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New Year with a difference

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Billions of people the world over are engaged this week in the traditional exchange of greetings to welcome in the New Year. The wishes for a “Happy New Year” or a “Bright and Prosperous 2009” this year carry much more than a routine ring about them, for there is indeed substantial global concern about prospects for the new year. 2009 meets the vast majority of the world’s peoples in trepidation as to their economic future.{{more}} Not surprising, given the cataclysmic events of 2008, particularly during the economic “meltdown” of the latter half of the year.

The gloomy pictures from around the globe – financial collapses, massive lay-off of workers, forced curtailment of investments and cutbacks in social spending – hardly give much hope for the upcoming twelve months. What is even more worrying for small countries like ours is that we are only just beginning to feel the first ripples of the effects of this global crisis. Much worse is to follow. Already, Caribbean and other countries in the developing world are witnessing their economies taking a battering from the fall out of the trade wars between the major developed nations. The so-called “credit crunch” exacerbates this situation.

All this means that our New Year’s greetings cannot just be good wishes, our resolutions cannot afford to be mere traditional recitations to be forgotten before the first month is finished. Our economic survival depends very much on our attitudes towards production, productivity and the creative use of those abilities which we so frivolously squander. We have been nurtured in a socio-political climate in which we feel that everybody but ourselves has a responsibility to guarantee our future. In specific terms, it is never “we”, but always “the government” or colloquially, “them”.

Yet such is the nature of the challenge before us that more than any other time, our collective mettle will be severely tested. We need to become more demanding of good governance and bold leadership and less dependent on largesse and handouts. We must become less tolerant of the cheap politics and shenanigans of our politicians and demand instead serious analysis and positive action. All the major sectors – the private sector, labour, the farming community, the state sector – and the vital social groups must be brought together around an economic and social programme so crafted as to stem the tide and create space for our own economic development. It calls for a lot of give-and-take, for sacrifice and for facing realities.

2009 is also the year slated for significant progress on constitutional reform. Regrettably, the process is already being tainted both by political division as well as the reluctance of Parliamentarians to recognize that the only way forward requires wider and deeper participation of our people in a much more meaningful way than electioneering and casting ballots. Constitutional reform, in a fundamental sense, is a necessary political underpinning of the broader reform process in the wider society and an essential tool to enable us to confront the challenges of the 21st century.

So this is certainly a New Year with a difference. May we have the courage, fortitude, foresight and wisdom to be able to face it with confidence!