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We surely deserve better

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It was most encouraging to note the comments by Opposition Leader Hon Arnhim Eustace, that our people need to pay greater attention,

(I would say attention, period), to serious economic issues which affect us all. That is certainly most appropriate and echoes earlier remarks in a similar vein by Prime Minister Gonsalves.{{more}}

The problem is that in the context of today’s world of ‘talk radio’ and social media, the emphasis is on ‘bites’, snippets which either heap praises or pour vilifications, paying only lip service to solid and serious debate on major issues, a trend to which even our Parliamentarians often succumb.

There are many examples of such short-sighted approaches, with the best being our annual Budget Debate in Parliament. But others stand out too, amongst them the national conversation on constitutional reform. The presentation of a 20-year National Economic and Social Development Plan has gone largely without serious comment, good, bad or ugly, by most of those who set themselves up as economic and financial gurus. The state of the economy, the Argyle international airport and now the recent IMF review of our economy and the Moody’s credit ratings get more political, rather than sound economic comment.

This is sad and regrettable, as we get ourselves ready for yet another general elections within the next 12 – 15 months as a maximum. We have had 14 years of intense political rivalry and competition, but not enough to show for it in terms of lifting the level of understanding of our people of macro-economic issues and, as a result, a higher level of social and economic awareness, as reflected in more profound debate on these issues.

This situation is by no means restricted to comments critical of Government’s actions and policies, for on the Government side too, with a few notable exceptions, there is not much edifying in the pronouncements of many of those in leading positions. In fact after 14 years, almost every official function of note, national or parochial, has the Prime Minister as featured speaker. When are those entrusted with our governance going to stand up and be counted?

In addition, this Government, like all of its predecessors, is committing, (or at least appears to be doing so), the cardinal error of shielding the square pegs that it has placed in some round holes. It is one thing to be loyal to your supporters, but when by their actions, or inactions, they undermine both the progress of the country as a whole, as well as the political fortunes of the very party which has placed them in positions of responsibility, it is time to cut the umbilical cords.

Whatever the other mitigating factors, and these are by no means unsubstantial, nor can they be brushed aside for political expediency, it is clear than managerial inefficiencies have contributed, if not directly caused some of the major embarrassments to government. Whether we look at the setbacks in the admirable housing programme, the Argyle road or several other examples, protecting those at fault cannot be good for either country or the government itself.

To be fair, one must commend the repair and restorative efforts of the Government, but these need to be accompanied by firm measures to restore confidence and accountability. The culprits cannot continue to be shielded.

It is an error of long-entrenched governments which, as history has shown, can turn out to be fatal. Repeated electoral victories can giddy the head, induce arrogance and lead to self-destruction. Very often, as has happened with Cato’s Labour administration and Mitchell’s NDP government, in the long run the positive aspects of the regime get lost in popular dissatisfaction over what appears to be more mundane issues, but issues which are important to people nevertheless.

These open opportunities for opposing parties to capitalize on mistakes and to provide alternative platforms. Sadly, in our case, the alternatives are being swamped by the vitriol and bile emanating from leading members and supporters of the Opposition. Even when the Opposition predicts victory at the polls, its essential propaganda is too taken up with rabid and senseless attacks on all and sundry perceived as non-supportive of its efforts.

This is a time to demonstrate maturity, not to be engaging in puerile slander which bogs down both the party and its main mouthpiece, Nice Radio, in costly legal challenges, a succession of which has been lost. Where is the enlightened leadership, bent on uplifting and appealing to the disaffected that the NDP has an answer? Where are the signs of a “gentler, kinder society” in perpetual personal attacks on any not singing in the chorus?

Surely, we deserve better from both sides.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social com-mentator.

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