Sabga III, Attz: Trinidad and Tobago must decide its post-covid19 identity

Anthony Sabga III Photo courtesy Ansa McAl -
Anthony Sabga III Photo courtesy Ansa McAl -

WITH what some people hope could be the start of the final chapter of the covid19 pandemic in 2022, Trinidad and Tobago needs to reflect on the covid19 lessons of the last two years and decide what its national identity will be as the virus transitions from pandemic to endemic status.

Ansa McAl Group CEO Anthony N Sabga III and UWI economist Dr Marlene Attz expressed these opinions when they spoke at a virtual American Chamber of Commerce TT (Amcham) Economic Outlook Forum 2022 on Wednesday.

Sabga reflected on the extraordinary contagiousness of the covid19 omicron variant, together with what seemed to be increasing covid19 vaccination and booster rates. He opined this could mean "that in the coming months, nearly all of us will have some level of immunity to this virus."

While repeat infections and breakthroughs cases can still occur, Sabga was confident that these will become milder and less disruptive over time as individual and collective immunity to covid19 increases over the coming months.

With the world having been held tightly in covid19's stranglehold for the last two years, Sabga said, "Omicron is accelerating to what we hope to be this pandemic's final chapter."

With the end of the pandemic possibly being more clearly in view than it ever has been, Sabga said the population and the people of the Caribbean have some serious questions to answer.

"We should be asking ourselves: where will we end up in our attitudes to one another? What lessons are we going to take from this time? Who will we be as a nation and a region after this?"

Sensitive issues of the day such as covid19 vaccination policies and the reopening of schools will persist. But in trying to find the right answers to these issues, Sabga said, "We must not allow ourselves to be manipulated by social media’s prioritisation of the need to be 'right' over the need to allow voices to be heard."

He acknowledged that covid19 has created pain in different ways for different people in TT. but said this is no excuse for people to verbally condemn or physically attack anyone who might hold a diametrically opposed position.

"We must recognise that truth may be the first step to healing and renewing necessary social contracts."

He urged citizens to get back to basics and "remember the fundamentals of who we are as Trinibagonians."

These fundamentals, he continued, are "our diversity as a people, our creativity that we bring and the way we have coexisted peacefully in our small twin-island state."

Sabga said these attributed should all be leveraged as consensus is sought on thorny issues that have been brought to the forefront by covid19. He reminded the population that it was the late South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu who described TT as "a Rainbow Country" in 2004. Tutu, 90, died on December 26, 2021.

Sabga III said the population's humanity and collective social responsibility towards overcoming challenges facing the country played a significant role in Tutu's conferring such a title upon TT.

"Let us not lose that lesson going forward.

Attz agreed with him.

"The conversation has to start with a shared vision. I think we have to understand that we all want what is best for the people of TT." She said there must be "an appreciation that contending views can co-exist, once you can converge to the desired outcome."

That outcome, Attaz continued, is for TT to have people-centred growth. Such growth is not merely economic, Attz said, and must recognise that covid19 "exposed some of the chinks in our national armour. Those chinks are linked to both individuals and businesses."

Referring to Miss TTWorld's comments about a 20 per cent poverty level, Attz said this is not something which ought not to be said publicly.

"Unless we confront the challenges that we have in the country, moving forward we will not be able to achieve the kinds of results (that we want)."

While another desired outcome is for economic growth to be all-inclusive, Attz said, "One of the things that covid19 has exposed are the inequalities in our society" She added, "So we know some people are going to be left behind."

This means TT will have to play catch-up to help these people.

"Collectively as a country, we stand to benefit if we can all move forward in a way that benefits as many of our citizens as possible."


"Sabga III, Attz: Trinidad and Tobago must decide its post-covid19 identity"

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