Very few of us relish the thought of being the one in charge during a crisis. Crises have a way of either making you or breaking you completely.
Today, there is no question that Barbados is in the midst of an enormous crisis, one that we ostensibly planned for but still seemingly got caught with our pants down. Some may argue that it was a combination of Bajan pride and complacency that have brought us to this point.
An international publication has asserted that it was our “small slips” in our COVID-19 response strategy, that have resulted in “big spikes” of the viral illness among our population.
The fact remains that a confluence of events over the past three to four weeks have thrown Barbadians into a tailspin, as they are baffled to understand how such a dramatic collapse in our well-laid plan for the pandemic occurred.
The most recent public relations disaster erupted from a well-meaning proposal by Government to compensate visitors whose vacations during the pandemic were disrupted because the island failed to deliver on its promise to return COVID-19 PCR test results within 24 to 48 hours.
Hoteliers are reportedly livid at the decision about which they were not consulted. It appears guests are now refusing to pay their full hotel bills because as far as they were concerned, Barbadian taxpayers are supposed to pick up the tab.
Still trying to recover from months of a virtual shutdown on the sector, those in tourism are rightfully upset.
Public officers and other frontline workers in the private sector have also joined the chorus of those angered by Government’s decision. Their question remains: “You’ve got money to take care of the tourists, so what about us?”
As Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley put it: “It is ridiculous that in the midst of a crisis, Government makes it a priority to make a major announcement of the fact that they will be offering people free tickets to come back to Barbados at some stage.”
In its defence, the administration says about $4 million is on the way to compensate healthcare workers, while the assistance to visitors whose vacations were negatively affected, was really an attempt to save “Brand Barbados”.
The whole mess has backfired on the administration and will surely send the Mottley team back into the COVID Situation Room to regroup and come again.
Admittedly we are all suffering from some level of COVID-19 fatigue. We are tired of wearing masks and washing our hands in alcohol. Our school children are begging Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw to return to face-to-face classes in school after months of on-line tuition.
Of course, some may regard these as minor inconveniences of the pandemic, when compared to the financial disaster that many Barbadian households face as a result of job losses, business closures and other disruptions.
If we were so bold as to offer some general advice to the administration, we would suggest a clear identification of the priorities, and Barbadians definitely want health and financial security put on the front burner.
Knowing what is urgent and what is important will be key to maintaining public confidence. Providing a free return trip to Barbados for visitors may be important but it certainly is not urgent.
This Government is facing its biggest and most sustained crisis since coming to office. It cannot be fixed with a loan from the International Monetary Fund, neither can the long list of economic advisors script a solution to the ongoing health crisis.
The recent hostile responses of some Cabinet members to questions from the Press, suggest frustration is setting in. We say, more tough questions will be coming and the administration must be prepared to provide answers, no matter the political price.