With the Philip J. Pierre-led administration approaching its first 100 Days in Office this weekend, I can easily offer 100 Reasons why it’s been off to a good start at the end of its first three months.
But while most await the coming and going of this weekend, I’d rather jump ahead and concentrate on what I’d like to see as its legacy after its First Year in Office.
For starters, I’d like to see the Pierre Administration report it handled the COVID nightmare better in its first 100 days than expected, with vaccinations at the highest possible level and case and death loads the lowest-ever.
I’d like to see Saint Lucia climb in the next nine months from the bottom of the region’s vaccination ladder to as near the top as possible, with the widest range of vaccine choices.
I’d like to see, by then, a population that had benefitted from nine months of constant messaging about all aspects of COVID-19, for and against, but with an emphasis on what needs to be done now to best avoid the global pandemic tomorrow condemning Saint Lucia and its citizens to the scrap heap of medical history.
Saint Lucia has also suffered enough experiences in the first 20 months of COVID-19 to want to do nothing else than clean-up its regional record by increasing vaccination rates and protecting all Saint Lucians from the likelihood of having to continue fighting COVID-19 in 2023 and 2024.
But with a vaccination rate of just over 23% and tens of thousands of children now also becoming eligible for vaccination, it’s clear that nothing short of requiring that people vaccinate to save their lives or protect themselves will allow for achievement of that 70% level of vaccination necessary to even start thinking we’re going to be safe.
I really want to see, by July 26, 2022 that Prime Minister Pierre will have done enough to demonstrate why Saint Lucians should look forward to the next four years under his watch.
At 100 Days he’s already able to list achievements like delivering on election promises at every sitting of parliament since the elections and tailoring government’s new projects to reflect the SLP’s campaign theme of ‘Putting People First’.
In the process, the Prime Minister has also come under (and thus far successfully resisted) an intense level of internal pressure to take actions not in keeping with his inclusive political outlook, even though they would also yield political capital by way of praises for correcting and erasing actions that resulted in partisan political victimization.
Instead, he’s concentrated on introducing and building a Ministry of the Youth Economy that would allow youth to turn their hobbies into paycheques by offering them possibilities to turn old and new challenges into creative, innovative opportunities in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Information technology (IT).
PM Pierre has also been quietly reshaping the island’s international affairs more in line with the Labour party’s historical and philosophical underpinnings and within the context of the global, regional and national challenges facing Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
His government’s decisions to channel over $8 million into a national house repair programme for helpless elderly citizens, $2.6 million in Facility Fees for students island-wide, a $1.8 Million Educational Assistance Program (to assist students with books, uniforms, food allowances and stationery) and negotiating for parents of students doing online studies to only pay $20 monthly for internet fees – for starters – make it crystal-clear that to him, ‘Putting people First’ is more than just an election or party phrase or theme.
Indeed, the new prime minister closed his inaugural September 25 speech to the United Nations General Assembly with open mention of his government’s commitment to his party’s election promise to ‘Put People First’.
But never mind all my positive hopes that this administration will shine more than three-times-brighter than any other after its first 365 Days, everything depends on how it handles the COVID Challenge in its first year.
With the experiences of the preceding administration’s first 16 months and that of the rest of the world for the first 20 months of the pandemic always available, PM Pierre’s insistence on being guided by ‘The Science’ in taking COIVID-19 decisions will occasionally be tested, particularly by his critics.
In this regard, the matter of requiring government employees in daily contact with the public (including visitors) be vaccinated, ought not to be a matter left to the exercise of individuals’ rights to choose to endanger their lives, but also those of others, since decisions in the wider interest of the collective national good always trumps individual choices.
With the private sector entities joining the medical and health professionals in strongly urging and recommending that the government consider mandating vaccinations and some trade union leaders hell-bent on misleading workers about their individual rights versus the collective national good – and in a case of national emergency – it’s just a matter of time before the proverbial poop hits the fan on the issue of requiring the most vulnerable government employees to vaccinate, not as much to keep their jobs, as to protect themselves and others.
If it hits before 365 Days, the prime minister’s response will clearly help determine his legacy at the end of his first year — and for the next four years.
But it all starts and end with now and how the government responds to the challenge of preventing Saint Lucia going into history for another wrong reason, this time being the first Caribbean country to face a Fifth COVID Wave.
I have confidence, but I cannot predict what will and won’t happen.
I’m okay with what I’ve seen and heard so far – and from what I know, I have reason to believe that there are more pleasant than unpleasant surprises down the road, for the first 365 Days – and beyond.
So, will the PM pip his critics in his first year?