?

4 05 2011

While I sympathize and even empathize with the sentiments expressed here I have a few objections.

For those who left as children and spent their formative years elsewhere and created personal, professional and financial ties in another country I understand why returning would not be an option. As Tia said, when one has loans that have to be serviced in a foreign currency the standard of living in SVG and the consequent pay scales would not allow for that. Similarly I understand that frustration of people whose professional interests lie in fields that SVG is still ill-equipped for. This is an unavoidable consequence of it being a developing nation.

My qualms exist in a few things. Firstly on the matter of persons who receive scholarships – we do not come from a wealthy country, and even so significant resources are expended to provide educational and professional development opportunities to those who could not otherwise afford it. While it is not always possibly to find employment in your exact field or at the pay scale you would be earning in another country I believe it is important to at the very least attempt to fulfill your bond if you have one. Mine is 6 years of which I have served 3, with the intention of returning home after I complete my Ph.D. I think it is the worst kind of ingratitude to not acknowledge what was given to you in the form of service. Is it that you have some sense of entitlement that you deserved it and hence do not need to feed back into the country in some way? I am sorry if I speak strongly but it is a trend I find disappointing.

While the political situation and the attitudes of the “old guard” in SVG are frustrating (I speak as someone who has worked in government), nobody lives and nothing lasts forever. It could easily be argued that if more people were to return, and filter into various positions in the public and private sector, bringing with them their values and perspectives that have been shaped by time abroad then there would be a sea change. Change is inevitable if you provide enough catalyst for it.

When I consider the people saying “maybe it will change, but it hasn’t yet and I won’t be part of trying to make it happen” I wonder if they don’t feel a bit of what I feel, which is “If not now, then when? If not me, then who?” The young people of our country, *especially* those who have had experiences outside of it and are eager to bring those ideas back are the key to any kind of shift.

*We* are who we have been waiting for.

I am not trying to sugar coat things, or make it seem easy. Living in SVG *does* require an adjustment of expectations and desires. You cannot expect to lead the same life you would in a metropolis and you have to be okay with that. For me it comes down to what you want your life, your work and your legacy to be. I could say in North America upon the completion of my degree and work in the schools here, earning significantly more than I will at home…but I am not needed here. At home there is the possibility for actually seeing your plans and ideas come to fruition, if only because we have so little and as a result those of use who are brave enough to jump in and try can find ourselves on the ground floor of growing fields. I cannot change the whole world, but I can work on one tiny corner of it.

In addition to this, I believe there are quality of life issues that living abroad cannot address for me. The desires I have that are related to being outside of SVG can honestly be addressed by a couple trips to shop every year. Yes, variety is nice and sometimes I get bored at home, but then you can be bored anywhere.

Just as a question to those of you who have already replied, or people who read this afterward to chew on – how horrible could the place be…if it produced you?

4 05 2011

It always bothered me to hear young Vincentians say “I’ll only return to SVG when I’m ready to retire, because there’s nothing there for young people”. I would think to myself ‘what’s wrong with these people’. However as a recent, (3 years) returnee, I have a better understanding of why some of them feel that way.
I love my country, and I do feel that it’s up to us the young people to help build our nation. If we all wait until we’re retirement age, there will be a huge gap in the workforce. Which will of course lead to other issues; a not so up to date outlook on important issues like Tourism, for example.
I got a job relatively easily, it was pretty much lined up for me before I returned. I took it, and after a year had enough. I’m actually now looking towards the region for employment, because as sad as it is, reality is that there just aren’t that many opportunities for returnees depending on what field you studied. There are roadblocks and brick walls at every turn, and it’s very easy to be discouraged. That being said there’s always an opportunity, there’s always an outside the box approach to take to carve out a niche for yourself. Sometimes it just comes long after you’ve given up.

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