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The year ahead!

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2020 was one hell of a year. The COVID pandemic and the general election consumed most of our attention and

energy. We have generally not taken the pandemic as seriously as we should have. Our election was to a large extent entertainment, with not enough attention paid to COVID which is going to be with us for a long time. Whatever efforts were made to raise issues for serious attention were lost amidst the political melee and blabber. Should we not have taken seriously the leaked poverty assessment report rather than deny its validity? The glamour and treating are all over and we are now into serious times. To begin to think that 2021 is going to be different is to ignore the fact that 2021 is really the day after December 31, 2020. 2021 will only be different if we make it so. The many wishes to be made at midnight on Thursday will depend not on some mysterious intervention but on how we organise ourselves.
Christmas messages reminding us of the significance of the birth of Christ will not take us beyond the Christmas season. In its Christmas message the SVG Christian Council asked, “Are we prepared to change, and work to create a better life for the poor and all citizens of the land?” I am not sure to whom this was addressed so I assume it is a rhetorical question. All of us have a role to play but the social, economic, and political climate has to be right. I Witness News quotes the Prime Minister as saying that the next few months up to October will be a difficult few months. My question is, what will happen in November to make it not equally difficult? We are told that by the end of November total revenue and grants had increased by 6.8% compared to the same period last year. The emphasis I believe should be on grants. “If it were not for . . . some terrible months where we had some big drops in revenue collection because of COVID, this year would have been a fantastic year. . . “ I suspect that grants for tackling COVID would have more than made up for that shortfall.

But what is the way forward? Tourism is not expected to make any marked recovery. In any event that will come with significant COVID risks. The large strategic things like the port and hotels might in the short term provide some jobs but any significant contribution to the country’s economic development is not something for 2021. The PM said that he had been telling people all over the country to be on the lookout for where jobs are being created, since they will not necessarily come to their communities. This sounds good but is merely aspirational. From where are these jobs coming? They did not come in 2020, and 2021 is going to be an even more difficult year for any kind of investment. In fact, the PM agrees when he said that the next few months are going to be difficult ones. One of the areas in which we have the necessary expertise and experience is Agriculture so should we not put some emphasis here, making use of current technology and looking seriously at marketing. In any kind of crisis one aspect of our economy that will always be available is agriculture but how we organise it, involve the farmers and develop marketing strategies will be key. Economic development is about producing but what do we produce? Should this question not occupy us much more than it seems to do. In all of this I am aware that we are not an island unto ourselves; that we depend very much on the global environment, but we have to use to our fullest advantage matters over which we have some control.

Best wishes for a productive and meaningful 2021 to all who have read my column over the year and have offered comments. My interest is really in starting or continuing a conversation!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian

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