Christmas this year will be different. Not in any way less special, just different than what we may have become accustomed to. The gifts that we receive this Christmas will mostly be of a different sort, and the perception of what they are and how much we appreciate them will set the tone for a brand new 2021. In years gone by Christmas Cheer was filled with superficial excesses and splurges of every kind. This year, due to the special circumstances that the pandemic has brought this new administration has been able to secure the funds that will ensure that those Belizean brothers and sisters that are most in need are able to meet at least their essentials. The labour force survey which reflects results from September has shown dramatic increases in both the unemployment and underemployment. Three of every ten Belizeans are now unemployed and four of every ten are underemployed. Poverty rates which were already alarming are now staggering. These are our most vulnerable families and who must receive the benefits of the social safety nets available. These safety nets which were used more like electioneering propaganda by unscrupulous rogues in the previous government were mismanaged by those unscrupulous Mickey Mouse rogue ministers.
This week, the government announced that the Grocery Bag Program would be launched and already many families are starting to benefit. These families are vetted and the help they receive is adequate for the size of the family. This is a far more equitable manner and proper vetting means that those in need will benefit. The Cash Transfer Program is also another initiative that is geared toward helping those house-holds that do not qualify for other social assistance programs. The elderly, pregnant women, people living with disabilities and those households with children are top priority. Again the assistance given depends on the composition of the household and the assessment. The roll out of both these programs is essential to help families get through these difficult times. There has also been a significant increase in Covid-19 rapid testing. Although the numbers of infection have risen significantly, and are of great concern it has allowed the authorities to place special emphasis on those hot spots and to come up with plans for containment and mitigation of the spread of the virus. It is the expert opinion that increased and widespread testing, such as we have only seen during this new administration, is the first step in the being able to flatten the curve of infections. Knowing where the virus is more active means that resources and measures can be taken to those area. Prevention is always the best option, and to that effect we will soon see the roll out of a massive educational campaign to educate and encourage compliance and adherence to safety and health protocols. It is imperative that as a people and as a country we work and act in unison to safeguard ourselves, our families and our wider community. We must use good judgment and discipline, as these will help us to minimize the fatalities and the spread of the virus.
As mentioned before, these holidays will be different but not any less special. The gifts of life, health and family are those which we often take for granted. So these holidays once we discover the joy in the abundance of the gifts we already have, the material entrapments we are used to might become more insignificant. There are rough roads ahead, and there are many more sacrifices we must make before we can resume any semblance of normalcy. Under the able and steady guidance of the Hon John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize, and with our indomitable Belizean spirit we will overcome.