The 2023 Throne Speech by Governor General Dame Susan Dougan outlining government’s policies for this year was put in the context of “Fresh Hope” after the setbacks of recent years. It indicated markers of progress and pointed to this Budget giving a boost to recovery and resilience, hence the fresh hope epithet.
Fine as this may sound the reality is that it is easier said than done. To the credit of this government, it has never shirked when formidable challenges are placed before it. Even if it did not have all the answers, it has never been afraid to take initiatives and to face up to the challenges. It has not been short of endeavours.
Yet our reality is such that for that fresh hope to become reality, there needs to be a fresh outlook to the way we approach national challenges and work to solve them. Our reality is that whether by design or not, our population and the success of our thrust at national development is too dependent on the initiatives and efforts of the government itself.
Take for instance, the “education revolution”.
Substantial resources have been and continue to be invested in this sector, but the investment in formal education is completely out of sync with raising the general level of education among the populace.
Political consciousness is far from being at a desirable level, nor is economic literacy or the notions of social solidarity, so often promoted by government leaders.
Then there are critical matters like environmental awareness and consciousness about the climate change threat facing us. It is all well and good, and indeed most desirable, to be able to boast of a highly qualified population, but that success needs to be cemented by a sense of patriotism and social consciousness. Do these areas not deserve similar attention?
Similarly over the last two decades there have been admirable advances in social relief and support, Yet it is true to say that for too many these sound social programmes seem to smack of freeness to be capitalized upon and exploited, often by some not so needy, but with unscrupulous aims.
If we are to realize the benefits of the “fresh hope” held out, then it is important that we make a fresh start to our approach to national development. A fresh start to our thinking, a fresh start to public education and for sure a determined effort to begin to rid our society of the growing tendency towards dependence on the government.
For more than four decades now we have endured the sad state of a lack of local government, all because of political problems of the Joshua-Cato era. We have never made any concerted efforts to rebuild those local structures of governance at the community level.
We also have gone from an enviable state of vibrant community and civil organizations to a situation where civil society organization is at an unenviable level. Now political entities are speaking, not of support for the organization of such civil bodies, but of “reviving them”. There is a vast difference between building organizations of the people, by the people themselves, as opposed to others doing it “for the people”.
Yes, alongside impressive advances in the society, this failure at developing the people themselves, is becoming a serious drag on our advancement. The promise of “fresh hope” can only be fully realized by a fresh start to our approaches to these challenges mentioned.