On a sunny afternoon the light blue sky accessorised the navy blue ocean. Later, at sunset, the crests of the waves on the east coast were pink. The sky to the north was also pink. The pink was oddly situated given the sun was, of course, setting in the west; but it was real and not the hallucinatory effect of rum and coconut water.
There is this concert of reflections of light that takes place on sunny afternoons in Mayaro. That is where I was when I was seduced away from writing last Sunday’s column.
I wish everything in Mayaro was all sunny afternoons and harmony with nature. Symbolically a grappe of coconut trees in my sight died in a few days, as we say, ‘just like that’. Hidden disease caused the normally whispering branches to wither, and droop.
Acres of coconut trees all along the lengthy Manzanilla and Mayaro east coast strips have perished as a result of decades of unchecked tree disease. Meanwhile, the coconut water industry has gone global. Some reports say that the packaged coconut water industry is now valued above $1 billion.
There are a significant number of persons who make ends meet by hustling at several activities in combination such as yard maintenance, transport, supply/vending of fruit, vegetables, fish, crab and coconut water. It has been very hard for them, with a sudden drop in so-called domestic tourism as a result of the pandemic, compounding the drying up of energy sector employment opportunities, which used to abound.
There is an economic chill, far removed from the chilling to which Mayaro’s natural, if now significantly treeless environment lends itself.
On 3 May, I identified the working poor as comprising those hustling, making slender but legitimate earnings and the equally significant number of citizens who have an employer but, in the absence of collective bargaining, their pay does not lift them above the poverty line.
At that time, I wrote this about what I described as ‘our day to day economic culture’ and ‘the bonito economy’:
‘The two groups identified above are known as the working poor. They received an immediate crushing blow when Covid 19 interrupted the economy.
‘Before Covid-19, many of those households were poor but able to provide meals, however basic. Once Covid struck the economy, these households were rapidly reduced to starvation level and to potential homelessness if rent could not be paid’.
Had last Sunday’s column been written, I would have had to remind readers that mere days had passed since I questioned the suitability of Fitzgerald Hinds MP to be Minister of Youth Development, and lo and behold, he showed his lack of a grasp of the reality of ‘able bodied men’ hustling passers-by for money—not having a clue why so many persons get left far behind as a result of dysfunctional socio-economic conditions among the working poor.
Shortly after that unsurprising revelation about Hinds, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, back again as Leader of the Opposition, still in the martyred loser act, chose the six Senators for the Opposition benches—among whom were some men who might be described as a gruesome threesome by the section of the electorate unhappy with the PNM, but which she failed miserably to win over in the recently concluded General Election.
Sadly, there has been accuracy in the forecasts of trouble ahead. Well before calling out the Hinds deficiency and before noting Kamla’s contingency preparations to be a martyred loser, I questioned the Ministry of Health’s limited testing policy.
I asked on 3 May whether ‘such a restricted testing policy was likely to provide an accurate picture of how many Covid 19 cases we have?’
I did not ‘get that question from Google’; but what if I did?
I am exploring why the pandemic went so suddenly from self-congratulatory containment to rampant spread. What I see is that this spread appeared after testing facilities were liberated.
Was accuracy of the extent of the outbreak deludingly flattened until then, unfortunately creating a stimulus for relaxed public behaviour in bars, motorcades and elsewhere?
‘Can we trust you?’ is a topical question.
Will the Ministry of Health wobble in public trust?