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General election choices — Continuation or discontinuation?


by Maxwell Haywood 03.DEC.10

A general election in any country is a special occasion. It provides an opportunity to refresh the entire direction in which a country is heading. Some general elections result in turning back a country from a certain path, while others could result in the continuation of the path already set. In other words, a general election is the ultimate show of where a country intends to go.{{more}} Will it decisively determines whether there is continuation or discontinuation of the public policy framework?

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, general elections will be held on December 13, 2010. The NDP and ULP have already indicated directions in which SVG will travel if either of them wins. Out of this struggle between the NDP and the ULP to lead the nation should emerge a new and better SVG. But will this be so?

This general election should tell us some important things about our society in the context of continuation and discontinuation of an active development public policy agenda.

The political stance of young people

Young people make up a large part of the electorate. They have always been observing and experiencing the development processes in SVG. Many of them are beneficiaries in some way or the other of the public policy agenda of the ULP-led government. They even attend the campaign rallies in high numbers. But what will their verdict be?

There is no doubt that education, jobs, health care, airport development and the general development of SVG are top issues weighing heavily on the minds of young people. On the night of December 13, 2010, we will know who young people think could best deliver on these issues.

The NDP and ULP over the past ten years have shown clearly where they stand on these urgent and critical matters. Young people will now pass judgment on these political parties based on their record for and against policies and progammes to address their needs and the general development of the country.

Yet, there is still the belief that young people do not vote on policy; that they do not weigh the programmes of each party; and that they simply vote their emotions. But it is left to be seen how they will vote on December 13.

Politics over policy?

There is the perspective that party politics is what mainly drives the votes of Vincentians — not the policies of the political parties. Based on this perspective, the Prime Minister and leader of the ULP has become the target of the opposition campaign machinery. According to the opposition, “Ralph” is the problem. So for the past 10 years he has been the target of much criticism and hostility. The conclusion of this strategy is that the people will vote against him and not vote for the public policies that the ULP have championed during the last 10 years while in office. Many vital components of the public policy agenda of the ULP-led government have been under constant attack from opposition forces based not on a well known alternative public policy agenda, but based on getting rid of Dr. Gonsalves from government. And this struggle between the ULP and the NDP has been unfolding for over a decade with the nation as a witness.

As this struggle unfolded over the years, the NDP has given the impression that it will do away with many of the initiatives that the ULP promotes as important to the national development process. National Properties Limited will cease to exist. And the National Economic and Social Development Council will suffer the same fate. Everyone knows the attitude of the NDP to the Argyle International Airport. It was seen as a “phantom project”. The Medical Complex in Georgetown is not seen in favourable light by the NDP. And it pours scorn on the Education Revolution. It does not hold high regards for the Youth Empowerment Service (YES), the Home Health Care Programme for the Elderly, the housing policy of the government, and many, many other public policies.

Furthermore, the NDP has also expressed strong disagreements with many of the foreign policy initiatives. So it is widely expected that the current foreign policy of the government will be radically changed if the NDP wins the government. ALBA, Petro Caribe and other efforts will most likely be strangled after a promising birth and despite their benefits.

In light of all this opposition, the ULP has sought to vociferously defend its accomplishments and policies and to point out the past failings and purported lack of vision and leadership of the NDP after 17 years in government and 10 years in opposition.

So, what will the electorate say about all this? December 13th will tell us. In my view, the major question the electorate faces in this general election is if to continue or discontinue the comprehensive public policy and development agenda of the ULP-led government.