Dr Fletcher Of­fers Politi­cians New Recipe

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Although gen­er­ally well re­ceived, last week’s lead story en­ti­tled The Role of Gov­ern­ment is to Em­power the Ci­ti­zen to Lead De­vel­op­ment ev­i­dently was pre­cisely what some would pre­fer had never been writ­ten. This cat­e­gory of reader tends to skulk around in un­der­taker ac­cou­ter­ments, ready to bury any­thing re­motely crit­i­cal of their fa­vorite po­lit­i­cal party. At the heart of the ear­lier men­tioned story were state­ments by one of the UWI’s fa­vorite sons, es­pe­cially revered in some quar­ters for his 2015 book Bri­tain’s Black Debt: Slav­ery and Repa­ra­tions for Car­ib­bean Slav­ery and Na­tive Geno­cide.

The fol­low­ing is taken from a glow­ing re­view by Martha Biondi: “If there are weak­nesses in Bri­tain’s

Black Debt, it’s per­haps that Beck­les’ un­der­stand­able stress on the vic­tim­iza­tion of the de­scen­dants of en­slaved Africans leaves lit­tle room for ap­pre­ci­at­ing the rich his­tory of their po­lit­i­cal re­sis­tance and cul­tural re­silience. ‘The spir­i­tual and cul­tural de­struc­tive­ness of th­ese ac­tions have dam­aged the do­mes­tic cul­ture of black peo­ple to this day,’ he ar­gues, point­ing in par­tic­u­lar to ‘neg­a­tive fam­ily val­ues.’ In many re­spects, this study stands as a cor­rec­tive to the pop­u­lar fo­cus on re­cu­per­at­ing cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal ‘agency’ in African dis­apora his­to­ri­og­ra­phy.”

But enough of Beck­les, save for his warn­ing to the Saint Lu­cia Labour Party at its 2005 con­fer­ence of del­e­gates in Vieux Fort: “Any po­lit­i­cal party that pro­motes in­ter­nal con­flict, that gen­er­ates un­nec­es­sary di­vi­sion among the ci­ti­zens, is a party that turns its en­er­gies against the so­ci­ety—and it should be ban­ished from the so­ci­ety. We are look­ing for lead­ers who are not vin­dic­tive, who are not par­ti­san, who will stand above those is­sues and mo­bi­lize every good for so­cial de­vel­op­ment. My rec­om­men­da­tion al­ways will be: let us look into our so­ci­ety and find the things that bind us; find the groups that we can co­here, and learn how to sup­press con­flict. Key to all of this is ed­u­ca­tion.”

Yes, we’re back to that word again: ed­u­ca­tion. In the pro­logue to his work in progress en­ti­tled

How To Run A Gov­ern­ment, Jimmy Fletcher (for whom no in­tro­duc­tion is nec­es­sary!) ac­knowl­edges “the rapid ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and the per­va­sive reach of so­cial me­dia and global in­for­ma­tion have caused Car­ib­bean so­ci­eties and ci­ti­zens to be­come in­creas­ingly in­flu­enced and shaped by ex­ter­nal cul­tures and at­ti­tudes.” Which left me won­der­ing: Is that re­ally true? Are we only now be­com­ing what in typ­i­cal fash­ion V.S. Naipaul de­scribed as “mimic men?"

Still quot­ing from Dr. Fletcher’s pro­logue: “Eco­nomic con­di­tions have been neg­a­tively af­fected by an ero­sion and in some in­stances, loss of pref­er­en­tial ac­cess to tra­di­tional mar­kets for pri­mary com­modi­ties,

a lingering global re­ces­sion and ris­ing na­tional debt pro­files as gov­ern­ments scram­ble to pro­vide ser­vices and up­grade in­fra­struc­ture to match more so­phis­ti­cated ex­pec­ta­tions of elec­torates that have been seduced into be­liev­ing any­thing and ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble with a change in ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Does any­thing in the im­me­di­ately above sug­gest we are to­day less re­liant than be­fore on our for­mer slave masters? Why did our ba­nana in­dus­try de­pend for its ex­is­tence on “pref­er­en­tial ac­cess” to mar­kets? Was there no way around that?

