PR – Fellow Grenadians, the Christmas season is traditionally associated with outpourings of love, peace, joy, gratitude and above all, togetherness as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This year, we are particularly grateful for the return of togetherness, as last year, the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed our usual celebrations.
The deadly virus and emerging variants continue to be a very real threat to our existence. Therefore, even as we embrace the festivity of the season, our actions must be responsible and in keeping with the recommended protocols. We will continue to rely on the combination of our individual and collective efforts to keep us safe.
Sisters and brothers, the Christmas season affords us an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the past year, while at the same time, anticipate what the coming year will bring. As we look back with gratitude, we also pray for the comfort of those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.
Last Christmas, we didn’t envision that at the end of 2021, we would still be in the middle of this pandemic. Nevertheless, here we are. As we look with great expectation towards 2022, let us commit to being better advocates of Christianity and strengthen our resolve to be our brother’s keeper. For it is said in Matthew 25, verse 40, “Truly I tell you, whatever
you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Christmas is a time of giving, a time of compassion. My Cabinet colleagues and I feel extremely gratified to have been able to add some value to the true meaning of these characteristics of the season. The recent decision to provide additional pay to frontline workers and all other public officers was made knowing it required a significant sacrifice on the part of Government, but we were convinced of its necessity as a token of our sincere appreciation. And what better timing, than right before the Christmas holidays. We truly hope that this gesture will make the load a little lighter, the Christmas a little merrier and the New Year a little brighter.
COVID-19 presented a formidable challenge, not just for us in Grenada, but around the world. Throughout 2021, the Ministry of Health, backed by its reliable stakeholders, mounted an equally formidable response against this unseen but lethally dangerous
enemy. Even when the challenge heightened and kept climbing rapidly to an unnerving crescendo that claimed many lives, the counter-attack was equally persistent and relentless, saving thousands of lives. With the recent identification of a new, even more challenging variant, 2022 could very well see an extension of this battlefield. The difference is, there is ammunition available with several vaccine options with which we can protect ourselves.
In disaster management, we speak a lot about building resilience. There have been several periods in Grenada’s history where our people have demonstrated that the word resilience is almost a defining characteristic of being Grenadian. This pandemic is helping to showcase even more examples of how resilient we are, as a country and as a people. Therefore, we look to the future with much optimism and faith.
Faith, it is said, can move mountains. So while we work together to move the proverbial mountain that COVID-19 represents, we must at the same time, continue to pool our efforts in combatting the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. The coming year presents an opportune moment to reaffirm our commitment to the actions that will safeguard our world for future generations, and accelerate climate action as agreed at the recent United Nations Climate Change summit in Glasgow.
The youth represent the future, they are the leaders of tomorrow. This administration has long advocated for, and facilitated youth empowerment. Recognised as an overarching pillar of our growth and development, 2022 will see continued emphasis on creating opportunities for our young men and women to better position them for leadership roles in driving the development agenda.
Leaders are teachable. They embrace learning and recognise its pivotal role in shaping life. Our students are among those most impacted by the pandemic. They fought incredibly hard during the past year and have reaped the rewards through continued good performances in external exams. Going into the New Year, we pray for their continued resilience and success in scholastic achievements and other spheres of their lives. We pray that our students, in fact, all Grenadians are comforted by the promise made in Isaiah 41, verse 10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Our resilience as a people is inextricably linked to the goal of improved food security. During the pandemic, when borders were forced to close, we witnessed the rebirth of the agriculture sector. It is imperative that we harness this resurgence as we continue to chart the path towards sustainable development and healthier living for the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Sustainability has become a key development watchword and tourism is well recognised as a pillar of economic survival. In the new normal created by the pandemic, the sustained recovery of this sector, will play a critical role in the revival of the local economy. We are pleased to see that visitors still regard us as a safe destination. The recent return of cruise tourism and growth in stayover arrivals illustrate the attractiveness of Pure Grenada.
Already blessed with the inherent beauty of a tropical paradise, Grenada must ensure that its infrastructural development complements and enhances its natural appeal and positions the country for further development. Activity in this sector will continue to be a leading contributor in the COVID-19 recovery effort, while at the same time, creating thousands of jobs and putting food on the tables of many Grenadians.
This Government is deeply concerned about the welfare of the people, particularly as they face the psychosocial toll of this pandemic. Our concern has repeatedly translated into actions that address the basic needs of the most vulnerable. The economic relief measures announced in the 2022 budget and the expansion of our social protection programmes show quite clearly that we care – we not only talk the talk, but we walk the walk.
Government is equally committed to the growth of the small business sector and in 2021, we reaffirmed this with a massive allocation as part of the economic stimulus package. Much of this will be implemented in the year ahead as we continue to foster an environment that facilitates the growth of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. Ultimately, more of our people will be empowered to provide for themselves and to spur activity in the local economy.
To be truly effective, recovery must take place at multiple levels and we are seeing evidence of this across the various sectors. Our sports men and women and cultural artistes are once again able to represent Grenada on the world stage and they have been doing so with unrivalled alacrity. We applaud their efforts thus far and in 2022, we expect to witness more of their exploits as ambassadors of this country.
It was in 2004 that we first heard the phrase – a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. The ongoing global crisis presented an opportunity for us to embrace available technology and advance the transformation to a digitised environment. This continues to be a work in progress and there is an unwavering commitment to better position our country and people for the opportunities of this technologically advanced era.
Development is inclusive and it is holistic. No one should be left behind. This Government has made a concerted effort to ensure that development of the sister islands keeps abreast of what’s happening on the mainland. There are many examples which give testament to the success of these efforts and in some instances, developments on the sister isles have actually surpassed the pace of development in Grenada.
The Government of Grenada embraces its responsibility to spearhead the development of our country. In like manner, we lead the country’s fight against COVID-19. However, our response efforts were bolstered by the support of many friendly countries and organisations. In particular, I want to express our deep appreciation for the diaspora who reached out in our time of need. In this season of gratitude, we once again express our profound appreciation to our regional and international friends who continue to support us on this journey.
External support will always be welcomed and appreciated, but the true merit of any government will lie in its ability to harness its own resources to advance the growth and development of its people. And this is exactly what this government has done through astute management of the local economy and supported by the tremendous sacrifices made by the Grenadian people.
As we continue to steer this country along the path of development, we look to the Almighty Father to be the beacon that guides us in maneuvering the turbulence of COVID 19. We therefore look to 2022 with the much hope and optimism in anticipation of the fulfilment of Romans 15, verse 13, which reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Merry Christmas to one and all and we pray for God’s continued guidance and blessings in 2022.