Dr. Fraser- Point of View
February 2, 2007

The state of the nation

Perhaps it will always be the best of times and the worst of times, although for different sets of people. To hear the discussions or rather the talk, since there is little discussion, one would think that we live on different parts of the planet. It is obvious that in St.Vincent and the Grenadines today some are doing well while others are catching hell. This is the only conclusion one can draw. To a large extent the division is marked by a political line drawn in the sand, perhaps, although it must be said that for varying reasons some will do well and others not so well political line or not. One sounds like a stuck record when the issue of the political divisions in the country are mentioned, but it needs repeating because it beats me that any small, resource deficient country such as ours could think of being on the ‘cusp’ of development if some persons are locked out of active participation in the development of the country and we are all pulling in different directions. We are too small and limited in resources to be able to treat this matter lightly.{{more}} Developments over the past year and particularly in recent times do not speak well for the state of the country. But maybe I am dreaming or perhaps hallucinating for to some persons everything is fine, and if we are not happy it is our fault for everything is there to make sure that we are.

Really we might disagree on the causes of these divisions but can hardly disagree that they exist and that they are not in the best interest of the country. One gets the impression that our public service is in a mess. Obviously this, if it is correct, has serious implications for the public sector and consequently the development of the country. That institution abounds with news carrying and defiance by those who claim ‘political’ immunity. Rightly or wrongly some consider themselves untouchables and defy orders or instructions coming from certain quarters. There are those in high positions who are afraid to make decisions or give orders for fear that they will offend someone who resents this. Frustration abounds in those situations and productivity suffers. There are lots of stories you can hear if you keep your ears close to the ground. Some of this is truly frightening if you have a sense of patriotism and commitment to your country.

The other issue that is commanding a lot of concern if not necessarily attention is crime. One might with good reason state that crime in our country has not reached the proportions it has in some of our sister territories, but this is cold comfort since we are all experiencing a crime wave of some sort, some more than others. What is frightening is that a large proportion of these appear to be drug related so that the nation has become very sensitive when ever the issue of drugs raises its ugly head. In a country where we are no longer our brothers and sisters keepers because they sit on the other side of the fence it is believed, this is bound to loom large. What on the surface appear to be signs of material progress, particularly the number of cars on the streets and the large houses, tend to conceal other things that are ripping the society apart. Are we mistaking what might be inevitable signs of the fall out from the kind of development on which we are embarked for something much more sinister? Does this also conceal the gaps between the haves and the have-nots? Or is it that we are all becoming either haves or have-nots?

The state of our politics is pathetic as verbal slings and arrows continue to be hurled across the political divide. There is little love lost, bitterness is growing and trust is in short supply. Radio is not the cause but the medium that is exposing the hypocrisies and unearthing what is festering below. The messenger becomes the object of hate as he is confused with the message. Our politicians are to a large extent thick skinned and are not adept at reading the signs of the times. This is what is responsible for much of the tension that exists. Admittedly there are those who hog the airwaves and spin it for all it is worth. Instead, therefore, of being a medium of communication and dialogue it often becomes a verbal battle front.

We are gradually approaching the time of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the consequences this might have at least in the short term for the less developed parts of the community. At home, VAT is only a few months away and while its introduction is likely to swell the government’s coffers its impact on the rest of the society is still uncertain. Next year the CARICOM Heads of government meet in St.Vincent and this will bring us to face another issue, that is, the tension between national and regional politics. It is no secret that one of the major problems facing the regional institutions that feed the regional movement is the inability to implement decisions made at regional gatherings. This apparently will be one of the matters on the regional agenda. It is to some extent the case of national politics being played on a different turf. Until we tackle and settle some of the national issues, the regional movement will continue to be stifled. Nice pronouncements will be made and that is as far as it will go.

On another issue, which really is a description of the turf on which national development takes place, I went to sleep on Friday night with a bitter taste in my mouth after hearing about the dismissal of Junior Bacchus. Enough has been said and have happened over the past months to lead many of us to jump to certain conclusions about his dismissal. If as is commonly believed this is the result of political pressure then we are really into sad and dangerous times. For those persons who rejoice or who are nonchalant about an individual losing his job I want to remind them of Martin Niemoller’s poem;

“In Germany they first came for the communists and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a communist: Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist: Then they came for Catholics and I didn’t speak up because I was a protestant.

Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up”

This is stark warning for many of us. There are those who would have resented Junior for his views and his outspokenness or for whatever other reason but as citizens of a democratic country we should be prepared to disagree while at the same time defending the right to say what one has to say. To what do we really aspire? To a state where we are all expected to sing from the same song sheet? There is really a certain insanity that has taken hold of our country. Aren’t we brothers and sisters trying to eke out a living on this little rock? We have to remember that ultimately power does not rest in our hands it lies else where. We must remind ourselves about this for today we are here and tomorrow we are somewhere else. Control lies beyond us. If this does not inspire in us a sense of our powerlessness nothing else will.