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Let’s face the music – together

Let’s face the  music – together

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The elections are over, the votes counted, the winner declared and the new Government sworn in. During the exercise we had our political versions of “rant and rave, jump and wave”, all in an attempt to get the party of our choice elected into government, but in the end it again turned out to be even-steven as far as the total tally of votes cast, though the parliamentary configuration is different. A clear message has been delivered by the electorate, from both those who voted and those who declined to do so, but will the intended recipients of the message listen?

Reality is staring us in the face, euphoria or disappointment aside. We now have to brace ourselves for rough, rough days ahead. The economic impact of COVID-19 is already a huge challenge and is likely to remain so for some time to come. How much longer can the tourism sector bear the strain, especially with the “second wave” of the pandemic sweeping our tourism markets? Government’s revenue base will continue to shrink while the demands of those affected will continue to rise. So where will the funds come from to satisfy those demands?

This is not an easy time to be in charge as the new ministers will soon find out; and those in the Opposition might well be tempted to borrow the cricketing saying of “a good toss to lose”. In relation to COVID-19, hopes will be pinned on access to a safe, accessible vaccine and the hope that this will help to underpin the global economic recovery.

This scenario demands an all-hands-on-deck approach, a levelling with the people about our economic realities and, yes, more sacrifice, hard work and commitment. There is simply no room for slacking and waste neither at the ministerial level, the level of the public service as a whole or on government projects. Every penny, every second counts and must be utilized to their fullest. It is heartening to hear the Prime Minister giving a solemn charge to his ministers, but has this not happened before?

In response to the verdict of the electorate, it is incumbent on the government to reach across the parliamentary aisle and on the opposition to respond in the national interest. There will, of course, not always be agreement on major issues but where possible, the national interests must be placed first. Given our economic predicament, we cannot afford political games and grandstanding. Where there are differences, the Opposition must demonstrate its maturity and present ideas not just to obstruct but to constructively reveal a better way forward. In this regard, we are encouraged by the words of Dr Godwin Friday, president of the New Democratic Party, who in an address to the nation promised to spare no effort, even while in Opposition, to bringing about the economic and social improvements his party offered during the campaigh.

The first test will come soon in the presentation of the difficult 2021 Budget. How creative will be the Government in crafting this? Will it only give lip-service to the positive idea of seeking non-governmental input? To what extent is it prepared to revive and give new impetus to the idea of inclusion, especially of non-state actors? Will this five-year term witness serious attempts at involving communities in the local government exercise?

We are all in this, TOGETHER. This was the idea advanced long ago by Prime Minister Gonsalves. It is needed now more than ever and is the only basis on which we can progress. Only joint effort and cooperation will get us out of the rut.