R. Rose
April 5, 2011
ULP 10, but many challenges ahead

From all reports, the leadership of the governing Unity labour Party (ULP) must be well satisfied with the responses of its supporters to its mobilisation efforts last week. Activities were organized to mark the Party’s 10th anniversary of its accession to office in 2001. The massive turn-out must have given the Party’s leaders a big fillip, sorely needed after all the trials and tribulations of the past couple years. The feel-good factor must be running high in ULP circles.{{more}}

There is much in which to revel, for the ULP can point to a string of achievements, especially in the social sphere, that it has been able to accomplish since winning the general election of March 28, 2001.It came to office in very troubling times, for the economy and thus for the people of our country. Morale was low, particularly in the public service, and the country was badly in need of positive direction.

The ULP victory raised hopes and expectations and opened a whole new dawn in the country. Yet, as is so typical of our political system, a lot of the goodwill of 2001 has been lost or frittered away and the ULP of 2011 faces major political challenges.

This in no way though, nullifies the accomplishments. The advances in the areas of housing and education are particularly impressive. The ULP administration has also been able to bring some sort of economic and fiscal stability, in the face of adverse external circumstances. Even its critics will have to concede that it could not have been an easy task to deal with the negative effects of such occurrences as the fallout from “9/11” in 2001, the battering from the global economic and financial crises, the astronomical rise in food and oil prices with their spin-off on the local economy and the impact of natural disasters and crop disease affecting export agriculture.

Not derailed

To its credit the administration has not been derailed by these events which have taken their toll on other administrations in the region and elsewhere. It has been able to bring a certain level of stability to the country. The creative application of foreign policy has helped, for it has enabled the country to broaden its international scope beyond “traditional partners” who have demonstrated more concern for their own internal problems and a certain distancing from countries like ours, preferring to try and compete with China for the favours, and resources, of the vast African continent.

Self-analysis

Yet, for all its achievements, the ULP has to make a searching self-analysis, particularly at its errors, shortcomings and weaknesses. In particular, it has to inculcate the value of listening to, and taking on board, criticisms both from within and outside its ranks. One does not have to agree with every criticism, but at least they should provide you with an opportunity for self-examination. Not all the people who raise criticisms are enemies and the greater the tolerance and openness shown, the more the ultimate benefits.

Ten unbroken years in office, and having embarked on a third term, is no mean feat. But in all the back-slapping, it must not escape attention that its immediate predecessor, the New Democratic Party (NDP) went seven years further and won an unprecedented 17 years in office.

Journey now starts

So, in reality, the journey now starts, for if the ULP continues to characterise the NDP as “backward”, and itself as “a progressive government of the working people”, then it ought to be able to go much further than the magic 17. That figure alone should prove an incentive for the ULP to work even harder, to become an even greater servant of the people, listening to their concerns and addressing their needs.

A lot would depend on the continuing interaction with the people, the degree to which the government facilitates and encourages, the organisation of the people-in the home, the community, at school and at work. The development of a strong independent civil society is no threat to any well-meaning government; it is a valuable resource which strengthens democratic governance. While the government must lead, it cannot afford to be pig-headed. There will be times when it is convinced that it is right, but for one reason or another, cannot convince the majority of the strength of its case. How it handles such situations, the degree to which it is prepared to accommodate alternative views, and its willingness to compromise in the national interests will determine to a large extent the future of the country and party. Deep reflection and thoughtful action are prerequisites for success.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.