By Caribbean News Global contributor
CASTRIES, St Lucia – In the fight over ‘re-opening’ the country to preferential status quo and imperialism objectives, and that the partial shutdown expires on April 26, prime minister Allen Chastanet is expected to announce the extension of the ‘State of Emergency’ to May 31, 2020.
This, however, should not overlook the projected assessment of COVID-19 containment, law and order, vis-à-vis democracy, and upcoming general elections.
Caribbean News Global (CNG) confirmation of such is based on Cabinet and parliamentarians familiar with the matter. The caveat to this is one can expect the prime minister to make a detour, secondary to this publication.
In the fight over ‘re-opening’ the country, experts caution the choice of travel restrictions, public health justifications to international norms and practices.
Caution should not be excused to throw the baby out with the bathwater thinking our health systems, based on the assumption that the Owen King European Union (OKEU) is open and fully-functional. The reality dictates that it is a fools-paradise that core sections of the Saint Lucian aristocracy are pontificating that “ the prime minister has COVID-19 under control”. The opposite is true, subject to the chief medical officer to counter that more than 2,000 of the population have been tested, isolated if needed and contract tracing competed; and that our health care infrastructure is at a level of readiness, following the so-called $2.5 million COVID-19 telethon.
Suffice to say it is dangerous to contemplate opening the economy when experts question; what economy is there to open?
St Lucia’s COVID-19 ‘social stabilization plan’ requires public servants to forego 35 – 60 percent of salary. The 2020/21 budget is secondary lacking economic underpinning of tourism, financial industry, trade and transportation, which is far from opening-up. In a nutshell, the financial sector locally (and internationally) is limping and comatose. Cash is running out. Farmers are quarantined further exaggerating food security, — the emphasis should be on health and safety.
“About 3,000 people have died from the COVID-19 virus in Latin America and the Caribbean. While the pandemic continues to spread across the region, countries are facing the worst economic recession since countries started producing national accounts statistics in the 1950s. The challenging external environment, coupled with much-needed measures to contain the pandemic, have led to a plummeting of economic activity across Latin America—where growth is poised to contract by 5.2 percent in 2020.” ~ Economic policy in Latin America and the Caribbean in the time of COVID-19, By Alejandro Werner.
CARICOM has taken the position that, “There would also be consideration of a proposal for a protocol on re-opening borders that all Member States would adhere to at the same time when such a decision is taken.”
The headlines ‘nothing short of lunacy to open economy’ sends shivers when “demands from the business community to open up the economy continue regardless of the government’s aim to prioritise saving lives over economic concerns.”
“At Wednesday’s press briefing Cayman Islands premier Alden McLaughlin stated yet again that this is not going to happen until the coronavirus has been contained. “It would be nothing short of lunacy to contemplate re-opening the economy until we… believe the virus has been contained,” and they are only now in a position to start the mass testing part of the strategy … “test, test, test” and then trace contacts, in combination with strict ‘shelter in place’ orders, where the virus has been contained. Until that happens here, it will not be safe to re-open the economy. He warned that if Cayman opens up now, we would look like a mini New York or Italy or Spain, as “the virus will fly through this community” and hundreds of people will die”.
“I know I have earned my title as the grim reaper,” he said, as he hammered home the message about the sacrifice required to suppress the virus before we could open the community and economy again. Read more here.
Therefore, the concern of Saint Lucia’s acting commissioner of police Milton Desir to warned businesses, “If you are not on the list to open please do not try to open because we would be out there and persons will be arrested for that,” there is no economy and/or means of economic activity to manipulate. The focus should be on law and order, ‘serve and protect.’
Besides, the prime minister proclamation during a national address on Sunday that: “The ministry of commerce, in collaboration with other ministries, will work with the public and private sectors for a phased reopening of the economy. We’ve agreed at Cabinet to appoint a committee to work with the private sector and all the public health departments to start now, putting the protocols in place for the full operationalization of our commercial activity,” lends credence to the Cayman Islands premier Alden McLaughlin, “It would be nothing short of lunacy.”
However, “nothing short of lunacy” is regrettably the accepted norm in Saint Lucia where, science, logic, research and development, innovation and technology, the best advice available by nationals with worldwide experience are sidelined for political convenience, led by a prime minister blinded-fold with a so-called double degree of 20/20 understand, unable to listen and make the proper decision for the benefit of the people and country.
Truth and facts matter. We are at this juncture of life and death. David Jessop writings, The View from Europe: Leadership and honesty are what matters most at times of crisis, wrote last week: “The coming weeks will demonstrate which Caribbean leaders can guide their people safely out of the public health crisis and explain with empathy and honesty exactly what will be involved in creating national and then regional social and economic recovery in a likely much changed post-coronavirus world.”