The defining issue of the year 2020, particularly since the month of March, has been, and is, the COVID-19 pandemic and its health, economic, social, and security consequences. COVID-19 has been, and is, affecting profoundly life, living, and production world-wide and in the Caribbean, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The dire statistics, globally, tell the tale, though unevenly, in sickness and deaths, huge economic contractions, massive job losses, increased poverty and immiseration of people, drastic declines in government revenues and corresponding jumps in fiscal deficits, pain and suffering.
Even in St. Vincent and the Grenadines where, thankfully, we have had no deaths from COVID, no hospitalisations from COVID, and no community spread of the virus, our country has had to face awesome socio-economic challenges at the national, family, and personal levels. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not a proverbial island unto itself; so we have been deeply affected, adversely! Yet, it is a near miracle that our small multi-island nation, amidst all its limitations and weaknesses, has held things together, in relative normalcy and stability, and as a functioning economy, democracy, and society, at an acceptable level of civilised life and living! In this period, St. Vincent and the Grenadines held competitive, free and fair, general elections, returned the Unity Labour Party (ULP) to its fifth consecutive term in government, and has settled down on the premise, and promise, of Lifting SVG Higher.
Indeed, despite COVID-19 and its awesome consequences hanging over our nation as the metaphoric “sword of Damocles”, we are all determined to rise stronger than ever from COVID’s feverish ashes! At Christmas 2020, we are ever mindful about our extant condition; we are not innocent of the challenges which are upon us; we have clear, credible ideas, within the frame of a compelling developmental narrative, as to the way forward; we possess a settled conviction that we can all do better than we have done before, and we have the will, including the political will, to do so; and we know, in faith and reason, that OUR REDEEMER, whose holy birth we celebrate at Christmas, LIVES, in, and for, each of us!
I have noted, with much satisfaction, the phenomenal growth and spread of community and other non-governmental groupings devoted, at Christmas 2020, to assisting children, the elderly, and families, particularly those who are indigent or marginalised, or who have suffered severely as a consequence of COVID-19. I urge everyone to help one or more of these “bona fide” organisations in doing their commendable work. Of course, you may prefer to assist a family-in-need, directly; please do so if that is your preference.
At Christmas 2020, more than at any other time in recent memory, we must look out for each other. Please do not allow our usual reasons for divisiveness, whether political, religious, social or personal, to deter us from helping another person, particularly if our circumstances so permit or enable us. In this world, in this nation, everyone is our neighbour. We are enjoined to help our neighbours. This more than any pious moralising will, in my view, achieve much!
Sometime in January 2021, our government will present to Parliament the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and the Appropriation Bill (“the Budget”) for the upcoming financial year. There will no doubt be a robust debate, in an out of Parliament, on the issues contained therein; Parliament will determine what is to be done; and the Executive and State Administration will carry out Parliament’s determination. And the democratic debate will continue with truths and falsehoods galore. There is thus ample time for all that.
However, now, at Christmas 2020, let us do our best to live good with each other; help one another as far as humanly practicable; and let us be peaceful and moderate in all that we do and say.
On behalf of the government, on behalf of the ULP, on behalf of my family, and on my own personal behalf, I wish everyone, including my active and not-so-active political opponents, a wonderful, reflective, enjoyable, and peaceful Christmas 2020. And may Almighty God continue to bless each of us and St. Vincent and the Grenadines as a whole; that is my sincere and fervent prayer!