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Balancing the equation: Christmas, Budget, people

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Well, it has been a week or so since the 2008 Budget debate was completed. The whole exercise ultimately has to do with preparing the infrastructure and environment for the development of the country and its peoples.

One talks about the creation of jobs and about tapping into peoples’ entrepreneurial skills and creativity. And so the debate goes. Development is about people and is holistic, taking into account the whole man. Those engaged in the debate speak about jobs being created, about the number of projects in the pipeline, the number of tourists who arrived here during the last year and who are expected to visit next year, about the amount of money being spent on education, tourism and so on. This is as one expects even when we are sometimes disappointed with the nature and quality of the debate.{{more}}

Whatever is proposed depends in the final analysis on people for its implementation. It depends on the environment, on the commitment of persons and on a host of other things, some internal to the country and some external. In most cases we have no control over the external factors and therefore have to focus on ensuring that the internal parts of the equation are in place and are effective. In this scenario what are called the factors of production-land, labour, capital and some will add management, need special focus because everything hinges on the interplay between these. All of these factors of production are critical. My concern in this article is with labour beyond its mere productive phase. In other words I am looking at people. In dealing with this you are really dealing with the society and with the social environment that is important to give you the end product you desire.

This time of year, the Christmas season, produces the kind of environment that one would want to have as a permanent feature of the social landscape. Families and friends come together, a community spirit emerges, an entrepreneurial spirit prevails, the sick, disabled and aged are embraced. People try to do what is necessary to be happy and to live a good and fulfilling life. A spirit of goodwill is in the air. But it has another side, one that involves hustling in its negative sense, theft, elements of selfishness, lack of caring and general criminal activity. It has been said time and again that we have become very materialistic. The birth of Christ no longer drives things. For many people the season takes on a life of its own. So persons in this disposition do whatever it takes to achieve the materialistic ambitions they harbour and seek to achieve. This latter stands out, because traditionally the season meant something quite different.

But really what is significant is that we are becoming a society moulded along that line. Once the season fades into memory the sense of goodwill, peace and caring disappears and the side spurned by the materialistic drive becomes the order of the day. At this stage it might not necessarily manifest itself in crime, but the goodwill, caring, community spirit, even the entrepreneurial drive disappear. We become selfish and self serving caring only for ourselves and driven increasingly by materialistic urgings. My earlier references to the budget and the nature of the budget debate are not irrelevant to this.

I therefore made the point about the centrality of people for good reason. If my point about what is becoming the order of the day is accepted, it has implications for our development and the developmental process. So I repeat my point that regardless of what is proposed as development thrust, it takes people to make it work. Along with all I have said about what our society is becoming, what should also be emphasized is our negative attitude to work. Workers are not to be held totally accountable for all of this for there are those employers that exploit their workers and create the kind of work environment that contributes to this. I will have to add to all of this the political divisiveness where in some peoples’ books all that matters is political affiliation. In this scenario the other things that make a productive worker and a good person are being discarded.

The ingredients that are necessary for our society to function as a genuine democracy, also fall by the wayside as we try to protect our individual material interests. I make the point about democracy because democracy involves ownership and persons must feel that they own the country, have a stake in it and are essential parts of the society.

The big question is what do we do in the face of all of this. We are all part of the problem and really have to be part of the solution. What examples do we set to the young ones? It is we who have corrupted our institutions. It is we who have distorted and moved away from the traditional values that had served us in good stead in the past. But the problem is much more complex. We are into a globalised world but have so depraved our national base, our culture and values that we lie defenceless. The Communication revolution has made us a part of this global village. Can we strengthen our base? Can our culture not be more than a product to be sold to visitors and become deformed in the process? Must everything be treasured based only on its monetary value? Can we define or agree on what it means to be a Vincentian or West Indian and use this to chart our way in this global village? Should the Church not re-examine its role in this enterprise?

Can the politicians realise that their role is more than developing the ability to be elected every five years and therefore do anything necessary to achieve this? The debate has therefore got to be more than economic statistics and more than a budget. It has to take place on an ongoing basis. Those whose higher education our tax payers funded must not be silenced or even silence themselves.

We are all players, even those we might consider untutored for as our old people say, sense make before book. There is, of course, also the element of experience that they can bring to bear on things. We are not NDP, ULP not Green.

We are all Vincentians and we must act like a community and realise that we cannot be satisfied and happy until all are satisfied and happy.

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