Fellow Barbadians and friends of Barbados, here at home, or wherever my message reaches you, I extend to you the warm greetings of this very special season with all its festivities, and uplifting music.
Barbados’ Christian tradition invites us to embrace the meaning of Christmas, the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us; God’s gift of the Christ child and with Him, peace, love and good will amongst all people and nations.
In the busy-ness of preparations and shopping; in the rush to exchange gifts; in the excitement of the new curtains; with the aroma of seasonal foods like ham and black cake, let us not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. For celebratory though it may be for most, this holiday season can also be very difficult for those who have lost loved ones, who are lonely or depressed, or who find it hard to make ends meet. This year, let us find a way to reach out to as many as we can, who may be in need, and who, once we bring them cheer, can get some relief. We hope that they too, will then be touched by the Spirit of the Season, as they experience its real meaning through us.
Although the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted and we are able to socialise freely for the first time since the start of the pandemic three years ago, we must still practise those sanitary measures with which we have become accustomed, as COVID has not gone away and there are still new infections daily. But we can manage them, and we can control our behaviour and prepare ourselves to minimise its impact.
We can be grateful that through our collective efforts, the Barbados economy is growing again. However, we must be mindful of the continuing global challenges, such as the climate crisis, high fuel and food prices, and predictions of a coming international recession. These factors necessitate us to still exercise caution. We must stay the course!
We, the people of this new Republic, must make our way in the world as a competitive, competent, highly-skilled nation, able to navigate international and evolving challenges while constantly enhancing our national brand, and while above all else, always caring for people, whether in Barbados or wherever people are on this planet; without heart, we are nothing. This requires us to put in place, not just the planks of sustainability, such as will allow all Barbadians of this and coming generations, to build and share in national prosperity and live in dignity, but to have the empathy and that sense of caring that will always be able to pull those, who through no fault of their own, cannot do it on their own.
Our national tone must therefore be one of gratitude for what we have been able to overcome and accomplish; of optimism about the future; of the need for resilience in all areas of our personal and national lives; and of our determination to continue to be the best that we can be as individuals, the best we can be as families and communities, but above all else, the best we can be as a nation.
We must all commit to this, to excellence as our national standard; to working together; to caring for each other; to respecting each other; to being the keepers of our sisters and brothers; to behaving as if the lives of each other matter; and that we understand it is our responsibility and ours alone, to together create and construct the Barbados in which we all want to live.
While we have successfully written our names on history’s page as a people, the challenge now is to write our future – to see, hear, feel and support each other going forward; to use our values and reengineer Bajan traditions to navigate the uncertainties and complexities of the future and, as a people, to define Barbados’ place in the world.
Let us all pause this holiday season for a period of introspection and reflection. In that regard, I want to thank you, the people of Barbados for the gift of the government, which will celebrate its first anniversary shortly. As your Prime Minister, I want to assure you that we do not take the responsibility you have entrusted to us lightly, or for granted.
We will treat the citizens and country with respect. We will continue to do our utmost to address and shield Barbadians from the worst impacts of the global crises. We will continue to be responsive to your needs and to your wishes, and wherever possible to meet them; and where we can’t, to talk it through so you understand what our constraints are and talk it through. We will let all views contend and listen to those views. We will create opportunities for Barbadians at the national and global levels. We commit to giving you the gift of fair, just, transparent, inclusive, effective and good governance. But ask you also to meet us where we are, because we are only as good as what we can do together as people, whether from the communities, whether in civil society in our churches and our other religious institutions, whether in the private sector or labour movement; doing it together will determine how and where we can go.
Without a doubt, the last year has been difficult for families, communities, and individuals and the future is uncertain, but whatever the future holds, the Government and people will face it together. As a nation, we will share the burdens and equally, we will share the blessings as we travel this journey of our new republic.
Barbadians are a people of faith, and yes Barbados is now very much a multicultural society of intersecting religious traditions. Respect each other, that’s all we need to do. However you choose to celebrate, whether it is Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, let us respect each other.
Whatever our traditions, be they quiet or exuberant, we cannot deny that we all do a tremendous amount of work, ‘to make the season bright.’ This year, let us not think of the season of Christmas as just having 12 days, but let us extend our efforts into the next 12 months, as we protect our families, care for our neighbours, safeguard our communities, and strengthen our Barbados.
May we all enjoy not just the spirit and spirits of the season, but live the fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity of spirit, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Speaking to all children of the broken trident – from this Government to all Barbadians; from my family and me, to you and yours; from my heart to your hearts, I wish you happy holidays and God’s blessings on Barbados and Barbadians everywhere.
Merry Christmas and a Healthy, Peaceful, and Productive 2023.