Con­science of A Pro­gres­sive

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BOOK REVIEW - By Richard Varela

Cle­ment Wulf-Soulage’s read­able and en­gag­ing 250-page book, “Con­science of a Pro­gres­sive”, was pub­lished in June this year - at a time when lit­er­a­ture on “pro­gres­sive think­ing” around the world is boom­ing.

The book seeks to re­con­fig­ure the de­vel­op­ment mind-set and so­cial par­a­digms of is­land na­tion for its own suc­cess, by spell­ing out the pro­gres­sive po­si­tion on lead­er­ship, democ­racy, ed­u­ca­tion, taxes and spend­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and for­eign pol­icy; while pro­vid­ing in­sights into the path of eco­nomic re­cov­ery and de­vel­op­ment, path­ways to so­cial progress and change, and good eco­nomic gov­er­nance.

“Con­science of a Pro­gres­sive” is fast be­com­ing a think-tank, due to the wide range of ideas and opin­ions pre­sented, dis­cussed and sub­stan­ti­ated. The au­thor ex­plains, in seven com­pact and mul­ti­fac­eted chap­ters, that through pos­i­tive so­cial and po­lit­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion, peo­ple can change their def­i­ni­tion of pol­i­tics to one of pub­lic ser­vice, scope for the coun­try’s bright fu­ture, what they can do for their coun­try and the most de­sir­able bur­den to carry for the good of the State.

He as­serts with much con­vic­tion the in­evitable need for so­ci­eties and economies to make the most ef­fi­cient use of all their re­sources (hu­man, struc­tural, in­fras­truc­tural, min­eral, etc) – in or­der to achieve the great­est lev­els of equity, sus­tain­abil­ity and progress, in an age of cut­throat com­pe­ti­tion, au­to­ma­tion, eco­nomic lib­er­al­iza­tion and glob­al­iza­tion.

Wulf-Soulage be­lieves that pro­gres­sive think­ing should em­brace con­struc­tive ini­tia­tives and ideas that sup­port the cre­ation of the skilled jobs needed, equip the na­tion’s chil­dren with the ed­u­ca­tion and skills they need for the fu­ture and an­chor value-creat­ing en­ter­prises in Saint Lu­cia.

His claims and po­si­tions are con­vinc­ing not only be­cause he dis­cusses com­plex eco­nomic and so­cial ques­tions with rare lu­cid­ity and skill, but also be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence in re­search­ing and teach­ing the sub­jects he chooses to dis­cuss in this new book.

Wulf-Soulage is at his best in the chap­ter on eco­nomic and busi­ness af­fairs where he ad­dresses is­sues rang­ing from mid­dle-class eco­nom­ics and SME de­vel­op­ment to di­as­pora cap­i­tal and CARICOM. Eco­nomic growth, he as­serts, re­quires a sound eco­nomic base of en­gi­neer­ing skills, and this can­not be achieved with­out an in­crease in the num­ber of en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists. “We need to de­velop an econ­omy that ac­tu­ally de­signs, builds, and sells stuff. Saint Lu­cia needs to be­come a more dy­namic and pro­duc­tive na­tion – one averse to wast­ing re­sources (labour, op­por­tu­nity, time, ma­te­ri­als, land, etc). There is no doubt that gov­ern­ment can and must play a vi­tal role in pro­mot­ing an ef­fi­cient econ­omy, but the brunt of the ef­fort must be on the shoul­ders of re­spon­si­ble cit­i­zens, func­tion­ing in­sti­tu­tions and an un­fet­tered pri­vate sec­tor”, he ar­gues.

On so­cial and po­lit­i­cal mat­ters, Wulf-Soulage con­tends that so­ci­ety is now clam­or­ing for so­cial and eco­nomic re­mod­el­ing and po­lit­i­cal re­newal. For such sweep­ing re­forms, he sug­gests the need for both tac­ti­cal and vi­sion­ary lead­er­ship to ad­dress the un­ac­cept­able lev­els of poverty and il­lit­er­acy, in­crease na­tional in­come, build the eco­nomic in­fra­struc­ture, at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment, ed­u­cate the masses, up­grade our health sys­tem and strengthen our lo­cal and na­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Mod­ern per­spec­tives of “pro­gres­sive think­ing”, as re­flected in this thought­ful and en­thralling book, are built upon the ideas of gen­er­a­tions of pro­gres­sives from Theodore Roo­sevelt and Franklin Roo­sevelt to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama: “Ev­ery­one gets a fair shot, ev­ery­one does his or her fair share, and ev­ery­one plays by the same rules.” In other words, “ev­ery­one should do his or her fair share to build this life through ed­u­ca­tion and hard work and through ac­tive con­tri­bu­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in pub­lic life.”

As Saint Lu­cia ap­proaches its 40th an­niver­sary of po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence in 2019, WulfSoulage urges us to pre­pare for that mile­stone by com­mit­ting our­selves to a process of ed­u­ca­tional trans­for­ma­tion and men­tal re­newal. Our is­land by then, he hopes, would have ex­pe­ri­enced a new com­ing of age. In his pro­logue, he makes the fol­low­ing ap­peal: “Let’s make the next decade the one that ush­ered in the men­tal­ity change needed for us to de­velop and to progress as a na­tion. Let’s in­spire our chil­dren to do more, dream more, be more and be­come more. All of us must demon­strate an in­ter­est in the fu­ture di­rec­tion of our coun­try by par­tic­i­pat­ing in its gov­er­nance and de­vel­op­ment. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery pa­tri­otic ci­ti­zen to con­trib­ute to the vi­tal­ity and well be­ing of Saint Lu­cia, for the love of coun­try.”

Wulf-Soulage’s book couldn’t have come at a more valu­able time in our na­tion’s his­tory.

Get your copy of the “Con­science of A Pro­gres­sive” at The book­yard.

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