NO TIME FOR COMPLACENCY: PM warns Ministry of Agriculture workers

Last week, farmers said they had already destroyed 405 acres of bananas as a result of the disease that first appeared here in 2009.

Government has blamed agriculture officials for the spread of the disease after they waited more than four months to import the oil needed to control the spread of the disease.

In addition, the banana sector took a beating when Hurricane Tomas destroyed 98 per cent of banana trees last year.

Gonsalves noted that four Caribbean countries — Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis – were under International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes and urged the civil servants “to watch what is happening around in the Caribbean.

“I want you to take a couple of minutes from the minutia in which you are engaged either in your ministry, your home, your family, your friend,” he said.

He said that Trinidad and Tobago has imposed a state of emergency to address “ordinary crime” and there is a “trauma inside the government” in St. Lucia.

He said his colleague in Jamaica, Bruce Golding “after four years … says I can’t take the pressure, I am giving it up.

“The social economic condition in the Caribbean and the political institutions are facing immense challenges on an on-going basis and the question is: Is something going to give? Can the region take another two, three years of the pressure coming out from the USA and Europe?” Gonsalves asked.

He said that in the face of these realities, the Ministry of Agriculture has to spend a lot of time “making sure that we are more efficient and we produce.

“We cannot be complacent. We must understand the seriousness of the challenges that face us,” he added.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said that while he was able to find EC$2.5 million (US$925, 920) to pay as assistance to farmers, he was not a “magician”.

“I don’t want you to believe that. There is no magic. It’s hard work and creative thought. I really want to ask you all. please let us pull it together. I am pleading with you. This ministry is absolutely vital. We have to have a partnership with the farmers,” he said as he urged agriculture officials not allow trivial interpersonal issues to affect their work.

“Listen, we have to do more with less. … We know what we are about. We have the broad framework, we have the direction, you have your estimates every year, you know what you are supposed to do. And don’t allow the personal vanities to get in the way,” Gonsalves said.

He told the agricultural officials that while some of them might not like him, he will serve his term as prime minister until 2015.

“Those who don’t want me, well, you wait ‘til 2015 see if you could high-fall me. But don’t try and do things in the meantime when, in fact, you are affecting yourself and affecting the country,” Gonsalves said.

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