The above title is a whittled version of the title from a great advent hymn written by Charles Wesley in 1744. It speaks to the yearning of the faithful for the long-promised Messiah; the Saviour who was to “come and set His people free.” It is a moving hymn – one of the greatest in all hymnody if you ask this writer, who considers it one of his favourites at Christmas. It lends itself to that hope of the ages; it stirs the soul and lifts the spirit; it gives a voice to our plaintive plea for a betterment, a brighter tomorrow.
In like manner, the people here in Antigua and Barbuda are waiting with bated breath for the grand unveiling of the Economic Recovery Committee’s (ERC) final report. We are looking to be set free from the shackles foisted upon us by this dastardly Covid-19. Of course, some may argue that we already had pre-Covid shackles that were cleverly covered up by the administration’s bluster and hyperbole. And then it happened – an epic fail, one puff from Covid-19, and the whole masquerade collapsed like a wet noodle, in all of thirty days. Needless to say, it was quite painful, not to mention, more than a little embarrassing. Instead of a grand economic miracle, we were the victims of a grand mirage!
To be sure, we ought not to be unmindful of the mental shackles that seem to bind us in the pitiable situation where we continue to vote for, and laud and defend those who oppress us, and keep us in deprivation, disease and despair. Those who, apart from Covid-19, are manifestly responsible for our plight. Think, the Stockholm Syndrome. Oh for that glorious freedom where we will no more in these glutton-for-punishment chains abide!
But I digress. Folks, our hope is that the greatly anticipated ERC report detailing the ideas and plans of the “fifteen smartest men and women in Antigua and Barbuda” will be unveiled to the public in short order. Come thou expected! We need an implementation of those plans as a matter of urgency. The economy is moribund, and the people are suffering. Taxi drivers, vendors, small businesses, everybody bawlin,’ with no grand plan in sight. We await the ERC. Much like Pip, in Charles Dickens’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS, we are looking simply for a more diversified economy post Covid; and more opportunities and assistance for small start-up businesses, a bigger safety net for the poor, less squandermania and profligacy by our government, and the prudent setting aside of monies for a rainy day, as did the Medical Benefits Scheme under the United Progressive Party administration. We cannot return to the status quo ante.
Clearly, our expectations are great, and not unreasonably so. After all, 8 of the ERC members, the “fifteen smartest men and women in Antigua and Barbuda,” are . . . (roll your eyes) . . . government ministers. Sigh! As such, not many people have confidence that anything of substance will be forthcoming from this ERC, which met 7 times (all of one week) and then rested. Good grief! It reminds us of the Mighty Chalkdust’s classic from back in the day, SEAWATER AND SAND. In it, the singer laments the megalomania and silly antics of the politicians of the Caribbean back then (circa 1985), and he pretty much sums them up as men of straw. Consider this adulterated version of one of the verses:
“Our leaders showing zest, claiming dey leadership is blessed
Because dey have more power in dey economic powerhouse than de rest
And dey ridin high and mighty /Laughin’ out ki-ki-ki
And they meeting regularly / Drawing up all sort of policy
And by the time dey done dey whiskey / De policy dead already
At the ERC conference / Is pure shop-talk and ignorance
Lots of talk, but no action ever commence.”
Heaven forfend! Here’s trusting that our great expectations are not dashed.
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