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Kenrick Quashie

Kenrick Quashie. (iWN file photo)

By Kenrick Quashie

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is at a crossroads. Honestly, it seems like such a very difficult time to govern. There are so many issues that both elected officers and the general public are aware of. 

At the same time, I feel like the government has abandoned its post. Enough noise isn’t being made. The COVID-19 pandemic and the imminent threat of the La Soufriere volcano are competing for national priority. NEMO seems unequipped to manage themself much less to manage the disasters. 

Accordingly, I am going to assume political leadership of the country for one day. My schedule will be as follows:

1. A meeting with the top brass of the Ministry of Health. In that meeting, I will speak directly to the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) as the leading medical voice on this pandemic. She is to know that she must not worry about any political fallout. Give Vincentians the information and use words for the general population to understand. At a time like this, worry not about political fallouts and don’t toe the line in this regard. You are the expert. Lead the charge. 

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2. I will invite NEMO heads to join Ministry of Health officials in the latter part of meeting #1 to transition into meeting #2. The responsibility of releasing the COVID-19 data will be taken away from NEMO and given to the Ministry of Health. At this meeting, I will instruct NEMO and the MOHE to get acquainted with the daily briefings that Governor of the State of New York, USA — Andrew Cuomo instituted in 2020 when New York was the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. Such meetings will become the norm.

3. The heads of the Ministry of Education (MOE) will join NEMO and MOHE officials for meeting #3. I will be sure to give the officials of the MOE a “piece of my mind”. Like how doesn’t the ministry have a full online education system to roll out? The education of our nation’s children is too important for a whole ministry to operate so laid back. In this meeting, an open discussion will be held on the prospects of reopening schools, the implications of operating a complete online school system, students’ mental health, abuse at home, different learning styles for students among others. 

I would hope that out of this meeting, a mixed system will be developed, a standard e-learning platform will be adopted, some limited in-person classes, equipping and retooling for teachers and school administrators among others will be agreed upon. I shall allow the MOE two weeks to get its act together so learning can properly resume in February.

4. A meeting will be held with NEMO officials and the team from the Seismic Research Centre (SRC). I will immediately instruct them to cut out this change-date-ONLY report that they send to the media daily. Like, what is that? Vincentians see photos of this black mass growing. You don’t have to tell us again that it is growing. We are concerned about the readings that you have been receiving. Is there increased seismic activity? If so, are they above normal? How much above normal and what is it saying to you? If not, does it appear to be calming down? Is it going back to sleep? I will let them know especially NEMO that I am at my wits end with their callous behaviour of insulting Vincentians’ intelligence. We can reason. We can process information. We won’t all panic. Also, what is this thing about cancelling the meeting in Georgetown because the COVID-19 pandemic? Is the pandemic a new phenomenon? Has the pandemic put the activities of the La Soufriere volcano on-hold? NEMO is operating like a meeting with members of a community can’t be held online or to organize one needs a whole month of planning. Whatever happened to public address (pa) systems? What happen to deploying a team on the ground in the communities to talk to families at their home? You have placed the alert level at orange, which says that an explosive eruption can happen within 24 hours, yet your education and preparedness of the communities to be affected suggest otherwise. Your actions do not match your words. 

5. A lunch meeting will be held with the officials of the Ministry of Finance. Two things will be on my mind. (i.) Do not consider increasing the tax burden of the citizens of this country while preparing the 2021 budget. Our people cannot afford it. (ii.) Ensure that MOHE, NEMO, MOE and the other relevant ministries have the resources needed to manage these disasters and continue learning. (iii) Educate and implement a programme to encourage citizens to save at least one month’s salary which might be needed in the event of a volcanic eruption. It is important for citizens to know that they are going to need monetary resources during this time.

6. The officials at the Ministry of Agriculture will join me for meeting #6. They will be instructed to immediately identify at least one portion of land in the “safe” zone for farmers in the red and orange zones to evacuate some of their animals whenever an evacuation order is given. I will propose to them that they use the top part of the former ET Joshua airport- towards Pole Yard or any other suitable place.  A living space should also be erected on the site so farmers can share the task of watching over the animals. (i.) This means that an animal identification programme must be implemented. Work with farmers to tag their animals now. (ii.) Begin to cut and dry grass for these animals. Dry grass that can be stored for years. (iii.) Food security is very important. The ministry will have 48 hours to meet stakeholders and properly develop a food security plan to feed the nation if the volcano erupts. Including building barns and warehouses. 

7. A meeting will be held with all trade unions, the cabinet secretary, the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of the Public Sector to agree on a system to keep the business of government functioning and workers safe. 

Yes, there are so many more issues to discuss and decisions to be made-just remember it is only one day. COVID-19 and La Soufriere will be on my mind.  I will have to leave the office by 5 p.m. to be with my constituency as I can only hope that my presence among my people will allay some fear of the uncertain times ahead. 

