Economic crunch bites Dominicans harder this Christmas
Christmas is less than a week away but for many Dominicans that festive season could be months away judging by the lack of activity in the business sector especially in Roseau. In fact economists looking for anecdotal evidence of the biting effect of the economic crunch need look no further than the decline of Christmas over the past few years. The evidence is overwhelming.
The celebration of Christmas 2013 is probably as lukewarm as we have seen the observance of the season of joy in decades due to high levels of unemployment and fewer free barrels from abroad. There are no statistics to confirm it beyond reasonable doubt but based on the visible low level of activity that one can observe in shops and stores in Roseau, Christmas 2013 could be the worst ever as far as consumer spending is concerned. Yet this situation may be a blessing in disguise; it may be an opportunity for Dominicans to recapture the true meaning of Christmas and to de-emphasise that rampant consumerism that we have adopted over the years.
We have been told that spending at Christmas has contracted because the world economy is just recovering from the financial crisis of the last few years. In the past, Dominicans depended heavily on remittances from friends and relatives in United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to purchase food, toys and drinks for Christmas. Other Dominicans will have to dip into their savings or borrow from financial institutions such as Fast Cash and the credit unions to spend at Christmas. This new debt will, undoubtedly, affect loan and mortgage payments next year increasing family liability that will ultimately affect the economy since individuals will have less to spend. A nation cannot consume more than it produces and, unquestionably, Dominicans have been unproductive for many years as our bloated trade deficit clearly indicates.
But Christmas had lost much of its spirituality long before economic pressure forced Dominicans to think twice about excessive spending at Christmas. Many individuals have questioned the tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas such as the exchange of gifts and the decoration of Christmas trees. Some religious denominations even believe and preach that Christmas is connected to paganism.
But other Christians, especially Catholics, fervently argue that one should always consider the intent of the church's choice of December 25th as the birthday of Jesus Christ and not its origin. They suggest that the date represents the triumph of good over evil and Christmas provides Christians with an opportunity to show love, share happiness, to donate to the needy, to show goodness for goodness sake.
In that regard, an OpEd in the Los Angeles Times written by Daniel Fink titled: "The season of excess begins" succinctly expresses the thought. Fink wrote: "If you feel a need to give, give food to the hungry, clothes and toys to those in need, or donations to victims of storms, violence or conflict. A plate of homemade cookies or some other delicacy delivered personally is a much better way to remember friends and family than a meaningless generic gift, a "dustable" to sit on the shelf or yet another ill-fitting sweater in the wrong colour. And older people need even fewer things. Unfortunately, what they really want — youth, vigour, health — are things we can't give them. But they, and I'm sure many others, would appreciate a call, a card or a visit from family, neighbours and friends. So will you," he wrote.
The celebration of Christmas coincides with the end of the year and ushers in a New Year. While businesses capitalise on the commercialization of Christmas, the Sun and other news organisation take the opportunity to review the major news events of the year. Thus in this issue we present our annual News Review Section and, simultaneously, name our Person-of-the-Year.
As usual, we select our Person-of-the-Year through an analysis of the news and by open-ended consultations with key individuals in the business of collecting and processing the news. Our choice, as always, is the person who stands out as a significant newsmaker during the year. Our Person-of-the Year, we argue, should, for better or for worse, have affected the lives of a large majority of Dominicans.
As our front page story indicates, the Sun's Person-of-the-Year is Joselyn Jean-Pierre Prince, the young footballer and fireman who became a hero to all Dominicans in April 2013. Prince was the sole survivor of an accident caused by the collapse, due to heavy rain, of the main road at Pond Case on 19th April.
Kurt Hector, the coach of the national team and fellow footballer Norran Jno Hope died when their vehicle plunged into the 30-foot ditch. Despite his injury, Prince saved many lives as he guided vehicles away from the damaged road. For his rare and dramatic heroism, Prince provided a silver lining, a bright spot in an otherwise cloudy Dominican sky. We have no tools to assess the impact of Prince's action on the lives of Dominicans at home and abroad but it is safe to say that he inspired hundreds of Dominicans young and old to give selflessly, to be each other's keepers.
Finally, on behalf of the staff of the Sun we wish all our readers, contributors, critics, vendors, subscribers and advertisers (of both our hard-copy and our website) a merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year