It is with a great sense of relief that we mark the end of a most tortuous year. Fifty-two weeks ago, how many of us could have imagined that at year end, we would not only still be in the grips of the Covid pandemic, but that during the year, we would become so familiar with its variants that we feel comfortable in discussing whether “Delta” has overtaken “Gamma” and how dangerous is the new threat from Omicron? At least it seems that we are absorbing lessons in algebra and the Greek alphabet!
In January of 2021, we were shocked to learn of not only the mounting casualty figures but especially the fatalities. Now our double-figure death count seems destined to reach triple figures as if we want to catch up with the rest of the world. The global statistics are certainly not encouraging and as a result governments are being blamed left, right and centre, not without justification in many instances. Yet, what about us, the potential victims, what is our role in the ongoing calamity?
First, had we all, or at least most of us, adopted an approach which emphasized “we” rather than “I”, we must have been in certainly a position not worse than at present. The selfish emphasis on “my rights” rather than the health and safety of the nation, particularly the generation of the future, has helped to place us in an even more vulnerable situation. What is very worrying is the degree to which we have become susceptible to all kinds of irrational views and to campaigns of mis/disinformation.
Perhaps most frightening of all in this context is the extent to which supposedly “educated” persons, including teachers and medical personnel, have imbibed a lot of counter-productive ideas, in the face of evidence to the contrary. How could such persons oversee the education of our children or in administering proper health care, when they seem incapable of applying scientific thought to issues affecting the future of our nation? That is an issue, far more than the persons involved, which should occupy our thinking. Where are the chinks in our armour and how can they be plugged and prevented from reoccurrence?
There is also the hypocrisy and gross opportunism exhibited. Hiding behind the veil of “hesitancy”, and reluctant to be grouped among the discredited “anti-vaxxers”, the type of vaccine became an issue. So, Cuba, the shining star in health care in our hemisphere, became a great convenience. “I am waiting on the Cuban vaccines”, became a most opportune excuse, especially when one could not say when the Cuban vaccines would be made available. Strangely, with a few notable exceptions, not many of these dyed-in-the wool Cuban sympathizers would raise their voices against the unjust sanctions imposed by the USA against Cuba, the lifting of which would allow Cuba to contribute much more to global health and human development.
It is against this background that we enter the new year. Right after the New Year holiday, our focus ought to turn to the 2022 Budget, to be presented on Monday next and debated then voted upon by Parliament. If only we could have less of political posturing and more realistic analysis of our situation, economically and socially, less of approaches from partisan positions but more from the interests of our nation and people, then the Budget discussions would have greater significance.
Covid is not just a health threat, it is a significant threat to economic and social development, requiring the diversion of scarce resources to combat this pandemic. To its credit, and despite its shortcomings, the government has tried not just to keep the ship of state afloat but to address the needs of the most vulnerable sectors in the wake of the pandemic, the volcanic eruption and other socio-economic challenges.
Yet, our reality has yet to sink home, even among those most affected and assisted. There persists an illusion that government has access to virtually unlimited resources which makes our people less appreciative of relief and rehabilitation efforts and aware of their own role in the recovery effort including securing the health and safety of our people.
If only those entrusted with the affairs of our nation, on both sides of the political divide, would resist the temptation to engage in unproductive and futile political jibes during the Budget but focus on our difficult path forward, and the role of our people in this undertaking, then the Budget debate and national dialogue would have much more significance for us all.
We need to make the year 2022 the year when we close loopholes and build on opportunities, avoiding a degeneration into political “too too”.