Winners and losers (Part II)

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Some of the biggest winners in this most challenging year, 2020, were the healthcare workers and the first responders, they who daily placed their lives on the line to keep us healthy and safe. We’re talking about the doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians and orderlies, and all the other support staff who worked assiduously behind the scenes to make sure that the process worked as best it could under very tough coronavirus circumstances. A grateful nation says thanks!

We also must salute and offer our thanks to the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Rhonda Sealey Thomas, the Chief Health Inspector, Sharon Martin, the Director of the Laboratory at the Mount St John’s Medical Centre (MSJMC), Dr Lester Simon, the Medical Director at the MSJMC, Dr. Albert Duncan, and the Minister of Health, Sir Molwyn Joseph. These were fluid and undoubtedly unusual circumstances, and they all worked together, rising admirably to the enormous existential challenge that we faced. True, we here in the media posed difficult, and at times, inconvenient questions, attempting to dig beneath the surface as much as possible, but it was without ill will and malice aforethought. Indeed, it was merely to make sure that the public had as much information as necessary on a grave situation that was unfolding at a rapid-fire rate. Kudos! Our health system, never mind its warts and all, worked.

Another huge winner this year was the invigorated and energised United Progressive Party (UPP). The party was able to distinguish itself by presenting a new and exciting vision for a better and brighter future here in our fair State. This stood in sharp contrast to the ruling regime which appeared moribund and bereft of ideas and meaningful and workable solutions to the problems facing us. The Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) was beset by finger-pointing and internal bickering and accusations. Many of the accusations exposed its seamy underbelly to the public, and many of the citizens were quite taken aback. This was hardly what they’d bargained for, and as you can imagine, the winds of change in the thinking of the electorate are beginning  to blow. One can feel it in the air. After all, no longer can the ABLP pose as the pillars of probity and competence.

Whereas the incumbent administration offered the ‘same-old, same old’ nostrums and remedies; and whereas the, shall we say, ‘ancien regime’ seemed washed-up and  tired, hopelessly  steeped in the indefensible and odious practices of favoritism for the chosen few, and victimization for those who fall afoul of it, the UPP, with a raft of young, new, smart candidates is being welcomed as a breath of fresh air. These are not politicians in the old mold, playing from the odious Antigua Labour Party playbook. These are a new breed of candidates, and we believe that they well. They are winners!

Meanwhile, we are happy to chalk up the story of LIAT as a win. A big win! A few months ago, it did not look so good for the beleaguered airline. In fact, many had already pronounced the last rites on LIAT, digging its grave and stabbing at the corpse in a macabre act of perfidy. They scoffed at the notion that the airline could be resurrected, never mind that its resurrection was of such critical importance to the cause of regional integration and the easy movement of goods, and people, and services. Mercifully, the nay-sayers and ‘Doubting Thomases’ were confounded, and notwithstanding the early snafus and missteps, LIAT is set to soar with wings, much like an eagle. Indeed, LIAT is the phoenix, risen from the ashes.

Of course, our Prime Minister, the Honourable Gaston Browne, is a winner on this score. He never wavered in his commitment to LIAT and actually presented  a credible plan to those who harboured doubts and fears as to the feasibility of a reborn LIAT. He deserves credit. And we certainly wish LIAT well. After all, she is not yet out of the woods, by any measure.  This coronavirus pandemic is hardly the time for a resurrected airline to be  climbing out of the grave and taking to the skies, what with the enormous slow-down in traffic. The reality is that every time that LIAT takes to the skies , for now, she will be burning through money. But we are hoping for a turnaround, at least by the second quarter of 2021, all things being equal with the coronavirus vaccine, and so on and so forth. The way forward is fraught with uncertainty, but we remain optimistic.

As you can imagine, there were a number of  losers in this LIAT story. Firstly, there are the workers, so many of whom have lost their jobs and stand to lose a goodly portion of monies owed to them. We certainly trust that the final haircut will be not as drastic as we fear it could be.

Secondly, we suspect that the relationship between the leaders of the erstwhile LIAT shareholder governments took a hit. Much of the rhetoric emanating from the various capitals  did more harm than good, as did many of the chess moves as LIAT lay on life support. We trust that the regional leaders will move to repair what appears to be a lukewarm, love-hate relationship between our leaders. This is hardly a time for squabbling, one-upmanship and narrow parochial interests. May the greater good, and the cause of CARICOM be the overriding guiding principle in their relationship henceforth. 

In this Covid crisis, workers have gotten the ‘doodie’ end of the stick. So many business have closed for good, and others have been forced to lay workers off. It is not a pretty picture! And to add insult to injury most foul, we are saddled with an administration that is so broke that it cannot provide any relief to the suffering workers. Moreover, it has adopted a muscular approach to the workers, threatening to call in the army to bust their strike, and indicating that the Statutory body for which they work is overstaffed and could be substantially downsized. This sort of aggressive language to workers is not helpful. It does not bode well for the future of the labour force here in our fair State. Even recent talk by our Prime Minister about the relevance of unions is quite alarming. We will certainly be watching the behaviour of the administration that  grew out of a union and came to prominence as the champion of workers. (To be continued)

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