Prime Minister’s Republic Day Message 2021

Republic Day greetings, fellow citizens from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, my own family, and myself, as Prime Minister.

Again, I must express my regrets on the way we, as a celebratory people, are forced to commemorate this significant day in our nation’s history, the forty-fifth year of our Republic.

Disappointingly, we are still grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which demanded and has extracted so much from us.

We have done reasonably well, as a Republic. Scanning the globe, we can cite other Republics, both long-established and former colonial territories, which unlike us have either unravelled or been caught in belligerence and ethnic warfare.

To our credit, our Republic has kept together, and in our socio-political culture, we can claim some measure of civility and progress, and as a people we have sought to build a strong nation, but there is much more to be done.

History proves that nation-building is no easy, overnight task. It is said that man, as a social animal, recognises the need for communal bonds, and more recently a sense of nationalism to his sovereign state, because the alternative is each man to himself, or caught in tribal chaos.

It is a day like today that we should question ourselves about who we are, our individual roles as citizens, our special obligations to each other, and move to recognise the uniqueness and greatness of our land called Trinidad and Tobago and the melting pot within.

True, all nations cite their uniqueness, and in many instances a perverted sense of nationalism has led many to chauvinism, ultra-nationalism and even warfare — but the Covid-19 pandemic and other disruptions are demanding that we, as citizens, change our narrow, individual mindsets, instead, seeing ourselves within the collective whole of the country– shifting our outlook from “Me to Us”.

What is required now is that we take a deeper look at the world of the 21st century, with the realisation that some of our present socio-economic and political perspectives are unsuited to the challenges that are emerging.

It is becoming clear that we need to understand that new world, evolving out there. We need to recognise that we cannot confront the dynamics of this and the coming decades with the solutions of the 20th century; neither can we confront the unfolding technological revolutions with fear, anger or disillusionment.

We have to acknowledge the predictions, that every aspect of human activity, world-wide, will be re-shaped in the coming decade. There will be just constant re-engineering, no stagnating and waiting for others to catch up. Among the troubling questions being asked by governments, even in the developed world, is how to prevent the fallout in the job market, how to create sustainable new jobs, and what happens if losses outstrip job creation.

As our Republic goes forward this is just one of the many serious considerations which should be in the minds of citizens, because we have to ensure that we are a people, not of unskilled labour, but a people thrusting forward, learning new skills; a people, who, overall, cannot afford to be on the wrong side of this century’s technological divide.

We should also reflect upon the sad, dark side of our Republic today, its social ills, the murders, drug abuse, the rising cases of domestic violence, child abuse, fallouts of unemployment, chronic pockets of poverty and the lasting psycho-social effects of the pandemic.

The past year has been difficult for all of us. We have had to deal with both the effects of the pandemic and the fall in energy prices, which have meant a reduction in revenue. Thankfully the economy has been opening up in stages, and, with the anticipated cooperation of all citizens in the vaccination process, we continue to look forward to a return, in some form, to our way of life.

Recently, I said that God is on our side, and we needed to be on His side too. Earlier this week, he showed how much he was on our side with the announcement by BPTT that it had begun production from its Matapal gas project, much earlier than expected.

This is expected to produce between 250-350 million standard cubic feet per day, which admittedly represents just over half of what the company produced on average over the past decade. Whilst this does not solve our gas problems, every little bit helps.

Local investors have committed half a billion dollars in a hotel complex, the Marriot at Rocky Point, Tobago. This too doesn’t solve all of our tourism problems but we are on our way.

Our borders are opened at long last, CAL is flying again and some children are preparing to return to the schoolhouses.

Let’s accept these as great news, and much-welcomed “gifts” to our Republic, and, in spite of our ongoing challenges over the past year let us add them to our celebrations today.

Remember to vaccinate and follow all the other lifesaving protocols. We are still in a pandemic and the virus is still very much with us.

Stay safe, look out for each other, as I continue to look out for you.

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