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Opinion: Distracted

It doesn’t take much to distract us these days. Music, television, social media, our phones, bills, and children are all vying for our attention.
We can choose to distract or be distracted and I wonder how much of what is happening now on Montserrat is just that? A distraction.
Some of our new ministers were quite distracted by their win that they stopped projects which were already in motion. The bright lights and shiny titles blinded them from understanding the implications of doing so and while they work to figure out a way to get things moving what should be our response?
Thankfully the Honourable Minister Paul Lewis kept construction going and his new ICT initiative would be a boost to young innovators on island. However, we need more across all of the sectors.
The Honourable Premier wants us to be distracted by his bright smile and eloquent words to the Diaspora but what of the somber looks and frustration of the people who voted him in because they are without work or underemployed? He wants to make Montserrat attractive to nationals abroad in a time when those at home are seriously considering moving or biding their time until their papers come through. These are the people he promised to put in jobs. Are they distracted enough to ignore the fact that they cannot manage their basic needs?
“The country is running on credit,” someone said recently. There is no cash flowing and we are living on the kindness of our neighbours, landlords and buying food on credit. But for how long?
The MDC debacle was a major distraction. In their haste to keep a campaign promise the new government has done significant damage to our international image. Now as we figure out how the puzzle pieces should fit to bring the island back on track we are missing opportunities because our heads are down.
We have removed ourselves from being a key player in discussions around regional integration because Montserrat is absent from OECS and CARICOM meetings at the heads level. While the Honourable Minister Hogan has continued to champion us within his portfolio, we’ve missed forums on the Caribbean Development Bank, Foreign Security and tourism which are all within the remit of the premier.

Montserrat will have some visibility at Caribbean Week thanks to the work of the team behind Miss Montserrat. Her visit is privately funded and organised without any financial support from the government.
Montserrat will have some visibility at Caribbean Week thanks to the work of the team behind Miss Montserrat.

In all of the travels throughout North America, why wasn’t an appearance at Caribbean Week now happening in New York not placed on the itinerary? Celebrating 20 years of overcoming an active volcano could have garnered us some international press attention. If we don’t tell our version of events someone else will tell it for us. We pay to be a part of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation but we don’t play.

A good solution to this would have been to get behind the plans for Miss Montserrat to be at Caribbean Week. However, Sharissa Ryan is making several appearances through the initiative of her chaperones and sponsors but without the financial support of the government. She could have been groomed to present the message that is needed to be shared on an international platform such as this. As it stands, we have to hope that the good intentions of her team is enough to prepare her to have these conversations.

The public too is distracted as we are driven by the negative. Unless the story is shrouded in drama and whodunits we don’t pay attention to the details. We figure we voted for them so nothing else should concern us but if recent history is to be our future, can we bury our heads in the ash and trust that others will fix it for us?
Maybe a blessing in disguise from this lack of government activity will be that more residents take it upon themselves to chart their own destiny. Take more chances. Often the first response is to leave. Move to the UK and become a benefit recipient or move to another country and hope things work out better. However, if you pay attention to the news and even the comments of friends and family abroad then you will see that other nations are experiencing the same challenges.

We can continue to distract ourselves with social media chats and finger pointing, with the Diaspora making the most noise about the issues that affect us locally. We could continue the excuse campaign of “things were all screwed up so let’s give them time” and ignore the fact that the economy has regressed. Or, we can take more decisive and inspired choices. One, to be more publicly vocal about the lack of initiatives to fund private sector growth, no scholarships for students about to leave school, frustrating Customs processes which inhibit passage of daytrippers and yachters. Two – find ways to empower ourselves and prepare for the change which will come whether we are ready or not by making use of our OECS and CARICOM ties to develop partnerships and activities which can attract foreign investment and decide to stick with Montserrat for the long haul.

Let’s not get distracted and focus on what compels us to stay, which has nothing to do with who is in power but a deeper call to be in this space where the possibilities seem endless and hope remains the fuel to our dreams.