On Tuesday of this week, the nation bade farewell to a veritable cultural icon, Ferrand ‘Randy D’ Dopwell. He was the second of what is called the “Golden Generation of broadcasting” to depart this life in the space of a few months, following Bernard ‘EB” John last year.
Randy and EB, both very popular figures in their own way, had much more in common than broadcasting and NBC Radio in particular. Both were very much involved in the cultural and entertainment life of the country as was evidenced by the key roles they both played in promoting calypso and calypso tents at Carnival time, being themselves outstanding MCs.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is particularly fortunate to have had such sons of our soil making a contribution to public broadcasting. In addition to these two there were others such as ‘Cap’ Stephens, Bernard ‘Santo’ Joseph, ‘Shelley’ Clarke, Don Bobb, to name a few, along with a number of outstanding female broadcasters – Nina Maloney, Corletha Ollivierre and Pam Barbour among them. They have left a rich legacy for today’s and future broadcasters to follow and develop.
It is no surprise that so many tributes, locally, regionally and internationally are being paid to Randy. His contributions are almost legendary – in broadcasting, entertainment, culture and in placing SVG firmly on the international map. His “Vibes Caribbean” made its mark over North America and the Caribbean and gave SVG much needed publicity.
It is on the basis of these accomplishments that several persons have openly expressed disappointment and criticism for the failure of government to recognize the contribution of this humble brother by honouring him with the appointment as a cultural ambassador as has been done with others who have also made contributions. It is to the credit of new Parliamentarian Fitzgerald Bramble that he did not just bemoan the fact, but made a proposal that Randy be so honoured posthumously. Of course there will be others who prefer to ask what use will that be to Randy after his burial, but at least there will be official recognition, though of course it should have been done while he was alive.
What made Randy such an iconic figure is that his humility and disposition made him easy to get along with at all levels. He was truly a ‘People’s Man’, well-beloved throughout the length and breadth of SVG and highly respected abroad. His patriotism was unquestioned and even though from time to time he did not see eye-to-eye with the powers that be, it never weakened his commitment to his country. He will truly be missed. My condolences go out to his family as they cope with an irreparable loss.
BUDGET 2021, A FORMIDABLE CHALLENGE
The House of Assembly has begun the annual process of examining and approving the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for 2021, as well as engaging in the Budget Debate (next week) and approving the national Budget for this year. It is never easy to craft a Budget for a country like ours, small in size and limited in natural resources. It calls for a lot of innovation and imagination and challenges the capacity of all so engaged – politicians, economists and public servants, and via consultation, civil society itself.
Over the years there have been particularly difficult times mainly occasioned by the ravages of natural disasters. We have had to craft Budgets after hurricanes, storms and drought and even in the case of 1980, following the destructive volcanic eruption of 1979. All of these valiant efforts where we persevered, pale into insignificance compared with our present situation.
We are faced with the usual economic challenges, only this time worsened by the fact that not only has the COVID pandemic had very serious negative effects on our economy, but on the international and regional economies as well. It is not a climate very encouraging for recovery.
The ongoing COVID crisis has taken a turn for the worst in recent weeks. Even before that with businesses facing closure or greatly reduced revenues, workers facing lay-offs or greatly reduced working weeks, it was already a herculean task to stay afloat and has required an already cash-strapped government to have to find money to help to stimulate the economy while having to expend large sums on health preventative measures while meeting its social responsibilities to the most vulnerable.
It is to be hoped that this year, above all else, our parliamentarians will rise to the challenge and not succumb to the usual temptation of trying to score political points. It is more than time to lift the game for if our country falters and falls apart we all suffer. We can only encourage them to put the interests of our country and people before all else and seek in a constructive way to try and find common ground and cross-party solutions to bring us out of the crisis. Our country needs us, now more than ever.
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.