Grenada’s 2018 elections: Beyond the issues!

by JK Roberts (Sound Public Policies Advocate)

The radical trends toward a paradigm shift in the political governance of Grenada, based on the results of the 2018 upcoming general elections, is oblivious to many persons. The results of the elections could be historic, not in frivolous terms of political statistics and political casualties, but in consequential terms of its harmful impact on the nation’s democratic institutions, sovereign powers and socio-economic construct.

Like the mal-intentions for the historic constitutional referendum in 2016 unprecedentedly, alot is at stake with this election but it is unfortunate that the ‘issues beyond the issues’ are not being ventilated in the public’s domain and that the many disturbing questions of the few conscious individuals remain shrouded even by the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

During elections campaigns, there have always been calls for politicians to address ‘the issues’, but these genuine calls are made without also realising that the agendas of the politicians are remote from the interests, the needs and the aspirations of the local people. The reality is that the issues and agendas are usually not derived from the people, who the politicians seek to represent in government and who are the resource for them to ascend to government; but even then, no meaningful forum is presented for the people to challenge the declarations and commitments of the politicians. Despite in recent years, national debates amongst political leaders are encouraged, those debates are conducted as academic exercises without focusing on obtaining an analytical explanation and the execution modality of the manifestos of the politicians and on proving the patriotic resolve of the politicians. Moreover, the people have no constitutional and institutional mechanism to recall and to hold the politicians accountable when there is a breach of trust and malfeasance in government.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) has aptly set the stage for active and intense debates on the pertinent issues for the 13 March 2018 elections and the decision-making process for the future of Grenada, with the slogan ‘Keep Moving’. The logical concerns emanating from this persuasion should be, ‘moving with what and to where’? Are the people prepared to keep moving being saddled with a public debt whose magnitude and rate of growth cannot be ascertained, toward a frightening and mysterious destination of neo-colonisation with the designing of a National Sustainable Development Plan by China? Would the people keep moving being gullible and uninformed on the Grenada Blue Growth Coastal Master Plan purported to transform the national landscape and its marine territory; on the ownership and status of the nutmeg and cocoa industries, as well as that of the Postal Corporation and Gravel, Concrete and Emulsion Corporation; and on the legislative provisions and commercial transactions regarding the patrimony and assets of the nation, including the Citizenship By Investment programme (with the selling of passports) and the Oil and Gas Exploration project.

Issues raised at political rallies and national debates, as well as in manifestoes, although some of them can be labelled ‘non-issues’, are often absorbed and valued by the people as being substantial and that those issues will be given serious attention when the politicians form the government. However, the people soon face the rude-awakening that they were duped; and that in fact there have not only been ‘unclear and misunderstood issues’ but there were ‘unwritten and unspoken issues’ on behalf of other stakeholders in the elections who then takes priority. The most disruptive and destructive stakeholders are the rogue financiers of the elections campaigns of the politicians; these stakeholders may include corporate bodies, foreign investors, money launderers and international special interest groups peddling anti-social norms. The situation becomes more heartbreaking when in recent times foreign ‘developed and powerful’ governments have been tending to influence the results of elections and in so doing would be directing the legislative policies and economic projects for the nation.

Elections issues are wide-reaching in scope and consequence, but the merit and necessity of the issues are relative, subject to individuals, sectorial constituents, prevailing circumstances in the nation, and global dictates. Generally, the issues pertinent to the security, prosperity and development of the nation are expected to occupy the mind and devotion of politicians; these issues will incorporate justice, jobs and other welfare determinants including the environment. However, the politicians do not have full command of those issues and may not even have the wherewithal and the solutions for them, since when in government they have to tolerate the commitments of the nation to regional and international accords and assistance. Thus; notwithstanding the ills identified in education, any effort to bring remedy is restrained by the programmes and push of the Caribbean Examinations Council. Moreover, the local industries are hampered by the competitions in trade within the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.

The issue of corruption in the management of the national assets and economy should be paramount and pivotal for the people since it affects the quality of public services such as health and infrastructure obtained, and the robustness of the response and resilience to financial shocks and natural disasters. Although corruption seems to be entrenched in the nation and that the criminal investigation and legal system seems handicapped to bring the culprits to justice, politicians and the people should be determined to attack this scourge which eats away the integrity and morality of the nation and which compromises its sovereignty and security and hinders its delivery of public services as well as its prosperity and development.

The NNP is yet to reconcile its subscribing to the core principles of Good Governance (accountability, transparency and openness, efficiency and effectiveness, responsiveness, visionary government, rule of law, objectivity, and equality of treatment for all sections of the community) along with the empirical claims of irregularities, victimisation, nepotism and recklessness with the execution of its administration. No doubt, this is a crucial elections issue; also considering that these principles, including a ‘zero tolerance for any form of corruption’ have been enunciated, and committed to upholding, in its elections manifesto 2013.

Political rhetoric and intellectual correctness have been prevalent in attempting to address national issues and the gross deficiencies and failures in public administration.  Typical is the mantra ‘we believe that …’, ‘we need to …’, and ‘we will …’, but which never translate to the realisation of any sound solutions, except to generate a multiplicity of further problems. However, in this way, politicians continue to capitalise the poor, vulnerable and unsuspecting which includes many brilliant young people. Having the youths falling preys to the ploys of the politicians, they are actually shooting themselves in the foot, and of which there would be no easy recovery. The time is opportune for this era of young people to appreciate and share their history of political, social and economic struggles to aid their self-liberation and national pride.

Elections 2018 demands sobriety and vigilance, and no one should abstain from positively shaping and preserving Grenada for its future generations, as great uncertainty and despair loom.  Review the previously internet-circulated article, ‘The year 2018 could be disastrous for Grenada’, which also highlights that the elections will be a momentous watershed politically.

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