A Chance to Finally Get it Right
Background The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes coronavirus disease or COVID-19, has brought virtually every country on our planet to its knees. As of 8 April 2020, 209 countries have been affected, over 1.5 million people have been infected, and there have been over 87,000 deaths. To respond to the devastation caused by this highly transmissible and deadly virus, countries have had to take extraordinary, almost unprecedented measures. Borders have been closed, curfews have been instituted, orders have been issued by governments for residents to stay at home and not venture outdoors unless they absolutely have to, 24-hour lockdowns have been put in place in some countries, citizens have even been ordered to wear masks when going outdoors. New phrases have entered into our lexicon – social distancing, self-isolation and self-quarantine. Everything else going on in the world has paled into insignificance relative to this crisis and in many countries, no information is more important than the daily briefings by government officials on the latest number of people infected with COVID-19. We Have Been Exposed This crisis has brought home to us in Saint Lucia (and many other Caribbean islands) the fragility and un-sustainability of our current mode of development. For years we have spoken of the need to change our development trajectory and reduce our complete reliance on tourism. For years we have spoken of the need for greater food security and a revival of our agricultural sector. For years we have spoken of the un-sustainability of our debt situation. For years we have spoken of the need to broaden our economic base and expand into areas like information technology and creative industries. For years we have spoken of the need to develop a robust e-government platform to make government-to-government and citizen-to-government interactions more efficient. For years we have spoken of the need to improve our health services and create a universal fund that would guarantee everyone, regardless of economic means, access to basic health care. For years we have spoken about the inadequacy of our education system and its inability to keep pace with the demands of a rapidly evolving 21st century world. For years we have spoken of the need to protect our environment and in particular, restore our critical watersheds so that we can achieve a greater level of water security. For years we have spoken about the divisiveness and puerility of our political system and the need for a governance model that is more embracing, inclusive, visionary, transparent and productive. For years we have spoken about these things, written papers about them, convened and attended meetings to discuss them, but done very little or nothing to make them a reality. The Importance of Curves During this COVID-19 crisis we have been hearing a lot about curves. We have been told that to manage the disease outbreak properly we must flatten the curve. In other words, we must drastically reduce the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and, as much as possible, delay the point in time when we reach our maximum number of cases. That way we keep our numbers down to manageable levels and we prevent the number of sick people from overwhelming our local health services. That is why we shut our borders to prevent more imported infections, and ask people to practice social distancing and stay home so that we can minimize the community spread of the virus. Well, over the next series of blog posts I want to discuss another aspect of curves. I want to shift the focus to a conversation on how we can use this point in time in the history of our country and our global civilization to change the direction of the curve of our national development pathway. Anyone who studied calculus in school would have learned about something called a ‘point of inflection’ or ‘inflection point’. What this is, in the very simplest of terms, is a point at which the direction of the curve of a graph changes. If the graph was curving downward before, at the inflection point it starts to curve upwards (and vice versa). In non-mathematical terms, we use the phrase inflection point to describe a turning point in the life of an event. Our Inflection Point We have reached our inflection point, our watershed, our turning point in Saint Lucia. It cannot be business as usual after COVID-19. This crisis has nakedly exposed the many failings and deficiencies of our economic development model, our social infrastructure, our stewardship of our environment, our political system, our modern way of life, and our way interacting with each other. Everything must change if we are going to develop resilience and the capacity we need not just to bounce back from this crisis, but to spring forward confidently to face the challenges of the new post-COVID 19 world. Many countries will be starting all over again. In Saint Lucia, we have the opportunity to reset and finally get things right this time. This is our chance to ‘wheel and come again’. This is what I intend to explore in the next series of posts.