February 24, 2021 | Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie |
The impact of the Coronavirus has meant that it is not business as usual any where on the glove and Jamaica is no exception. None is spared this catastrophe. We have seen that the government has to seek or anend special legislation to cause restrictions to occur as it relates to the effects of the pandemic. For example: shut borders, restrict the movement of citizens and seek special powers to influence the behaviour of citizens. etc. These are not normal times. So they call for special provisions to deal with this emergency situation.
Gilbert Hurricane 1988
While in Power as PM in 1988 following the passage of Hurricane Gilbert, the then PM Hon. Edward Phillip George Seaga enacted or caused to put in force special or emergency powers. For example: Certain equipment critical for national mobilization could be taken over legally. For example: Front end loader, bulldozers, trucks, sanitation equipment, workers etc. These are special times which call for extraordinary measures in the national interest.
The time has come to strengthen such legislation if what we have are not strong enough, in light of this exponential and current comnunity spread of the virus. For example: Approximately 2000 new infections in a month. This is unprecidented and calls for all hands on deck to stem infections. This is for the good of all. If properly communicated the masses will understand.
The leave of absence of certain front line essential workers, critical to our nation security should be curtailed. Police, Public Health workers, Army personnel, Correctional Services, Fire Brigade, doctors etc. Should be restricted in the public interest. We cannot be all things to all persons. We need all hands on deck.
Let us manage with vision and show the world that we are serious about curtailing the spread of this deadly virus. Time has come for the government to demonstrate that it has guts and are not just thinking short term. Demonstrate that you are on a mission and have vision. “Without vision thy people perish” is a popular saying known by most if not us all.
Our national economy is being greatly affected. Tourism which is a critical link in our foreign exchange inflows has either dried up or is in danger of happening. We do not have to be the Minister if Finance with a doctorate to fully understand this scenario. We have to import vaccines and other essentials like Personal Protective Devices, like plastic gowns, gloves, masks etc. We need foreign exchange to secure these special devices or equipment which we do not manufacture locally. The Government needs these special powers in this crisis. Call it what you will, but enact it as a matter of urgency. Effective leadership is not a Sunday School affair.
Effective leadership calls for pragmatism at times. Cheap popularity will not work at times. The masses will understand. These are not permanent measures. Enact same should the situation worsen. It could happen so be prepared from now. Let us look down the road.
It is better to have say water in storage than to be go looking for such a critical commodity in say in the event of a fire. We must have certain things on standby which can be utilized without delay. This proposed special powers act is no exception.
Some may even label such a legislation as a form of dictatorship, but you have to do what you have to do. Leadership cannot be likened to that of a bunch of roses. Even roses have thorns on them. This does not mean that we abandon and or refuse to enjoy the sweet smell and beauty of roses because they have thorns? We just know that we have to handle same with sensitivity and due care. For example: Wear a pair of gloves and protect our eyes etc. In short do what is necessary to overcome obstacles.
Life at times are like running a race with hurdles. It is is so beautiful to see athletes overcome hurdles and win these races. It is equally disappointing to see them bump into these obstacles and get injured. Most times these injuries are not serious enough to cause death.
Let us think outside the block. With regards to the vaccine procurement. If we need to search the world market to get the best prices and most reliable source of supply, then we have to pull out all the stops. We need these doses in arms now to stop the spread of the virus. This calls for real creative and seen as working to achieve the objective of stemming this community spread. This a dramatic spike. Richard Pandoe, president of Jamaica Manufacturer and Export Association (JMEA). Said inter alia:
“We do not support a shut down of the country. We understand this call. Let us wear our mask, get the Vaccine out to the people. We will get through this”
Stated Richard Pandoe in a recorded statement aired on radio.
Also the Small Business Association of Jamaica (SBAJ). through its president has said inter alia:
“SBAJ is not in support of a total shut down of the economy, also working from home order. Big businesses have such resources.”
SBAJ president asserted.
We support a call to enact effective legislation to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. We need people to help to make this happen. If they are allowed to do as they wish including migrating as they wish … will not help our efforts to help in the stem of this deadly virus. Health workers in particular are critical to this crisis. What is your view? This is ours.
Some 11.3 million dollars loss in revenue so far this year or 73 Billion dollars in costs associated with virus in Jamaica according to the Finance Minister Dr. The Hon. Nigel Clarke speaking in Parliament as he laid on the table of the House on February 18,:2021 estimates for 2021/ 22 budget for future debate.
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a veteran journalist with International exposure. He has a special interest in Social Justice and effective leadership issues.