DEMOCRACY AT WORK

Brian FrancisBy Dr. Brian Francis

 

Despite various shortcomings and many frustrations at times, we in Grenada do live in a fairly democratic country. And that was demonstrated most conspicuously merely six months ago when a majority of the people chose the NNP and its promises over the NDC and its mixed performance in office.

The electorate were well within their rights to elect the party or Government of their choice. Equally, each citizen of this country is well within his right to criticise the Government over any matter of relevance without fear or favour.

“Personally, I’m in favour of democracy, which means that the central institutions of society have to be under popular control. Just as I’m opposed to political fascism, I’m opposed to economic fascism. I think that until the major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it’s pointless to talk about democracy.” Sounds like something I would say? Absolutely! However, those are not my words. They are actually very wise words of wisdom ascribed to Noam Chomsky.

By extension, whenever I reflect on the performance of the present Government in Grenada to date, I am continuously reminded of Edmund Burke’s observation that “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have rights that these wants should be provided for.” How, then, given the promises made to Grenadians by the present NNP Administration, that some could take comfort in the idea that the Government is young and needs time to settle down before getting along with the people’s business?

While I accept and do in fact subscribe to the idea of a period of honeymoon in relation to a new Government in office, I also must submit that to the best of my knowledge and understanding husbands and wives do undertake very serious work while on their honeymoons!

Let us imagine for a while scenarios in which individuals have no money to pay a bus to take them from Fontenoy to Gouyave to enjoy Fish Friday; no formal education; no families to look after their affairs; no health insurance or access to adequate health services; and no access to basic food, shelter, and clothing.




Even if we subscribe to William Ellery Channing’s view that “The office of Government is not to confer happiness, but to give men the opportunity to work out happiness for themselves,” from all practical perspectives, can we convince those not so fortunate among us that the Government needs time to settle down before it can address their plights? I think not!

On that score, I have little choice but to continue to be critical of the Government. I am not in the business of attacking Government. However, as a citizen of this beautiful country I have a moral obligation to see the right things being done, for and on behalf of all Grenadians.

Furthermore, as someone who is being paid to help shape and influence the minds of individuals from all across the Caribbean and beyond, and consistent with the idea of Louis Dembitz Brandeis, I have a responsibility to ensure that “we can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” As part of that responsibility, I must maintain pressure on the Government to do the right things at all times to the benefit of the masses!

And, therefore, when I see; for example, prices escalating out of control in Grenada at a time when unemployment is at its highest, I have to sound my voice in despair. And when members of the Cabinet see it fit to travel oversees extensively at a time when the country faces unprecedented economic challenges, I must register my disapproval. And when real efforts to address the massive unemployment situation in the country continue to function on “pause” while our fiscal and debt challenges mount, I have to move to “play”.

In essence, then, I write to prompt change. The present Government of Grenada needs to change its approach to the management of the economy in difficult times. There can be no excuse for the current state of impotence in relation to finding solutions to our most pressing problems being displayed at the top levels of leadership in the country.

Time is not on our side. The Government must act now to help ease the pain and suffering of the citizens of Grenada, particularly the underprivileged; or else, face the consequences of its inaction.

Your humble servant is simply sounding the alarm bell. Please heed this warning!

 

(Dr. Brian Francis, the former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Bridgetown, Barbados of the University of the West Indies)

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