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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley delivers his Independence Day message.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday admitted the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated our efforts in the tourism market, creating a $15 billion hole which is likely to impact the country’s upcoming budget considerably.

A further fall out of the pandemic, Rowley said: “We are on the verge of having an international label at Tobago’s Magdalena that is now in limbo and even Carnival, more than likely will be a casualty.”

Finance Minister Colm Imbert is expected to present the national budget in the coming weeks.

Rowley said the country has seen some dark times in the past which we battled.

One instance, he said, was in 2015 when his Government assumed office and discovered insufficient funds in the national treasury and collapsing revenues, but was able to find creative ways “to keep the lights on,” promising the Government will plan and execute as they have been doing.

“This time, 2020, is one such challenging period,” Rowley pointed out. Rowley in his first Independence Day address to the nation last night after being re-elected spoke at length about the virus which has negatively impacted economies worldwide.

“We all expect this pandemic will pass, eventually, but our future and fortunes cannot be just tied to the passing of Covid-19. It must be built on us growing, on our sowing and building, on us thriving in new businesses and in new ways while we make our national recovery and passage through these difficult times, no matter how long they last.”

Stressing that T&T was no different from any other in the world––from the richest to the poorest where there is a limited amount of hospital beds and ventilators, a limited number of doctors, nurses and personal protection equipment––the PM said, “We have so far held among the best in the world on the management of Covid.

“As the virus progresses through its natural cycle today, we and 146 other countries are fighting community spread.”

The PM said now was not the time for fun, frolic and bravado which would invite unspeakable disaster.

He said T&T, like the rest of the world “may yet feel its full ferociousness and we still have no idea when it is going to end. If we do not do this with diligence and sustained social responsibility, our medical system will be overwhelmed, with the potential of a collapse, posing then further disasters for us all.”