Chief Secretary’s New Year’s Message

It was the year that changed our usual rhythm to a new and unfamiliar beat. Being distant became a symbol of love; elbow bumps replaced handshakes; and face masks are now deemed the most crucial accessory. Many of the routines and patterns that provided us with a sense of comfort and normalcy were altered radically overnight.

Yet, in the face of the uncertainty that has defined 2020, this year has also gifted us with a unique kind of clarity. The challenges and changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have sparked a deeper conversation regarding our collective meaning and existence. Many of us are genuinely thinking about the quality of life we wish to lead; the efficiency of some of our systems; and the type of world we want to shape.

2020 was touted as the year of perfect vision, the year that we will see clearly. For many of us, it has indeed corrected our vision and shifted our focus. 2020 has jolted us out of our comfort zones, challenged us, and stretched us. The past months have stripped away many of the frills and have set our gaze directly on what truly matters.

At the Tobago House of Assembly, we have remained committed to providing tangible solutions to the many Tobagonians affected by this crisis. Together with Central Government, we continue to manage this pandemic in the best interest of the people and the country, to give citizens and residents the best chance of survival and recovery. Of course, there is no perfect response to a challenge of this scale and magnitude. But, Tobagonians can be assured that we have given nothing less than our greatest effort.

While some changes had to be made to our development agenda, Tobago continues to progress even in the midst of a pandemic. Our island’s road infrastructure network was further upgraded with the completion of the Thompson River Bridge Project. Additionally, the Scarborough Market returned to its former location, injecting much-needed energy back into our capital, and providing local farmers and vendors with a modern retail space. The Charlotteville Micro-Enterprise Centre was also recently commissioned, providing a wealth of opportunity for entrepreneurs in the East and the Roxborough Hospital will be opened very early in January 2021, all part of our developmental thrust in that part of the island.
And these are just some of the achievements that we were able to accomplish. However, even with the victories, for many of us, 2020 was a year characterised by much pain, isolation, and loss. The stark reality also remains that while this year is drawing to a close, the pandemic is still roaring with no predictable end date in sight.

Still, we cannot afford to get despondent as a people although we may be feeling weary. While it is not always easy, we must at all costs, guard our optimism and our tenacity. Most importantly, we cannot be divided as Tobagonians if we want to truly beat this crisis. The economic and social fallout of this pandemic requires collective action and solutions.

As we bid farewell to 2020, it is extremely crucial that we step forward with not just the hurt but the lessons learnt. Thus far, this crisis has emphasized the importance of digital technology to our world and the many ways that it can be leveraged to create more opportunities for us in the areas of school and work. Indeed, we owe it to ourselves to continue to accelerate the progress that has been made on the digital front within the course of the year.

COVID-19 has also underscored the significance of health and cleanliness to our existence. It has heightened our appreciation for sanitation, healthcare and supermarket workers, for farmers, agro-processors, essential services and for each other, like no other occurrence has ever done.

Without a doubt, it has not been easy for many of us to adjust to the massive shift which this pandemic has triggered. However, it is in our best interest to reach that turning point, sooner rather than later. It is only when we arrive at that specific juncture that we can regain some of our control and power.

This year has given us the chance to hit the reset button; it has given us the possibility to start again. And as we approach this new chapter, may we remember that our current realities will not always be the same. So, let us approach the New Year with a spirit and attitude of intention.

Let us still dare our minds to dream and work towards the future we have always wanted.
Let us step into 2021 with an intense flexibility, focus and faith! Let us embrace the fact that this New Year is not so much about resolutions, but about the revolutions sparked by this pandemic.

And with our Tobago House of Assembly election on the horizon, I trust that those of you who reside in Tobago and are eligible, will endeavour to exercise your right to vote…. a right denied to many in the past. Be a part of the process to help determine and shape the Tobago you wish to see, both for you and your future generations.

Happy New Year brothers and sisters and may God eternally bless our land of Trinidad and Tobago.

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