The people of Trinidad and Tobago are extremely fortunate that the arrival of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic has taken place under the watch of a government that places responsibility before political expediency.

The widely acknowledged seriousness and soundness of the comprehensive measures outlined by Prime Minister Keith Rowley and representatives of the five committees he has established, reflect his acknowledgement of the gravity of the situation facing our country and are aimed at one major objective—protecting the life and health of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

It is absolutely terrifying, therefore, to imagine what would have been the lot of our country and its citizens had the dreaded disease struck at a time when Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her team were at the helm.

As some of our more senior folk would say, it would have been a straight case of “crapaud smoke we pipe!”

The population got a taste of Kamla’s irresponsibility when, toward the end of her five-year term, oil and gas prices took a devastating plunge. Rather than heed the abundance of expert advice and appeals to manage the falling revenues sensibly and frugally she went on a spending and borrowing spree, hoping that her reckless extravagance would bring her votes in the crucial 2015 election.

Fortunately, the electorate saw her populism for what it continues to be—a policy of opportunism in which she seeks to please voters without any rational consideration toward the best course of action that would be in the national interest.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago, particularly the poor and elderly who are most vulnerable to COVID-19, are still paying for Kamla’s profligacy, the detrimental effects of which were dangerously aggravated by the continuing fall of oil and gas prices—the lifeblood of this country’s economy.

It is worth noting that the Covid-19 pandemic has come on the cusp of preparations for the 2020 general elections.

I prefer to leave it to the imagination of right-thinking citizens to envisage the extent of the recklessness of the measures that a Persad-Bissessar government might have been tempted to employ with one eye focused on its performance at the polls.

Ms Persad-Bissessar leads not a national party but a provincial organisation that has no capacity for dealing rationally and comprehensively with either a national crisis or with the social and economic problems facing this country.

Just look at her tenure in opposition since the election of 2015 and her obstructionist and often absurd approach to any measure proposed by the current Government aimed at improving this country’s social and economic landscape.

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It is a well-established truism that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.

On the basis of and in recognition of this reality, conversations are taking place among various professional and sectoral elites about how not to let this moment pass without taking advantage of it.

The action taken by the Government over the past two or three weeks with respect to control and containment of the COVID-19 virus, which has been in line, by and large, with the action taken by other countries, ought to be supported if we are to weather this virulent epidemic.

The T&T public is generally satisfied with how the government has handled this Covid-19 crisis to date. On the other hand, one senses a reluctance, if not open fear, to express a contrary opinion or suggestion. Why risk being called divisive or inappropriate?

Speaking recently in New York, the state governor, Andrew Cuomo, said: “The stress, the emotion, is just incredible, and rightfully so. It is a situation that is one of the most disruptive that I have seen, and it will change almost everything going forward. It will. That is a fact. It’s not your perception. It’s not just you. It’s all of us and it’s true and it’s real. Nobody can tell you when this is going to end... It will change almost everything.”

Nerves are frayed, tempers are on the edge, patience is dissolving. In any prolonged period of stress, the psychological toll is amplified. Even those who are generally composed—the Unflappables—can slip into a crack.