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

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11 replies on “If I were PM for a day amidst these crises”

  1. So…
    What happened to the Community Development Division in this country? I aint hear a single thing about them and their role! I used to know a couple of these people who used to know what to to when disaster strike. What about dengue?
    You bet we need a more transparent plan of action. Communities need to be mobilised! Can’t wait till Soufriere blow then plan! No say …

    But I understand where you coming from…

    1. My thoughts exactly! Does this guy think all the families have computers and wifi? Does he think New York was a success?!?! Cuomo made the worst mistakes of anyone on earth….Yes! Thank God this guy is not PM!

      1. At least Cuomo is doing something for his state it seems like vincentians are afraid to speak up, this is to tell you that st Vincent is not equipped to handle this pandemic, if you pay attention to the number of cases in st Vincent right now to the ratio of people living here it is not far away from what is happening in america

  2. Very good assessment of thought, I do hope some one will show the 20 yrs Prime Minister what the one day
    P M is thinking , also the the Leader of Opposition.
    Seeing that the Prime Minister and his copy fellows has lost their way. The writer of this will not sue you for using his ideas but will welcome it.

    The Covid-19 spreading is from the Election time from callous behaviour of our Government give us the believe that SVG is safe from the virus . People pack in those meetings with out face mask.. How many was tested or temperature taken? probably none this is effects of it now..

    Government flying people from all round to cut Election deals, others coming to Grenadines and from other Islands uncheck.. The election is over but virus will continue to spread. Because many seem to Asymptomatic and speading it to weaker person. Your idea of massive testing is welcome by Dr. Friday is the answer at this stage.

    Hope we all learn and follow prudence advices. In 2021

    My to cents

  3. Avatar Of Nancysauldemersnancysauldemers says:

    Bravo! This sounds like a most productive day that will go a long way toward achieving what’s needed.

  4. Very very good idea that was given to the people on that blessed island. They all have to be prepared for the outcom.

  5. Svg had 10 months notice and a very good copy book to prepare from, and should not be in the state we are in as it relates to COVID-19. The USA and UK are great examples of what to expect from a virus breakout and should have done all thats necessary to control spread or the importation of the virus. If you can analyze this much in 1 day imagine a country with you being the leader for 20+ years . Looking forward to seeing you in 2025. You got my vote.

  6. Many will appreciate your shoutout. in such unprecedented times, I believe our community are less interested in political shenanigans, at any level, and will welcome caring, thoughtful governance from our chosen leaders irrespective of party politics.
    From what we can easily observe the world over, covid19 systematically destroys community life support systems, disabling essential systems and weakening the resolve of those essential services and our ability to cope. My heart goes out to all our people who keep our essential services going.
    We cannot take our eyes off the potent cocktail of LA Soufriere, Covid19 and recent dengue outbreaks. We can party all we want after the battle. Please also spare a thought too for our disabled community who also have to surmount these significant challenges we currently face.

  7. Avatar Of Ricardo FrancisRicardo Francis says:

    You should let the people know two things: (1) Covid19 is a political virus, and (2). we need an immediate investigation respecting the activities of the volcano, and in particular, the drilling for geothermal energy.

    Ricardo Francis, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Waiting and in the Making.

  8. The crisis is not the virus. The crisis comes from the reaction(s) to the virus. MISINFORMATION ABOUNDS! In most places in the world the panic has caused people to ignore the true information about what has been learned about the virus and governments are forced to go along with the fear and false perceptions and do such COUNTER PRODUCTIVE things such as lockdowns. We see clearly in comments on this site that so many people have been wetting their pants in fear of a virus that has a 99.8 survival rate for those that do get it. People that die of other causes are listed as dying from covid-19, when, in truth, the virus probably did contribute, because Health personnel did not, and many are not aware of how to treat these cases that MOST OF THEM could have easily been saved. China is the only country listed as having an economy that grew this year, (nearly 3%). We are still thinking tourism is going to boom, when in fact we pay minimal attention to Agriculture. The big gains however could be made in other areas such as clean, low waste manufacturing of , for example, agricultural products, but our system is designed to financially heavily punish anyone seeking to get involved is such an enterprise. That is why we essentially produce NOTHING in SVG.
    When will any leaders in SVG realize that it is they that are the leaders and should craft policy that knows that money goes where money is treated well. Instead they expect some in the Private Sector to do the real leading with LOSING INVESTMENTS and if any gains do come at all the politicians want the credit. PRYME is an unfair system that gives temporary benefit to the few chosen when instead a system should be in place to benefit anyone investing INDEFINITELY.Primarily, LOWER CUSTOMS DUTIES AND OTHER TAXES THAT ENCOURAGE GROWTH IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND THEREBY INCREASE REVENUE.
    We do the opposite of Singapore and therefore get the opposite results.

    We are certainly in a crisis but…”Do not let a crisis go to waste”.

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