Imagine the day when the minister of health announces that we have not just flattened, but broken the COVID-19 curve, and no new cases have been reported for the required number of days.
For some, it will be a joyous attempt to return to life as we left it before the pandemic. For others, it will be the sober reflection that the world as we knew it has changed forever. And for a few, it will be the moment for which they were planning, ready to roll out new plans and hit the reset button.
One thing is certain, the road between here and that ‘freedom day’ is going to be long and treacherous, and not all of us will make it to the end.
When our country emerges from this pandemic, we should have reflected on the inequities that exist in our society and contemplated the reduction of these inequities for the common good.
Governments have been schooled that the way to reduce inequities is to increase transfer payments, create make-work projects and support an unproductive and bloated public service. This has been funded by the gains from the energy sector. We know the model is unsustainable, but we continue to try to make it work for our respective tribes.
The blessing of energy resources generates a curse of laziness, keeping us from thinking of different ways to craft a new society forged on the principles of equity and justice. Our leaders seem to believe in the maxim, ‘if it isn’t broken, then don’t fix it’. They have forgotten the chapter that discussed the benefits of innovation, which might have led them to a place where they could see that ‘it’ was in fact broken.
While we are on lock-down from this coronavirus, we should be engaging in some scenario planning to work out our revival strategy. It is an opportunity for a bipartisan approach to crafting a new future vision of our country.
I dream of a joint communiqué that announces a think-tank, comprising nominees from both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, tasked with the responsibility of developing and detailing a national recovery plan and strategy. Such a think-tank would be able to leverage technology and demonstrate to our people that a team of collaborators can work towards a common goal that is beyond individual interests.
It would signal that the ‘Yellow’ and ‘Red’ can work together for our common good. That is the kind of leadership we expect and hope for in times of crisis.
This pandemic provides us with an opportunity to rebuild a Trinidad and Tobago that is better and more humane. If we lose this opportunity and continue a business-as-usual attitude, we run the risk of descending into full-state barbarism where inequities prevail and ‘tenderpreneurship’ facilitates the rich getting richer while the Mighty Stalin’s ‘sufferers’ continue to care only ‘whey de nex’ food comin’ from’.
We can change this narrative and consequently change our reality, but we need the courage to be different and to act differently.
COVID-19 has presented us with an opportunity to leverage our human resources to develop new ways of feeding ourselves and to design different approaches to working from home, therefore reducing our carbon footprint and congestion. We can change the import/mark-up business model and reshape our reliance on government.
COVID-19 is an opportunity for Prime Minister Keith Christopher Rowley to be the prime minister who brings the country together to craft a vision of the future that is inclusive and sustainable. Let’s do this!