Tuesday, 06 November 2012 02:30
By Dr. Isaac Newton
The message of the United Progressive People (UPP) administration to voters in Antigua and Barbuda is this: Do not forget all of the mistakes, miscalculations, misalignments and miseries of successive governments.
But this message is perceived as a pretext for limited action, inaction or inadequate action. The choice between looking back and moving forward, highlights a classic dilemma that all governments face between inherited problems and solutions delivered.
Understandably, victory is never found in rehearsing the past without overcoming its potent effects.
The government finds itself standing between the burdens of yesterday and the untapped benefits of today. Under increasing pressure, the UPP’s message must give evidence of corrective interventions pursued, meaningful changes achieved, and remedies for good governance realized under its leadership.
What the electorate is remembering are the many identical errors made when compared to previous administrations. In some cases, these ‘same-faults’ incidences are disguised through channels of “they did it too” as if expectations of righting the wrongs should be dismissed. Voters also recall missed openings for instilling the higher purposes of the greater good. This negligence is usually explained by global traumas that have stifled local policy implementation. And the people remember quite freshly, various short-term social programs that helped the elderly and the young, yet are devoid of structural transformation.
For example, although it is vital to give students from poor families the opportunity to get a college/university education, it is just as critical to open doors for them at home. A chasm between bright students and little employment is tragic. If professionally smart students are not using acquired wisdom to enrich village life and advance national interests, Antigua and Barbuda will end up exporting its best minds to foreign shores.
Recent polls reveal that the people are fully aware of the national crisis we are in. Probing questions abound. What has happened since 2004 to deter the drive for improved healthcare, better educational outcomes, and solid fiscal practices based on sustainable nation-building initiatives?
If PM Spencer and his team of advisers do not act now to muscle their way unto the stage of tangible economic and social reforms, the message of hope that the government once provided will drop out of sight. Yes! The government needs to take stock of our cultural values as well, to save school children from fresh episodes of sexual immorality. Clinical therapists and religious counselors should be lining up to rescue our children from this trend of self-destruction.
It would be nice if the present message that bitter medicine must come before bountiful healing changes course. Joblessness, crimes, and disappointments are not anonymous regardless of appeals to similar challenges elsewhere around the globe. We should be focusing on success stories of how other countries are thriving despite this prolonged international recession. Journalists and media professionals should be evaluating diverse approaches to economic stability to encourage informed public debates about our preferred future.
A quick look at political handlers shows that they have not yet identified specific solutions to nagging management problems. To illustrate this point, we just celebrated our 31st Independence birthday on November 1, 2012. Although this national ritual was guided by the principle of preserving our natural resources, it lacked solid commitment to innovative investments.
Strategies that unlock the power of sun, wind, sand, seashell and water to create a viable enclave for positive recovery should be in place. This could cluster around a ‘Green Energy Valley’ that uses innovative planning as a roadmap for diversifying the economy. With enough financing, research and support, this project can propel Antigua and Barbuda to become the renewable energy capital of the Caribbean.
One thousands obstacles should never replace a single big-ticket strategic plan---- a concept that noted blogger, John French II has relentlessly recommended. Such an approach is necessary to diffuse the pattern of ‘same difference politics’. It has a common set of nepotism, allegations of corruption, resistance to progressive change, and misguided beliefs that political leaders should die in office.
The Opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) faces the formidable task of convincing the nation that it is both ready and capable of providing a viable vision for progressive development. The party’s reasons for returning to government must be spurred more by a consciousness for real betterment, than by personal grievances, public frustrations, and perilous times.
The ALP can’t comeback by dismissing the fact that its track record of mixed governance has not yet been forgiven. It would be naïve to simply change the subject to future promises of plenty without atoning for the popular perception of cronyism, lack of operational transparency, and contra-dictionary economic priorities that doled out millions to foreign experts while throwing meager resources at homegrown talents.
Only new wine will persuade the masses that the ALP is most qualified to lead in 2014. But this will require settling wisely its leadership rivalry once and for all. It also means more time spent detailing its program for a new beginning, and less time devoted to warnings of tragic consequences if the people continue to support the UPP regime.
To improve our situation or change our direction, let’s get involved. I want to see NGOs, members of the faith-based community, educators, business gurus, legal luminaries and grassroots leaders come up with solutions that will give the nation confidence in its ability to glow and grow.
We can’t just demand accountability from our political leaders. Each of us is a designer of Antigua and Barbuda’s restoration. Who will take that precious journey into national self-determination? Our rights to vote are best exercised by revising institutional power to sustain the changes we desire. On domestic advancement, we need permanent participation to shift the balance of power back to the people.
Dr. Isaac Newton is an International Leadership and Change Management Consultant and Political Adviser. He specializes in Government and Business Relations, and Sustainable Development Projects. Dr. Newton works extensively,in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, education, leadership, political, social, and faith based issues.