It is often said that a government is supposed to be by the people and for the people. What that means in a practical sense is that the government should act in the interest of the people of the country since it was elected to office by those very same people. But the truth is that no one really knows for sure exactly how that thinking is supposed to be reflected in all of the things a government does in the name of the people or even how such a guiding principle can be implemented in the real world. Whatever the situation in any country, the reality is that when one examines very closely the behaviour of governments, there is only one conclusion that can be reached: change is indispensable!
Indeed, we in Grenada and other parts of the Caribbean have for way too long allowed our governments to literally get away with murder.
The things we accept and embrace from our governments over many years leave much to be desired. The “inconvenient truth” is that often we end up with the governments we deserve, just to borrow a fashionable saying.
Consequently, whether it is the dog and pony show that played out publicly in the OECS over the appointment of a new Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank to succeed Sir Dwight Venner or all the melee here in Grenada over the Camerhogne Park, it is quite clear that if left to their own devices our governments would do precisely what they want unless we the people demand differently.
Even though the controversy over the Camerhogne Park is yet to be resolved formally, the voices I have heard in support of as well as in opposition to the relocation of that important facility tell me it is possible for “democracy” to be well and alive in our small piece of the rock.
What has to happen next in relation to the settlement of that issue is straightforward: the will of the people must prevail! The government should not be allowed to have its way using the argument that the country’s development is important and hence investments in hotels and other such amenities are critical especially for employment generation.
As important as such investments are and as urgent as it is to get Grenadians back to work, that justification by itself is weak and should be rejected by all and sundry simply because our development is more than just economic transformation. Our cultural heritage and environmental protection are but just two equally important features of the country’s advancement that ought to be taken on board always in everything we do now and in the future.
At the broader level, the ferocious debate over the relocation of the Camerhogne Park implies unambiguously that as citizens of this beautiful country we do have democratic rights to challenge issues deemed to be of national importance and can express those rights through peaceful and purposeful demonstrations in the public view.
Once the dust settles and there appears to be a resolution of the crisis, good sense ought to prevail and individuals should act accordingly. No doubt, Senator Ray Roberts and other Grenadians are displaying that sort of attitude and should be commended by all of us for their principled stance.
To take Grenada to the next level of socio-economic development, the present government has to exhibit in no uncertain terms that it is all about accountability, transparency and good governance. Why? There is a direct correlation between the quality of government (as reflected in accountability, transparency and good governance) and the country’s economic performance which is being touted about as often as we care to listen by the NNP administration. Improvement in economic performance can be the result of, say, greater innovation on the part of economic agents.
To the people of Grenada: Are you going to give up your fundamental rights to challenge your government whenever the need arises only because you feel a sense of loyalty to one political party or the next or are you willing to accept that the country’s economic development cannot proceed with an abortive government? If you choose the latter, then, logically, it is now your responsibility to ensure that quality government is the order of the day now and going forward, period!
You see, as the electorate, you are well within your democratic rights to elect the party and by extension the government of your choice. Likewise, each citizen is well within his or her right to criticise the government over any matter of national bearing without fear or favour.
By so doing, the government is forced to clean up its act and behave in a manner that is consistent with high quality because it would know full well that if it does not its rein will more than likely end after the stipulated five-years in office.
Since no serious government and particularly a government led by the current Prime Minister would wish to demit office after one term, you the people should and always have the last say. Your humble servant urge you to let the people’s voices be heard, forever!
(Dr. Brian Francis, a former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies)