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by Guy Hewitt
Those who find themselves labouring for the public good are frequently driven by the moral imperative to be their brothers’ and sisters’ keeper.
Those who actively engage in public duties are often influenced by someone in public office leaving an indelible mark.
Many of those passionate about representative democracy recall the Barbados Parliament of the Seventies and Eighties.
At that time men, and too few women, bestrode the political landscape like colossi.
I share this not to idolise that assembly, as its members were far from perfect just as we are, but to pay tribute to a group of patriots who in the main put country before party and neighbour before self.
The exceptionalism of that era, echoed regionally in CARICOM and globally in the G-77 and other international bodies, was mirrored in the West Indies Cricket Team.
The leaders of that period wrote their “names on history’s page with expectations great.” We were the beneficiaries of their ambitions and dedication.
The 21st century has not been kind to the English-speaking Caribbean, Barbados included. Like Windies Cricket, our leaders struggled with substance and consistency.
We have been unable to construct a vision to position us close to any seat of power globally; CARICOM has become increasingly fractured as its disunited members pursue narrow self-interests.
Locally our private sector, with a few exceptions, willingly surrendered to any regional or international investor ready to let our local merchant class depart in peace.
The social fabric of a once reserved and disciplined society has been worn by an increasingly hedonistic individualism and consumerism.
Ironically, just as we are being prepared to take the necessary but untimely plunge to republic status, we have put a non-West Indian at the apex of our local tertiary education system and, it appears, another to oversee the most strategic part of our economy. Is this the best we can do; could this truly be the sovereign will of the people?
That ability to punch above our weight, to allow ourselves to hold our head high as a nation worthy of respect is again needed as Barbados battles COVID-19.
More than a year and a half into the coronavirus pandemic, Barbadians continue to experience COVID-19 as a major threat to individual and public health and the economic health of the country.
It is not enough to use the pandemic as a political shield for Barbados’ economic underperformance which has been abysmally bad, one of the worst globally.
It is not enough to use public relations and political spin to try to explain away the precariousness of access to online learning by low-income families or the disproportionate restrictions placed on micro and small businesses, particularly in the food and beverage sector.
The approach to protecting our people and economy appears seemingly ad hoc and haphazard.
The new curfew hours almost suggest that the coronavirus
While curfews allow business activities to continue while restricting those activities where persons are more likely to let their guard down and void social distancing, they ignore the reality of being a tourist destination and having a highly social culture including in lunchrooms. Curfews also place vulnerable families at increased risk.
We need to resolve the central issue of the shortcomings in the COVID-19 vaccination programme in Barbados.
While measures such as hand-washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing are
still essential, the effectiveness of the vaccines has been the success story of the pandemic globally.
We need leadership in Barbados able to present a coherent strategy able to get us out of the crisis that COVID-19 presents to our people and economy.
We need leadership able to get our nation to be better organised than they think they can be.
We need leadership to inspire us as a nation, not with mere ceremonial or titular changes, but with the understanding that we must all exceed our expectations if we are to remain great.
We must adjust our ‘mirror image’ for we cannot beat COVID-19 based on mediocre standards.
We must set a benchmark for ourselves at the highest possible level.
To date, the Cayman Islands with a vaccination rate of nearly 80 per cent has had 772 COVID-19 cases in total with just two deaths. We can do better.
While I do not know of a single formula for success, a leader I hold in high esteem once said this: “Over the years, I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights,
their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”
May we work together on this vital mission and may the Lord continue to be the people guide.
Guy Hewitt is committed to Barbados and the DLP and can be reached at [email protected]