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Making Sense of the Silly Season

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I intended writing a completely different article, but as I turned on my computer the caption of an article in the I Witness News dictated otherwise.

It forced me to create a new caption pushing me into Oxymoron language where I have brought together two contradictory words, sense and silly. The piece was captioned “ULP promises to increase ‘Poor Relief’ in 5th term.”

This was apparently said by the Minister of National Mobilisation. Based on the comments I have seen, persons seemed to have misquoted or misunderstood the Minister. He was not speaking about increasing persons on Public Assistance but about increasing the amount offered for public assistance. That having been said, I find the statement totally out of place. If you are trying to seek another term and you want to say something about Poor Relief, your first inclination should be to speak about reducing the number of persons on Public Assistance. For not to take this approach is to give the assumption that you expect persons currently on Poor Relief to be greatly impressed that you are going to add, another $100 or whatever amount, rather than promise to create jobs. From what source will those increases come? Are you expanding the cake? Admittedly there will always be people in need of public assistance for one reason or another, particularly the aged and infirmed.

 He then mentions the YES programme where persons get $500 to $800 a year. It is important to know how many persons graduated from the YES programme to permanent positions. But the statement becomes absurd when he states that Taiwan funds the programme so to change from Taiwan to China will put that in jeopardy. In the short run there appears to be no effort to meet some of these needs out of the productive efforts of this country. It is, perhaps, easier handing out the begging bowl. But what he missed is the fact that China can pump much more money into such a programme than Taiwan will be able too.

 We need to be more critical of words coming out of the mouths of politicians in this Silly Season. Are they under-estimating our intelligence? What we should be hearing is what will be done to make this country less dependent on begging, hence increasing the country’s productivity. Let the emphasis be on that, not on putting out the hope that we will get an increase in public assistance and benefit from the YES PROGRAMME. It is the wrong direction to take. Get us on your side by showing that productivity will be increased and that we will be part of that effort; not take comfort in knowing that if we give you another term, we have nothing to worry about. Reference was made to the 2007-2008 Poverty Assessment Report. One is left to assume that was the last such report. That was about 12 years ago so why not update us? His government has created an environment where persons can use their talent and skills; that training programmes are in existence in ICT and others. Good, but if these things are working there is no need to put the focus on public assistance and the YES programme. Maybe some of this training is coming through that programme. If so, what are the tracer studies indicating?

 The other issue involves new candidates acting as though they are part of a party that has been in Opposition. Among other things, when you suggest that there is need for better health services you are supporting the Opposition’s  criticism of the performance of your party. If those before failed to deliver what will be different now? These utterances leave much to be desired. I focus on the government side for they have to convince us that they delivered on their promises and deserve to have their mandate renewed; not to make more promises but to show us they are taking us in the direction of sustainable growth and development! The election is really about renewing a mandate or revoking it!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian