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Creative Industry, Development Policy, Public Private Partnership.
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VOTE RIGHT OR DIE
The Responsibility of Choice
So here I am, about 100 miles Southeast of St. Lucia in an entirely different world. That world houses the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation. I have been invited to speak on public policy and entrepreneurial development.
This event is not bankrolled by government or any foreign funding agency, but by independent corporate entities and individuals committed to strategic advancement. The prospect of people-driven change attracts an admirable cross-section of professionals prepared to devote real time and energy.
The program runs on schedule. Presentations are concise and focused. No apologies, no excuses. The event is managed by a local foundation dependent on voluntary contributions, one paid employee, and a small army of highly motivated volunteers. They operate at a pace and standard which matches their global outlook.
They have benchmarks and defined deliverables. They are demonstrating transparency and holding themselves accountable for achieving specific milestones. There is no idle fluff here. Just a cohort of people so firmly coalesced around their goal that international friends in business, science, technology and academia are inspired to join them in their audacious venture: making Barbados the number one business hub in the world. No, not the region. The WORLD.
And I am envious - in the most positive sense of the word - because this is all win-win, and because it is an epiphany to enter an environment where serious people are looking beyond an arbitrary limitation, changing the status quo, and claiming their future triumph.
Their deadline is 2020, the start of the next new decade. It is a mere eight years away. Yet they embrace the imperative of change knowing that better can and must indeed be done. I am proud to be among them, to be heard and have my thoughts considered. I congratulate them on being brave enough to identify what needs to change. They do not need my affirmation.
Privately, I make comparisons with my island and teeter on the edge of despair. I hope deeply that this exercise speaks volumes for the strength and determination of ALL Caribbean people. I pray that this brave initiative succeeds. I want it to infect this whole soca society of ours. I want it to demonstrate that we too can overturn complacency and become that island which was the promise of the new world: the land of people and of light.
We can spend a lifetime discussing where that promise went. And it would be a colourful discourse indeed, dripping angst and nostalgia. But right now we don’t need sentimentality. Reason dictates that we plough ahead to the fruitful planting of solutions. We need men and women of commitment and vision who are prepared for the rigours of hard work, discipline and perseverance.
Barbados is not so different. They feel the same partisan tribalism that divides us. They feel compromised by short-sighted political stupidity. They know the price of silence and toleration when citizens fail to speak out. They know that this corrupting tribalism has eroded the middle ground, the neutral platform for the productive exchange of ideas and the pooling of positive energies.
But to their credit, they are choosing to do something: to create a non-partisan coalition of civil society which restores the middle ground, reunites classes and communities in the cause of a country determined to prosper.
It is potentially a model for the region. I beg them to fight on, not just for themselves but for all of us. If Barbados - the pillar of Westminster democracy – perceives the need to turn governance on its head, just imagine what radical house-cleaning we need to do right here at home.
Clearly, we need to re-set the agenda which our politicians have abandoned. We need to engage them on issues that reposition our economy: investment, education, technology, green energy, efficiency, productivity and wealth creation. That is why we the people at all levels of society, need to enter into partnership with each other and reclaim our democracy from those who have hijacked it.
Since the very nature of politics is corrosive, the only viable check on the abuse of power is eternal vigilance. Our governance systems – particularly parliament and the cabal that is cabinet - must be held tightly in check by all the moorings of a functioning democracy.
That includes the private sector who drive employment, investment, growth and technological advancement. It includes the labour sector - particularly public sector unions - who cradle the productive human resources of this country and must contribute convincingly to the making of a meritocracy.
It includes the media who are supposed to stand uncompromised and independent and shout loudly whenever societal freedoms are threatened. It includes professional organisations like the Bar Association who are among the most independently privileged members of our society and who should instinctively rise up to defend the rights of the poor and the disenfranchised. It also includes the churches who should hold the moral high ground and be the conscience of a country claiming to be Christian.
So it seems that this morass we complain about is really of our making. And we have been making it assiduously for a long time, gradually relinquishing our democratic rights and abandoning our principles to successive administrations. It seems we really do get the governments we deserve.
So as we walk to the polls on November 28, we need to remind each other that we are electing mere men and women. They are mortal, fallible and corruptible. They are not saints or gods and will not selflessly look to our collective welfare if we ourselves do not.
We must remember that our leaders expect US to be alert and vigilant and outspoken, if only to keep them on the right and narrow path. If we fail in this, then we lose their already scant respect. We will be treated like spineless imbeciles.
So we cannot play this voting thing like a five minute quickie after which we all roll over and go back to sleep. We cannot merely vote, and then retreat into that silent night of cowardice and complacency. That is not where we wish to dwell. Our children, if they learn enough to understand what we have failed to do, will not forgive our apathy.
Fortunately, the world is not offering us much of a choice. The urgent economic imperatives confronting St. Lucia, Barbados and the Caribbean are pretty much the same ones facing Iceland, Greece, Spain, Italy and America. This is a loud insistent call to get our economic houses in order and stop the wastage of scarce irreplaceable resources. It is a warning from an intolerant global system that we will pay dearly for our economic negligence.
Most importantly it is an ultimatum that we need to run our country properly or live forever with ignorance, poverty, disease, injustice and inevitable violence. Rest assured if we do not reform, our economic, political, social and intellectual assets will be mercilessly exploited by those who are already richer and greedier than ourselves. We will be returned to slavery and subservience.
We must therefore, reform government no matter its colour. This is about OUR survival. The adversarial structure of our parliament is archaic. No country can be managed by a house of seventeen divided against itself on virtually every issue. Add to that, a public sector consuming more than it produces, a private sector shrinking to oblivion, frustrated creativity and a sinking middle class. Without serious reform, what lies ahead is chaos.
In 1981/82, this country rose up and demanded better. In what history might well call a bloodless coup, we overturned the parody which passed for government, appointed new caretakers by consensus, and systematically returned St. Lucia to democratic sanity. That action set a standard for politicians to follow. It was our proudest moment. And the world took note.
It may well be that such a time is here again. So, let us not vote in haste and repent in darkness later. Whether moved by star, torch, conscience or collective enlightenment, let us take our democracy back. Starting November 29th 2011, let us speak clearly and responsibly to our newly elected government and demand to have our most important concerns addressed.
Let us establish zero tolerance for attitudes and actions unworthy of our nation and stand prepared to go public, write, tweet, do whatever it takes to defeat the tribalism that divides us. Let us put St. Lucia first, so that our children may yet inherit that land of light and people of which we so proudly sing.
is an award winning Poet and Producer. He is the Caribbean Laureate for Arts and Letters 2010
He is a Development Economist and St. Lucia's Entrepreneur of the Year 2010.
For more information visit: adrianaugier.blogspot.com