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Vote with your head and not with emotion



Editor: Well, Vincentians, the bell has been rung and the voters in this blessed land will go to the polls on December 13th to decide whether to continue with the Gonsalves led Unity Labour Party (ULP) or return to the New Democratic Party (NDP) which was ousted from office in March 2001. I must make the mandatory mention of the Green Party because it is a registered party, but no one expects any candidate put forward by that party to secure his/her deposit, so we can dismiss them up front.{{more}}

It is going to be a battle between the ULP and the NDP. The differences between those two parties are very stark and can never be viewed in an emotional light as an exchange of one group of guys for another with a continuation of similar policies. That is for economies like Great Britain which even though they campaign on different policies and philosophies, they rarely deviate from the script. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the policies differ as night from day.

The ULP has employed a strategy in office where the emphasis is on long term planning. So issues like poverty alleviation is dealt with by placing emphasis on education and wealth creation by turning dead capital into live capital. Both these ideas are tried and tested in others countries, though not together, and there have been success stories in the alleviation of poverty. Barbados is an example of a country that has used education for long term development, and Peru an example of a country that has used land reform and granting of ownership of property of the poor as a way of lifting them out of poverty. The ULP has gone further than Peru and has as an example of best practice in Cuba in its quest to provide housing at a reasonable price to the poor and to public servants.

The ULP has been gung-ho in it desire to build an international airport, again a long term strategy that can change fundamentally the economy of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The airport is viewed as more than a tool to facilitate travel and communication. It is seen as the gateway to attract foreign direct investment, enhance tourism which is already our number one foreign currency earner, and give a boost to agriculture which if packaged properly would supply at reasonable rates the tourism sector. This letter is too short to go into all the areas where the ULP has deployed its long term strategy, except to say that they have made foreign policy a topic for discussion with an aggressive strategy to expand the country’s base of friends without isolating the traditional friends.

The NDP, while in office from 1984 to 2001, displayed a greater ability to deal with current problems: housing by encouraging squatter communities and then providing basic infrastructure in some cases. They eased up on the private sector by providing some comfort at the customs to some of the larger businesses. They maintained the basic infrastructure in the schools, fixed the main road on the leeward coast and provided greater access to electricity and water, In short, the NDP provided all the essential requirements of a government, but it is difficult to identify any long term policy that led to enhanced possibility for growth and development in the future except maybe the cruise ship berth.

From where I sit, the ULP has been more effective in its long term strategy, but less effective in dealing with the immediate concerns of the people. Having said that, I believe that this election could well be decided, not on who has the best programme and policies, but on who can capture the emotions and imagination of the people.

People speak of the divisiveness in the country and they blame the incumbent party and they want to change the government to change the mood in the country and make us more “compassionate”. However, changing the government would not make that happen because competitive politics strives on division and both parties encourage it equally.

Some people want to change Ralph because they say he is arrogant and boastful. Politics is all about promoting your accomplishments: how else would you continue to succeed? If you don’t have some level of arrogance and/or confidence in yourself that you can lead people, then don’t go into politics. Do you think Arhnim is not arrogant? Think back to his time in government. Civil servants, think back to the trade union negotiations and his dismissive contempt for your proposals.

This election is very important. Are we going to make an emotional decision or are we going to be reasoned in our decision making. Vote with your head and not with emotion. Think of the future development of this country when making your decision.

Think before you vote

John Edwards