The year 2020 has undoubtedly been the most challenging year this country has experienced in a very long time. Indeed, the entire globe continues to bemoan the cruelty of a year that seemed to have very little mercy on humankind. As it draws to a close, many may feel a sense of relief in the thought that 2020 will be finally behind, looking forward with tempered expectations to 2021.
Truth be told, the symbolism of “2020” ignited much positivity as citizens looked forward to this year, that seemed to offer so much promise through unlimited opportunities that would present themselves. What occurred, however, was nothing close to expectations as the year offered up one major challenge after another, testing the resolve of our Vincentian society, while demanding every bit of creativity and innovation present in the leadership of this country. While there can be no denying the challenging nature of 2020, our resilience and determination, in combination with wise and experience leadership, ensured that this country rose to the occasion and faced every challenge head on as we endeavoured to triumph over adversity.
Challenges of 2020
SVG welcomed 2020 coming off a very successful Christmas season, to the point where it had almost gone unnoticed that this country had seen very little rainfall within recent weeks and with the weather outlook not being very promising regarding immediate future rainfall. It turned out that Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was about to experience the worst drought in decades that would adversely impact agriculture, domestic water supply on the mainland and the Grenadine islands, basically life as we know it.
As if that wasn’t enough, by February 2020, The WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic and soon enough the first case made its way to SVG, through a Vincentian national returning from the United Kingdom. The impact of the pandemic was felt worldwide and SVG wasn’t spared, hundreds of individuals in the tourism industry lost their jobs as the industry came to a virtual halt. The closure of borders of neighbouring countries as well as the suspension of flights from every continent, as countries grappled with increased infection rates and deaths, dealt a significant blow to commerce. The world economy was under siege.
As the government did its best to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, preventing local transmission or even serious illness that required hospitalisation, this country experienced a dengue outbreak that affected hundreds of Vincentians, with tragedy striking some families who lost loved-ones to this illness. This was truly an excellent example of the cliché “when it rains, it pours”, as the challenges refused to relent. Drought, followed by a global pandemic, compounded by a dengue outbreak, all dealing a heavy blow on health, economics, security and social life in this country.
Moments of triumph
Amidst all of the challenges, this country with the experienced and wise leadership of the ULP government, was able to manage the situation locally, while at the same time showing great leadership regionally and internationally. The impacts of the drought on citizens and agriculture were lessened as the CWSA, used a number of methods including water-rationing on the mainland and transporting water to the Grenadines. The Ministry of Agriculture assisted farmers of livestock with water and provided inputs for farms.
The government through the Ministry of Health established protocols, and with partnership from Cuba and Venezuela that provided medical personnel and testing equipment strengthened our response to this pandemic. To this date, there has been just one patient admitted to the isolation facility, but there has been no Covid-19 related death recorded. The wisdom of this government to not close borders, lock down nor institute a state of emergency, allowed for economic activity to continue, making SVG the country in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union with the lowest loss in revenue over the period.
In July of 2020, this country assumed the chairmanship of the Caribbean Community, a position that allowed the experience of this country during the time of the pandemic to be shared. During this country’s chairmanship, the experienced leadership of Prime Minister Gonsalves played a key role in the way the region responded to this pandemic. This country took its responsibility as chairman seriously and made sure meetings were convened virtually, and Dr Gonsalves who received a number of requests both in his capacity as Prime Minister of SVG and Chair of CARICOM, made himself available, providing the regional leadership he is well known and respected for.
By November 2020, Saint Vincent and that Grenadines had as of January 1, 2020 began its 2-year stint of the United Nations Security Council, assumed the role of President of the Council. The smallest country ever to secure a seat on the UNSC, was now as the same time serving as chair of the regional grouping while presiding over the most powerful decision-making body in the world. Prime Minister Gonsalves chaired a number of sessions of the Council, providing moments of unbridled pride for all Vincentians, as we provided leadership to very important bodies, during some of the world’s most difficult time.
It is truly remarkable that a small country like ours could have performed the way we did during a year of such challenges. The other countries in the region and indeed the world closed up, too overwhelmed by the challenges they were facing to look outwards. For us here in SVG, we can look back on 2020 and be proud of our nation, proud of the leadership of the ULP government, as we turned trials into triumph, providing regional and global leadership even as we managed the challenges facing this country with such success that ours can be a best practice scenario. This year 2020 has reinforced our resilience as a people, but most importantly, it reminds us of the importance of choosing the right leaders, as the narrative would have been totally different had the ULP not been in office. Because of strong leadership, we can all look back with pride of the triumphs achieved in 2020. Let’s go forward to 2021 with a renewed sense of purpose and firm determination that together we can lift SVG higher.
Happy New Year!