Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has expressed optimism that despite the hardships and complexities posed by the Covid-19 virus – the country has the ability to ‘bounce back’ to a level of social and economic stability.
While addressing the nation, on the observation of its 42nd Anniversary of Independence, the prime minister stated that Saint Lucians will not be deterred on the path to progress despite the setbacks brought on by the coronavirus.
He said there is no doubt that “Covid-19 has impacted this development”, as the island suffered “immense revenue losses and had to reallocate a lot of our resources to fight the pandemic.”
However, PM Chastanet reiterated: “But you would have heard me say repeatedly over the past year that Covid-19 will not define us. Nor will we allow it to deter us.”
With the theme for this year’s celebrations, “A Resilient Nation: We can. We will”, the prime minister asserted that “my message to the people of Saint Lucia, is forward-looking…”
Chastanet added: “Even while we continue to fight COVID, we must also begin to look beyond it, to position ourselves and our country to overcome this pandemic and the scars it will leave on our country in much the same way that we have overcome every natural disaster or challenge that has confronted us in the past, especially since Independence 42 years ago.”
The prime minster recalled that “the economic challenges” begun with the international oil crisis that erupted in the 1970s, restrictions on access to the European market for the country’s bananas, the world economic and financial crisis of 2008, as well as the hardships of the post-independence political problems of 1979, “and more recently, the consecutive years of economic decline that this government inherited and is now redressing.”
He noted that , “On every one of these occasions, Saint Lucians took up the challenge and put their shoulders to the wheel, turning each setback into an opportunity to build back better, whether it was the country, their homes or their very lives, because many of our people recognize that as an independent nation, we have responsibilities.”
Chastanet further asserted that, “This 42nd Independence anniversary proffers us the opportunity to appreciate how far we have come, but more importantly, how far we still have to go.”
He stressed, “As the resilient nation and people that we are, we can and we will get that job done.”
The prime minster said that though this year’s celebrations, took on a different tone and format, the current scenario provides an opportunity for “the entire country … to celebrate and improve our determination to emerge out of the COVID pandemic.”
He urged citizens to adhere to and continue to follow the protocols, as this “is how we are truly being our brother and sister’s keeper.”
In recognition of the vital role that the private sector plays in the socio-development of the country, PM Chastanet disclosed that an Investiture Ceremony will be held early this March, to recognize “some of our outstanding Saint Lucians …and we also honour businesses that have contributed to the financial success of this country over the last 42 years.”
He also acknowledged the input of Verve St Lucia and the Independence Committee for “this great idea” of putting together the ‘Prime Minister’s playlist’ in an effort to reward the island’s musicians and entertainers that were particularly hard hit as result of the virus as “many… have been robbed of the opportunity of earning a livelihood.”
Chastanet said, “As a country that has benefitted greatly from their talents, we owe it to them to give them our support.”
As part of this year’s anniversary celebrations, a dazzling ‘virtual presentation’ was telecast live on NTN and other local channels to showcase the talents of some of the island’s more seasoned artists and also up-and-coming performers.
PM Chastanet said he was cognizant that many people are still hurting despite the government’s efforts “to ensure we provided income support and reopened the economy, some people have still not been able to go back to work or open their businesses and the impact of COVID is still very real. It is because we care that our Government has introduced measures to reach the most vulnerable and we are constantly looking at ways to reach even more people and stimulate the economy.”
He said the priority in the fight to combat the coronavirus would require significantly reducing the number of COVID-19 cases, to open up even more sectors, but “This will take immense cooperation.”
The prime minister stressed that “there has never been a bigger sense of purpose than Saint Lucia responding as one to this pandemic.”
PM Chastanet asserted: “Our country has struck a balance, thanks in great part, to the thousands of frontline workers who toiled at great risk during the past eleven months to serve us all so well. You all have our eternal gratitude.”
He added, “There are so many other Saint Lucians who have stepped up over the past year and though I may not get to mention all of you, and we often mention those in the field of security and health, you are not forgotten: the fisher folk, the gas attendants, the supermarket staff, the minibus drivers, SLASPA and customs officers. To so many of you, I say Thank You.”