THERE IS no need for any diagnosis of the sickness that is besetting this country. This is really the time when the fever that grips and controls us once every five years is upon us.
There is a rise in temperature, the body malfunctions, delusions and illusions and incoherence prevail, the mental faculties get out of sync and all manner of foolishness is on display. One can argue that the symptoms listed are always with us, but the fever is turning into High Fever as the country comes to a standstill. It is easy to argue that a lot of things are happening, things that could not have been done in the last four years suddenly appear to be happening, but it is all a delusion and grandstanding.
One of our major drawbacks is lack of adequate human resources. We lack skilled manpower in a number of areas, and it gets worse because of the country’s tribalism for often those who are given the tasks are not the ones most fully equipped to undertake them. We have been pushing the area of Tourism, but do we have enough trained persons at the top management and middle management levels? Our development gets imprisoned into a rush, rush situation where things have to be done and done quickly. Sloppiness will result and the country’s development will be stifled. We get trapped in this kind of atmosphere where things that have not been done for a long time are suddenly given high priority.
Budgets become election gimmicks focused on convincing the electorate that things are happening. Scepticism develops and we become part of the game.
Public conversation led by the politicians gets more ridiculous. Recently resurfaced nonsensical talk about persons in the diaspora, critical of government living miserable lives and being hand to mouth. Most of our people who have migrated have done so to seek better opportunities and it could mean having menial jobs. Incidentally some of those jobs pay quite well and so some are able to send remittances home to help to keep our country floating.
Over the years Vincentians went overseas doing menial jobs but eventually used the opportunity to develop themselves.
We must also stop seeing the increase in the number of public assistance recipients as a sign of development.
Meanwhile on the ground something must be done quickly about our domestic helpers. They are underpaid and are exploited, in some cases even under the already low minimum wage. They work long hours and monies are not paid into the NIS. Some of them are afraid to publicly talk about this for fear of losing their jobs and not being able to find another one.
Development must be looked at holistically. I note the appeal of the Chief Justice recently to the governments of the Eastern Caribbean to assist the Court which lacks adequate human and financial resources. The matter of the administration of justice is important and has to be given urgent attention, but it will not attract votes. One area that has been the topic of conversation for a long time was the Health System and this involves not only having a new hospital but providing better health services. On these two issues the persons that are most affected are of course the poorer persons in our society.
The point I want to emphasize here is that election fever distorts and makes us delirious. Tribalism grows and we miss an opportunity to make the point that after all we are the ones who hold the power, but we really don’t think so and search for a Massa to turn our country into Plantation SVG. We seem to feel better that way!
● Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian