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Political culture

Political culture

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Tue, Dec 4, 2012

Editor: Observing the political landscape of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the level of political discussion advocated by some politicians, clearly one will conclude and agree that our political culture needs to change if our country is to move forward in a positive direction.{{more}}

This year marks 61 years since we attained world adult suffrage (one man, one vote) and competitive electoral politics based on the British Westminster system. We have seen five administrations, namely, the Eighth Army, the People’s Political Party (PPP), the St Vincent Labour Party, the New Democratic Party (NDP), and now the Unity Labour Party (ULP). We have had 13 general elections over those 61 years, with the NDP enjoying the longest term in office to date — 17 years. Now, the ULP has completed 11 years.

While we may boast that we have had political stability since adult suffrage, our political culture has critically divided our people over those years. Too often, projects, programmes and policies implemented by one party in office, which are beneficial to the Vincentian populace, have been pulled down and criticized by those in opposition. Upon assuming office, the opposition party will discontinue said projects, programmes and policies, despite their success and benefits for the people. Case in point: After independence in 1979, Robert Milton Cato, of blessed memory, set about to diversify the Vincentian economy around bananas. He introduced the sugar industry, the Diamond Dairy, the Campden Park industrial estate, the St Vincent Brewery, and the export of other crops in addition to bananas. When he lost power in 1984 and the NDP of Sir James Mitchell was ushered into office, the sugar factory and Diamond Dairy were closed, much of the agricultural market was ignored, and the manufacturing sector began to decline in SVG. The country was then left to concentrate on tourism and bananas, which heavily depend on external factors.

Today, we have seen the impact of such a backward move by the general administration. By not continuing in the areas that Robert Milton Cato was pursuing, the economy was held back, all because of party policies. The ULP and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves have been in power since 2001 and have embarked on a number of initiatives and programmes to improve the quality of life for the ordinary people of SVG, such as universal access to education, housing for the poor, building an international airport, and other infrastructural developments. The administration uses its foreign policy to access assistance for the development of the country, and all we hear is criticism, chastisement, and complaining. Some even say that we are now a begging country. Oh, how unfortunate. We need all hands on deck. Be respectful of our political persuasion’s projects, programmes and policies that are beneficial to our people. We need to give them our fullest support and we must avoid dividing our people and stopping things that are beneficial to us purely on the grounds of attaining political power and office.

Gerald Primus

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