Prime Minister Mitchell, in an address recorded for the momentous occasion, stated:
The celebration of Grenada’s 47th Anniversary of Independence comes in the midst of a very challenging period for the global community. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be the predominant focus of our time and energy.
This dreaded disease has had an unprecedented impact on life as we know it. It has decimated the tourism industry and slowed the pace of world trade. It has halted and, in many cases, reversed economic growth – but most of all, it has claimed the lives of so many around the world.
Covid-19 is not only a health issue that has the potential to overwhelm healthcare systems, it presents economic challenges and at the same time it embodies an attack on the mental wellbeing of citizens and disrupts the social fabric of all our societies. People everywhere are struggling to cope with the loss of jobs, reduced income and the resulting inability to meet some of their basic needs.
Dr. Mitchell also highlighted the need to maintain a connection with loved ones, while respecting the Covid-19 protocols of physical distancing.
In addition to the obvious medical, economic and psychosocial interventions that are necessary, winning the war against Covid-19 requires us to be our brother’s keeper.
We thank you our Caribbean brothers and sisters for standing in solidarity with us on this memorable occasion, even as you face your own challenges.
As you join in the celebration of this milestone today, let it serve as a reminder that good things are still happening despite Covid-19. It dominates our attention, but we are still forging ahead with our developmental agenda. We use this occasion to pause momentarily to reflect on Grenada’s achievements, harnessing them as motivation to continue that journey.
Addressing the virtual audience from the OECS Commission, Dr. Jules reflected on the aptness of the theme in commemoration of Grenada’s 47th Anniversary of Independence, “Rebuilding Together a Safer, More Resilient Nation in These Challenging Times“, and reiterated the Commission’s commitment to assisting Grenada and all Member States in their continuing efforts to navigate and to address the innumerable challenges of this unprecedented global crisis. He stated:
The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic last year brought Grenada and all of our small vulnerable economies to a standstill. Our region’s attention was focused entirely on matters related to managing and mitigating the pandemic and the economic distress it wrought.
Across the OECS our priority then was working hand in hand with our governments in saving lives and safeguarding livelihoods.
Currently our region is experiencing the predicted second wave, which has left some Member States reeling. At this time, when Grenada and other Member States were beginning to navigate, though cautiously, the intricate balance between health and the economy amidst a pandemic; and to evaluate policy options to aid the implementation of strategies to protect the health of citizens, while simultaneously promoting economic recovery in this unprecedented global climate.
Dr. Jules added:
Compounding the impacts of this health crisis on Member State economies is the behaviour that has been coined ‘vaccine nationalism’ – the race by countries to get first access to Covid-19 vaccines. This action by particularly wealthy nations could not only slow global health recovery but economic recovery as well, and could potentially impact the region’s ability to secure the timely delivery of vaccines at affordable rates for OECS citizens via the global coalition COVAX – which was precisely formed to ensure that vaccine doses are secured for the world’s poor and vulnerable nations.
These disturbing trends by a group of rich countries point to the urgent need – more than ever – for concrete actions by the OECS to address the vulnerability of our small states through resilience building and other special support measures.
If ever there was a need for a coordinated, collaborative approach for a recovery plan following any major event – it is now. An OECS recovery plan, taking into account Member States’ special health systems and their respective economies, is necessary to further save our region from the catastrophic consequences of Covid-19 and similar events in the future.
The Commission acknowledges the profound contribution of Grenada toward the growth and development of the OECS family and looks forward to continuing in the service of the Government and people of Grenada in the ongoing quest for the realisation of their development aspirations.