POL­I­TICS IS NO SCI­ENCE

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie The au­thor has served as min­is­ter in both UWP and SLP ad­min­is­tra­tions.

Pol­i­tics is of­ten de­scribed as an art; which is to say, it is not a pre­cise sci­ence that de­mands ac­cu­rate mea­sur­ing, and pre­dictable re­sults. In other words pol­i­tics is as un­pre­dictable as it is im­pre­cise. The cynic may even sug­gest that the art of pol­i­tics of­ten rests on the mar­gins of con­fu­sion as peo­ple of all de­scrip­tions and idio­syn­cra­sies are its main ingredients. Still, it would be un­wise to com­pletely sep­a­rate pol­i­tics from art and sci­ence.

The in­flu­ence of art and sci­ence on pol­i­tics sug­gests why suc­cess­ful politi­cians sur­round them­selves with men and women of di­verse per­sua­sions, in­clud­ing art and sci­ence. A pru­dent leader is there­fore ex­pected to make wise choices based on ad­vice given by qual­i­fied and imag­i­na­tive peo­ple.

Such man­age­ment choices are a tough call when­ever gov­ern­ments are con­fronted by a trea­sury ren­dered empty by their pre­de­ces­sors. How does a govern­ment keep the func­tions of the State run­ning ef­fec­tively with a bud­get hur­riedly slapped to­gether by the regime it suc­ceeded? Luck­ily, money is a quan­tifi­able in­stru­ment and there is no art to hide the con­tents of the na­tional trea­sury. Deter­min­ing how funds are al­lo­cated and which State func­tions are pri­or­i­tized, is clearly an art. There is no sci­ence that de­ter­mines which should ben­e­fit first: ed­u­ca­tion, health, agri­cul­ture, roads, sports or hous­ing.

It is this art of man­ag­ing scarce re­sources to pro­vide nec­es­sary and es­sen­tial goods and ser­vices for a peace­ful and happy cit­i­zenry which makes pol­i­tics dif­fi­cult, of­ten in­tim­i­dat­ing. The job of main­tain­ing the in­tegrity of the State while ap­ply­ing ju­di­cious lev­els of tax­a­tion which are easily com­plied with is also an art. The worst ap­pli­ca­tion of art (or sci­ence), in the af­fairs of State is the frit­ter­ing away of money on friv­o­lous, whim­si­cal projects, such as a prom­e­nade to nowhere, or a pub­lic fa­cil­ity built by per­sons with no com­ple­tion date set—and no penal­ties.

The suc­cess­ful ruler de­vel­ops the art of lis­ten­ing to the prob­lems of his (her) peo­ple rather than to per­sons who tell him only that which he wants to hear. When such a leader fails it is usu­ally be­cause he was ill-in­formed or chose to take the wrong ad­vice. Wrong or mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion leads to false con­clu­sions. A leader can ill af­ford to ne­glect un­com­pli­men­tary in­for­ma­tion, re­gard­less of the source.

In a so­ci­ety noted more for its crit­ics than for thought­ful, in­tel­li­gent and rea­son­able de­duc­tions, art and sci­ence need to be ap­plied with cau­tion. When in that same cul­ture the peo­ple have been given a voice with­out cau­tion for pru­dence, dis­cre­tion and hu­mil­ity, by what yard­stick is the spo­ken word mea­sured? If the sub­ject of the gift is il­lit­er­ate, the State must turn to ra­dio and television to ex­plain its work, its chal­lenges and it­self. A vac­uum cre­ated from a lack of reg­u­lar fac­tual in­for­ma­tion is likely to be filled by oth­ers of ques­tion­able in­ter­ests. Is such a sit­u­a­tion art or sci­ence? Is it nei­ther, or both?

This is­land’s cur­rent fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion makes for in­ter­est­ing dis­course. The pic­ture painted by Dr. Ubal­dus Ray­mond (Min­is­ter in the Min­istry of Fi­nance) gives an in­di­ca­tion of the par­lous state of the econ­omy. One may query Dr. Ray­mond’s find­ings but there is no art by which to avoid the truth (hard data) it rep­re­sents. Sta­tis­tics, sci­ence, eco­nom­ics and hard nu­mer­als dom­i­nate the work of the Min­istry of Fi­nance, at this time.

Dr. Ray­mond did not say what steps are to be taken to make Saint Lu­cia sim­ply sweet again. He did in­di­cate, how­ever, that start­ing with the bud­get for fis­cal 2016/17 the is­land should be­gin to ex­pe­ri­ence some relief from its long night of misery. His words were like a breath of fresh air to the long-suf­fer­ing.

The State has been var­i­ously de­scribed as the in­di­vid­ual writ large. If the in­di­vid­ual has no money to sus­tain him­self, what should he do? Is he ex­pected to sit and dither and waste time cry­ing over his sit­u­a­tion? No! He will rise and find the means to sus­te­nance and sur­vival. So, too, must the State! No leader can af­ford to twid­dle his thumbs or fall on his knees in rev­er­en­tial sup­pli­ca­tion, ex­pect­ing manna to fall from the sky. His duty is find sources of in­vest­ment and job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Such a leader must be frank and hon­est with an ac­count­ing of his ef­forts. He must never, never lie to the cit­i­zenry—or re­main silent when ques­tioned. To get and seek in­vest­ments is both an art and a sci­ence. Where to search and how much to in­vest in travel is the sci­ence part. Which pro­pos­als to trust is the art.

In our present sit­u­a­tion, govern­ment ought not to shift em­ploy­ees around as some un­learned neo­phytes and party hacks would rec­om­mend. The govern­ment can de­liver by work­ing with ex­pe­ri­enced civil ser­vants who can guide and help it build a bet­ter Saint Lu­cia. Those whose necks should be chopped are the ones who seek to frus­trate the ef­forts of gov­ern­ments. So, too, should the necks of party hacks placed there by the for­mer regime for rea­sons other than serv­ing we, the peo­ple. The coun­try must al­ways come be­fore de par­tee.

The first pri­or­ity of this new govern­ment ought to be not jobs for the boys. A bet­ter ex­am­ple must be set than was the stan­dard be­fore June 6. The govern­ment knows the peo­ple who helped get it elected. It knows, too, that char­ity be­gins at home and that pol­i­tics is still largely an art—not a pre­cise sci­ence.

For the above rea­sons, one ex­pects the art to be ex­e­cuted with a velvet-gloved iron fist. Such art is not to be found in books but in the hearts and minds of those who de­sire to lift their peo­ple to the unimag­in­able heights.

Prime Min­is­ter Allen Chas­tanet re­cently inked a frame­work agree­ment with DSH, at­tended by jour­nal­ists. Will such open­ness be the new norm for govern­ment?

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