Hello to all in Barbados today. Christmas is always a very special time for Barbadians. It is a time for celebration, a time to honour our traditions both cultural and religious, and a time for inward reflection.
We must remind ourselves every day how blessed we are as we thank God for each other and for the blessings we have received over this past year. As we give thanks, let us remember the lessons which the story of Christmas has taught us. As we exchange gifts among our family and our friends, let us also remember the less fortunate among us and hold to true to the tradition of our willingness to assist others who are in need.
We must also remember the Christmas story, the angels who brought glad tidings of great joy as they announced the Good News, and the shepherds who received that Good News with absolute disbelief. We ourselves, even with the challenges that beset us as a nation and as individuals, are encouraged to listen for and to receive good news with acceptance and a determination to turn it to our advantage.
Our people are our greatest resource and we must never ever forget this. As we Barbadians, here at home and in the diaspora, come together among our families and our friends to celebrate during this festive season, let me take this opportunity to invite you to participate in the mission to transform Barbados into that place of choice for us to live, to work, to recreate and to retire. A Barbados where you would want to raise your children because you believe it is safe, and that their aspirations can be expressed and fulfilled. A Barbados which is clean and allows us to revel in its beauty.
As I reflect on the past year, I am deeply honoured to have been given such an overwhelming mandate to govern the affairs of this fair land, but with this honour also comes great responsibility. My colleagues and I have taken the approach to confront head-on the challenges with which we are faced, and as such, many of the decisions that my Government has taken may sometimes seem harsh and unpleasant, but are absolutely essential for our good health.
I wish especially to address those who are directly affected, in particular those public officers who were identified over the past three months, for separation from the public service. Very often in life the burden of protecting the wellbeing of the majority falls on the shoulders of a minority. It may seem to you now that there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but I give you my assurance that your sacrifices shall not be in vain. Our country will forever owe you a debt of gratitude.
I want you to make use of the opportunities that have been offered to you, whether it is retraining for new job prospects or starting your own businesses, or even accessing land because we are going to make sure that we create a framework in which you can support yourselves and your families.
Our cultural values and community spirit have always helped to keep us grounded and strong. We must hold fast to our traditions, those things that make Barbados the best place to be in the world, while at the same time recognising that we must embrace change, for if we fail to embrace change, we will not be able to adapt to the world in which we live.
I am sure that many of you can remember, and some of us still do enjoy, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning religious services, followed by, for some, Christmas In The Park. We need to preserve the fellowship that embraces all of that and that has become an integral part of our culture. But at the same time, we need to open our minds to embrace those opportunities the world offers us, recognising that the way in which it has always been done, may not be there for us.
It is with that in mind that those Barbadians, those born here or those with Barbadian roots, have been invited by our Government to return home in 2020 for The Gathering 2020. We have designated it so, because we believe this is an opportunity for all Barbadians, parish by parish, to be able to come home and to be able to embrace their roots, but at the same time, to help us refine a more perfect vision for the Barbados that we want for ourselves and our children and our grandchildren.
Parish by parish, we will embrace our people and we will showcase through traditional sports, music, food, other social activities, as well as marrying the opportunities for business, a Barbados that will make us all proud and from which we will determine our future.
I look forward, for example, of what December 25 in 2020 would look like when we gather in Queen’s Park to participate in what would be that ultimate vintage Barbadian Christmas event. But until then, our role is to invite our friends and our family home for that momentous occasion in 2020.
My friends, Barbados may be a small nation, but our size has never restricted the magnitude of our vision. Over the past six and a half months, we have sought to also strengthen ties with our Caribbean brothers and sisters, and we have recommitted to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
There are sure signs for us of our resilience and our determination in the last six and a half months that has caused confidence to return to our people, because we believe that we can propel Barbados to a place of prominence internationally. And we believe that Barbados can provide for all of its citizens, but we must retain our discipline, we must be prepared to be tolerant, we must be prepared to be compassionate, and we must be prepared equally to understand that Rome was never built in a day.
Once again, I thank each and every one of you for joining my Government on this journey of putting Barbados back where it belongs, to be able to punch above its weight.
On behalf of my Government and my family, I wish you, my friends, all the very best wishes for a joyous and happy Christmas, and for God’s continued blessings for the New Year ahead. I ask us each to rest as we come to the point of recognising that the journey is a long one, but it is one that we can make always, together.
God bless you and God bless Barbados. Thank you.