Co­he­sion

Stabroek News Sunday - - LETTERS -

Per­haps what strikes peo­ple most about the cur­rent govern­ment is its ap­par­ent lack of ca­pac­ity for plan­ning. Of course, as the PPP years dragged their dreary way to 2015, many mem­bers of the elec­torate were lured to vote for the coali­tion by the ful­some prom­ises of the com­bined op­po­si­tion. It was not, as we all know, an over­whelm­ing vote; it pro­vided a ra­zor-thin, one-seat ma­jor­ity. But still, on the face of things, it was be­lieved it would usher in a pos­si­ble new po­lit­i­cal era.

Three years later, ev­ery­one knows that the re­al­ity is rather dif­fer­ent. In fact, in terms of ac­tual ad­min­is­tra­tive ca­pac­ity, this govern­ment is ar­guably the least com­pe­tent one this coun­try has yet ex­pe­ri­enced. When the min­is­ters gave them­selves and oth­ers an in­de­cent pay hike a few short months af­ter win­ning the elec­tion, those who had put them there got a dose of cold wa­ter; it was an un­cer­e­mo­ni­ous in­tro­duc­tion to the real world.

Since then, those who rule over us have stag­gered along – one of them has blun­dered along – giv­ing the im­pres­sion that they are as muddled about which di­rec­tion they should be go­ing in, as the pop­u­lace think they are. Much has been writ­ten about the econ­omy in par­tic­u­lar, and Mr Win­ston Jor­dan’s less than ex­em­plary per­for­mance in charge of the Min­istry of Fi­nance port­fo­lio. His suc­cess rate surely will not im­prove with the loss of all the se­nior of­fi­cials who have re­signed from his min­istry in the last few weeks.

And that is a part of the prob­lem; any se­nior of­fi­cial will only be as suc­cess­ful as the of­fi­cers un­der him or her. No min­is­ter, no mat­ter how bril­liant, can run a min­istry on his or her own; s/he needs com­pe­tent mid­dle man­age­ment, and that is in se­ri­ously short sup­ply in this coun­try, both in the pri­vate sec­tor as well as the pub­lic one. At­tract­ing com­pe­tence into the pub­lic ser­vice as ev­ery­one knows, re­quires salary scales, which, at a min­i­mum, are com­pet­i­tive with the rates paid in the pri­vate sec­tor, but that does not ob­tain here.

Hav­ing said that, no min­istry will func­tion ef­fec­tively, no mat­ter how good the mid­dle man­age­ment, if the min­is­ter does not un­der­stand what the job re­quires, and has no ad­min­is­tra­tive skills. In de­vel­oped so­ci­eties, ad­min­is­tra­tion is the func­tion of the se­nior civil ser­vice, and the job of the min­is­ter is pol­icy. Here, in con­trast, a min­is­ter also has to be the se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tor, and if they are not, ev­ery­thing drifts. When the Cab­i­net and oth­ers were given their in­fa­mous pay raise in 2015, the elec­torate was as­sured it was be­cause these were peo­ple of merit (among other rea­sons). All that can be said more than three years down the road, is that the vot­ers are not per­suaded.

Peo­ple of merit at the high­est level in govern­ment, would look ahead and plan for their pe­riod in of­fice. Pre-elec­tion prom­ises are no sub­sti­tute for plan­ning, and govern­ment can­not be ac­com­plished by slo­gans. How can they go about clos­ing down some of the sugar es­tates in such a hap­haz­ard fash­ion, and now have to cast around, it seems, to find the money to pay the re­trenched sugar work­ers the sev­er­ance pay to which they are legally en­ti­tled? They knew the sugar in­dus­try was in trou­ble long be­fore they won the 2015 elec­tion, so what home­work did they do on the is­sue? What pa­pers on dif­fer­ent as­pects of the ques­tion were laid be­fore cab­i­net for con­sid­er­a­tion? What were the de­ci­sions taken, which it was cal­cu­lated would best ac­com­plish the var­i­ous ends and over what time frame?

No one has any idea. It just ap­pears they have been lurch­ing from one cri­sis to the next.

And now, there is the teach­ers’ fi­asco, and here again – this time em­a­nat­ing from the Pres­i­dent him­self – they have said they have to look around to find money to pay the teach­ers. Surely, the be­mused elec­torate thought, they would have planned to put aside money to pay the teach­ers, and be­fore them, the pub­lic ser­vants. Prior to the elec­tion, both groups were iden­ti­fied as de­serv­ing of ma­jor in­creases, although that did not hap­pen in the case of the last named, and where the first is con­cerned, their mem­bers are poised to re­turn to the streets af­ter a se­ries of sna­fus on the part of the govern­ment.

The in­ep­ti­tude of the ad­min­is­tra­tion in re­la­tion to its deal­ings with Exxon­Mo­bil, along with oil re­sources and re­lated mat­ters in gen­eral, has re­ceived a great deal of ex­po­sure. All that can be said at this stage, is that it has con­vinced no one of its grasp of the is­sues, or even that it has un­der­taken thor­ough re­search, while its own rep­re­sen­ta­tives are mostly not con­sid­ered to be the ideal choices for their posts.

As if all that were not enough, the govern­ment has run into myr­iad other prob­lems, such as those in­volv­ing bonds. One bond story ef­fec­tively forced the res­ig­na­tion of the then Min­is­ter of Health, although in the case of Ed­u­ca­tion, the sham­bles that was the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the na­tion’s 50th an­niver­sary, did not have any con­se­quences for the then Ju­nior Min­is­ter. Nor did it seem to mat­ter that she didn’t ap­pear to know the dif­fer­ence be­tween Di­wali and Phag­wah. In the mean­time, she pre­sides over the con­tin­u­ing de­cline of ed­u­ca­tion in our schools.

At the cen­tre of it sits the Min­is­ter of State, who, de­spite the name up­grade, ful­fils the same du­ties as Dr Roger Lun­cheon did for the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion. Cir­cum­lo­cu­tory and eva­sive as the lat­ter could be with re­porters, he worked un­de­ni­ably hard and al­ways knew what was go­ing on. No one is as con­vinced that Mr Har­mon has his fin­ger on the but­ton in quite the same way.

But while so many of the min­is­ters ap­pear headed off in their own di­rec­tion, and so many catas­tro­phes are oc­cur­ring, the Pres­i­dent ap­pears dis­in­clined to bring some kind of co­he­sion to the project. In the first place, as has been said sev­eral times be­fore, there are far too many peo­ple oc­cu­py­ing seats in Cab­i­net, and as al­ready men­tioned, there are all kinds of un­suit­able ap­pointees in all kinds of un­suit­able posts. In ad­di­tion, the Pres­i­dent’s nar­row-mind­ed­ness in re­la­tion to sen­si­tive con­sti­tu­tional posts such as the Ge­com chair­man­ship and the most se­nior ju­di­cial of­fice-hold­ers, has not helped mat­ters.

When added to that, the Pres­i­dent has not given the na­tion a clear vi­sion of where it is go­ing – ex­cept in the most gen­eral terms – then the sense is cre­ated that the govern­ment is me­an­der­ing.

In the cur­rent world cli­mate – never mind the lo­cal one – a na­tion can­not af­ford to me­an­der.

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