BY all accounts, 2015 was an eventful year full of newsmakers, ecological excitement and of course, political drama. I dare say that 2015 was probably a year of lost political opportunity – as I can’t recall any serious bi-partisan collaboration or a single moment when I didn’t hear partisan drumbeats of bitter and often vitriolic attacks on character and person. Perhaps there is something in the volcanic air that makes politicians consume each other in campaigns of internecine fighting rather than work together in the best interest of the nation. At any rate, after a year of allegations, counter-allegations and mischaracterizations, our country is more divided and polarized than ever.
In my delirium, I imagine this year to be one with fewer political insults and putdowns. But I rather suspect my expectations do not conform to reality and indeed a cruel (or if you prefer, action-packed) political summer beckons. My instincts also tell me that there is a silent minority in this country who are tired of inhaling the toxic flames of partisan politics and yearn for healthier and more measured debate on all things political, economic, social and environmental. At a time of rising anxiety among the youth and with the onset of signs and symptoms of a broken society, there is no doubt in my mind that a bona-fide national conversation needs to be started to identify the circumstances and causes of the social breakdown – and institute policies to change the trajectory of events before they reach a critical stage.
Let’s make 2016 a better year for the political education and social enlightenment of our people. As we approach our national elections, let’s inspire our children to dream more, be more and become more. Let’s make 2016 the year that ushered in the mentality change needed for us to develop and progress as a nation.
For the sake of our country, civil society and the business community need to urge the leaders of all political parties to tone down the current blame-driven politics and instead demonstrate to the electorate they have real ambition for the society and economy – and the policies to tackle the toxic twosome of high unemployment and low investment. In an election year, the people want to see manifesto pledges and constructive ideas that will support the creation of the skilled jobs needed, equip their children with the education and skills they need for the future and anchor value-creating enterprises in Saint Lucia. In short, the people want to hear what the big picture is for the truly critical issues such as the economy, the justice system and the police force.
Let’s make 2016 a year of national reflection, progressive thinking and strategic execution – a year for the family and the environment. We need to see more vitality and vibrancy in the country’s social metabolism – more targeted social programmes that engender the change we wish to see in our families, clubs, schools and institutions. In an article last year, I argued that since development is about reducing vulnerabilities and increasing capacity of people and institutions, change through social policy is a unique opportunity because it has the highest potential for economic impact in a small country like ours.
I know that we have bright men and women in this country who have the ambition and intellectual capacity to build our nation – and together I’m convinced we can find and develop solutions to make our education system serve the needs our economy and provide economic insights that can help foster fiscal and macro-prudential stability. This year, there are serious questions we should be asking such as how we can best invest in our young people for growth and development, as well as how we can make our health system the wealth of the nation.
Crucially, the media can and should play a bigger role in providing the electorate with candid and clear-cut formulation of problems, as well as the facts necessary for intelligent choice. Simply reporting the news is not enough – more analyses and back stories are needed. The news media will need to describe all aspects of the story, with a carefully measured tone and as balanced as possible. Furthermore, as I’ve said before, legislators and aspiring politicians should use the talk shows to explain their policies and positions, present plans and respond to voter concerns.
I know politics is a tussle for power, but opposing for the sake of opposing is not only a specious appearance of responsibility, but is also misleading and deceptive to the electorate. In whatever way we can, it’s incumbent on all of us to always demonstrate the utmost interest in the governance and development of our country; and hope that the programmes the government of the day has embarked upon succeed. It is the responsibility of every patriotic citizen to contribute to the advancement, vitality and well being of Saint Lucia, for the love of country. National leaders in all spheres of society need to look beyond the horizon and prepare long-term projections in pursuit of sustainable development goals. The year has just started and given the challenges ahead, our country will need every bit of assistance, drive and initiative from all its sons and daughters both here and in the diaspora.
For comments, write to ClementSoulage@hotmail.de – Clement Wulf-Soulage is a Management Economist, Published Author and Former University Lecturer.