Our Readers' Opinions
September 30, 2005
Leadership – building a new society

by Maxwell Haywood

National elections will be announced any time now. Voting every five years, while inadequate for achieving full and true democracy, provides us a good opportunity to reflect on the idea and practice of leadership. It makes us reflect on the kind of political leadership that SVG needs.

The election of leaders should not be done outside the context of the issues facing SVG as a developing nation. So what are the competencies that political leaders must possess to provide effective leadership? {{more}}

Our leaders must be judged according to their competence to deal with globalization. SVG’s leaders and organizations must be ready to interface with the wider world with courage, vision, and a profound understanding of the neo-liberal agenda promoted by financially powerful forces. The kind of unbridled free market policies embedded within a renewed economic globalization cannot be addressed by weak, uninformed, reactionary, and divisive political leaders and parties.

They also need a deep understanding of the alternatives to the current neo-liberal agenda and must demonstrate a firm will to respond to this reckless agenda and to formulate, develop and implement an alternative to a parasitic market economy and market society.

A leader runs the risk of not being taken seriously when he/she talks about how much he/she hates poverty and unemployment but still embraces and promotes neo-liberalism in economic globalization. Only good leadership could help in preparing the nation for the problems or challenges unleashed by economic globalization.

The competence of leaders to effectively develop the nation’s political economy is the second issue that must be used to evaluate the suitability of persons for leadership positions. Our political leaders and organizations should have well thought-out ideas as to how to build a responsive economy.

At the apex of this economy should be workers, without whom there is no production, no creation of wealth, no economy, and no culture.

Elected politicians could end up weakening the nation if they do not appreciate and understand the centrality of workers to the life of the nation. Those persons who are indifferent to the interests of workers would create more conflict and make it more difficult to reduce poverty and develop the human resources of the nation.

In addition, the private sector has a role in advancing economic development. Thus, in today’s world it is not wise to discourage private sector activities. The private sector could provide the resources needed for investments that could help in generating more employment and economic growth. Leadership must be able to find ways for the private sector to operate in the context of a people centered development process.

Indeed, political leaders must be able and willing to find the right balance between the interest of workers and those of the private sector.

Those aspiring to represent people in government have got to show that they have the substantive ability to address these political economic challenges.

The third issue is the will and ability of candidates to build participatory democracy. Political leaders should demonstrate complete commitment to genuine popular participation in the national public policy processes, the only safeguard against corruption and power hungry politicians. It protects against injustice, economic stagnation, and the monopoly over decision-making by prime ministers and their cabinet. Importantly, civil society organizations could play a good role in public policy-making, but the environment must be created for them to do this effectively.

It is very important that leaders of government understand the role of civil society organizations in the positive transformation of the nation. Political leaders who do not show competence in building participatory democracy will experience tremendous difficulties within the national public policy process, resulting in more alienation of Vincentians from the policy process.

The fourth issue is cultural change. Culture in this context means not only the cultural arts, but the entire way of life of Vincentians. There is an urgent need to lift the cultural level of all Vincentians, especially since the nation is confronted with challenges such as political divisiveness, limited democracy, crime and violence, poverty, and inadequate economic growth. These trends require a new national culture that is based on the principles of solidarity, people-centered economic development, peace, integrity, dignity, and collective security.

The fifth issue that could be used to evaluate the competence of leaders is

national unity. In this context, politicians and their organizations shouldbe knowledgeable and have skills to be public educators and public diplomats.