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Too much involvement by government not good


Editor: “Finally people just won’t work at all. When the Government supports the people instead of the people supporting the Government, then we are on the way out.”

The above statement was made by William P Lear.

Let me quote from a book on Mr Lear and written by Dr L E Leopold: “His formal schooling ended with the completion of the eighth grade. He left home at the age of 17 to make his way in the world, following a blue print that he himself made in early childhood.{{more}} Through sheer grit and determination, he rose to positions of prominence and wealth, fabulous almost beyond belief.

“To William Lear life has been a challenge to be met with force and confidence, with supreme faith that there is nothing that cannot be done if one has the will to succeed. He had that will and faith and confidence and he succeeded.”

Some people may have heard of the Lear Jet. In addition to the jet, Mr Lear also developed crucial equipment for use in motor cars and aeroplanes. Mr Lear was a self-taught engineer.

Quoting from another author (whose name I don’t recall). “All I want the government to do is to collect taxes, build the roads, defend the country and get out of the way.” I will add “or go into Parliament and old talk.”

When a government gets involved in people’s lives too intimately, there is usually chaos. People should be free to chart their way through life, using whatever resources are available to them, all along observing the rules of the society in which they live – Law and Order.

Despite their good intentions, people like Marx, Lennin, Stalin, Mao, Chou, Fidel, Forbes, Hugo, et al ended as failures. Why? Because they all attempted to direct people’s lives by stating what goodies, house, food, transport, wife, children, games the different segments of the society should have and enjoy.

China was set back centuries by the actions of Mao and Chou. It was not until philosophy of Deng — “Let all flowers bloom,” and also “it does not matter the colour of the cat once it catches mice,” was adopted by China’s Communist Party (nearly 40 years ago) that China began its forward march as a leading nation. Taiwan, Singapore, Mauritius, Ghana and especially Israel are countries worthy of emulating.

How is the above relevant to St Vincent and the Grenadines? Well, let me explain.

I have always contended that people, especially farmers, of which I am one, should have total control of their enterprise(s). That is, those who have the greatest at stake should have the greatest say. The greatest advance in the banana enterprise locally was that period between 1985 and 1992. That is the same period when farmers who produced bananas as a business were most active, most vocal and had the greatest authority. The farmers took almost total control of the Banana Association, negotiated stronger contracts with the marketing agent, Geest Industries PLC, strengthened the effectiveness of WINBAN as a negotiating and research organization, made the BGA more independent of Governments and foreign aid, and spoke specifically on behalf of banana producers on all aspects of banana production.

But when the Government –politicians in particular — began taking a closer interest in the organization, and eventually, with the active support of minority producers, but majority voters, taking control of the BGA, the nails were eventually driven into the coffin.

Now, can those supposedly in charge of banana make timely decisions with respect to pest and disease control? Who is doing research work on banana production? Who is coordinating the marketing of the commodity? One has to have an interest vested in the business, any business, to press for success in that business. When a banana producer does not pay attention to proper harvesting processes, he loses money. If those in charge of the banana business do not spray against Black Sigatoka disease on time, all they suffer is a cursing!

When I first came to St Vincent many, many moons ago, there was a prominent builder of houses. He built many houses and sold them. I bought my first house from another private builder. My friend, Gideon Brown, has built a number of fine houses on many different sites (I suppose with the help of our mutual friend, Moulton Mayers). All were sold. Also, deceased Manny Francis has been a builder of houses.

All private house builders had to comply with the building codes at the time as set out in the legislation. All the relevant plans were submitted to the relevant authority for examination and approval. During the execution of the project(s), the projects were visited from time to time by officers of the authority, so as to ensure that the works were in compliance with the approved plans.

Intermittently, over the years, a set of politicians came along and tried to enter the business of building houses for people. There was, for example, the (i) Langley Park (ii) Stoney Ground (iii) Campden Park (iv) Green Hill (v) Glen, (vi) Clare Valley Housing Project. There may be more.

Although there is no available empirical data of the cost of these projects, there is sufficient to suggest that if people were to get their houses the private way, the cost would be much lower. Builders have so informed me and I know so, having built one of my houses and one each for two of my brothers.

The idea of Government building houses for people is abhorrent to me. The idea of people handing over money to Government to have their houses built is even more abhorrent.

When Governments decide to enter the private enterprise arena, extra care should be taken by the authorities to see that established rules are followed by all persons involved. For private enterprise activities, the relevant Government authorities are there to see that regulations are adhered to. Also, should the project(s) fail or there are defects, the consumer has recourse to the law courts if need be. Should this happen, the private entrepreneur will bear any resultant cost. With respect to the Government or Government agency in St Vincent’s context, neither Government nor agency bears the cost. The taxpayer bears it. Thus, there will be diversion of funds from some needed Governments’ legitimate project, such as road building/repair or defence.

This in the case of the recent disaster at Clare Valley, several Government Ministers, including Prime Minister Gonsalves have publicly stated that the Government will foot the bill for all necessary corrective measures. What’s the source of the funds required? Are the corrective measures a national priority ahead of road repairs, praedial larceny, crime and violence, invasion by undesirable people, pests and diseases? These are some of the questions that should be asked.

More questions that should be asked include:

(a) Who decided upon the concept of building houses for the different classes of people?

(b) What’s the probability of one class of people obtaining a house being able to upgrade to a higher class?

(c) Who chose the site for house construction and were all the analyses done?

(d) Was there proper design for the development of a community at that site?

(e) Was planning approval sought and obtained?

(f) Were there site visits by officers of the Planning Division before and during the execution period?

(g) Were the plans approved by the Planning Authority adhered to?

Of course, in the final analysis it is up to the consumer (the recipient of the proceeds of the system), irrespective of degree of enlightenment to accept or reject whatever commodity that is being offered to him/her irrespective of the financial cost or otherwise.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is not the only country in the Caribbean with a housing policy like that which is being followed here. Many of them have hundreds of houses that are so defective that they remain unoccupied for years after being built. Of course, some of the same countries, like St Vincent and the Grenadines, are highly unproductive, highly indebted and also highly dependent upon handouts from other the independent countries.

We, St Vincent and the Grenadines are a small nation; we should be doing much better. We should be taught into believing that SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL.

Hugh Stewart