How much has changed since the WTO brought its Cy­clops foot down on suc­cess­ful ba­nana pro­duc­tion in our re­gion by declar­ing pref­er­en­tial treat­ment il­le­gal? As for the se­duc­tion that Fletcher holds re­spon­si­ble for our de­luded state, who were (are?) the se­duc­ers? Were any on them seated near the podium from which Hi­lary Beck­les de­liv­ered his ear­lier cited 2005 ad­dress?

Still more rev­e­la­tions from the pro­logue of How To

Run A Gov­ern­ment: “The so­cial fab­ric of the so­ci­eties has been stretched to fray­ing point by an anachro­nis­tic ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that does not pre­pare young grad­u­ates for the world into which they emerge, by the in­creas­ing cost of health care to pop­u­la­tions that have be­come more seden­tary and more prone to the neg­a­tive im­pact of chronic non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, and by wor­ry­ing crime lev­els that are wors­ened by the per­ni­cious in­flu­ences of drug cul­tures.”

Ad­di­tion­ally: “The onus has re­mained largely on the gov­ern­ment to solve the prob­lems of the coun­try and suc­ces­sive po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and par­ties have per­pet­u­ated the be­lief that most of the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing the coun­try have been brought on by poor gov­er­nance of the op­pos­ing party dur­ing its term in of­fice and can be solved sim­ply by a change of ad­min­is­tra­tion. There is lit­tle mag­na­nim­ity in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape of th­ese coun­tries and rarely is there a com­ing to­gether of forces and ef­forts across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide to ad­dress the fun­da­men­tal prob­lems of the coun­try.”

Again Beck­les comes to mind: “No po­lit­i­cal party can see it­self as re­spon­si­ble for all the so­lu­tions and all the an­swers to a coun­try's prob­lems . . . We are look­ing for lead­ers who will stand above the is­sues and mo­bi­lize every good for so­cial de­vel­op­ment.”

Was Beck­les, when he spoke th­ese words back in 2005, think­ing of lead­ers as in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? Did he have in mind George Od­lum be­fore he turned from ed­u­ca­tor to of­fice as­pi­rant? Did Beck­les de­lib­er­ately avoid speak­ing of politi­cians when he said what was needed were “lead­ers who are not vin­dic­tive, not par­ti­san, who will stand above the is­sues and mo­bi­lize every good for so­cial de­vel­op­ment?”

His au­di­ence notwith­stand­ing, was Beck­les ac­tu­ally say­ing, as did Sir Dwight Ven­ner in ef­fect sev­eral months be­fore his pass­ing shortly be­fore last Christ­mas, that the main prob­lem con­fronting th­ese is­lands has less to do with their economies than with their lead­er­ship?

Dr. Fletcher in­tro­duces him­self to his fu­ture read­ers thus: “I have been lucky to see gov­ern­ment op­er­ate from sev­eral dif­fer­ent an­gles.” First he was a pub­lic of­fi­cer, “fresh from com­plet­ing my first grad­u­ate stud­ies and full of ideas on how I could cause real change in my new min­istry.” Alas he re­signed his po­si­tion af­ter four years—“in frus­tra­tion at what ap­peared to be the un­will­ing­ness of the se­nior man­age­ment of the min­istry to change a model that was not pro­duc­ing re­sults and was wast­ing hu­man and fi­nan­cial re­sources.”

He re­turned three years later to the pub­lic ser­vice, this time as the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary at the min­istry that had driven him near round the bend with frus­tra­tion. He now had the op­por­tu­nity to “ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­tent of the power that a per­ma­nent sec­re­tary, the ad­min­is­tra­tive head of the min­istry, wielded to make the changes in the op­er­a­tions of the min­istry.”

He moved on af­ter four years to the po­si­tion of cab­i­net sec­re­tary with the op­por­tu­nity “to wit­ness in op­er­a­tion the real lo­cus of de­ci­sion mak­ing in gov­ern­ment—the Cab­i­net of Min­is­ters.” In a way, Fletcher writes, “this per­spec­tive pro­vided sharper fo­cus. I got to see the in­ter­play be­tween the work of the per­ma­nent sec­re­tary and the think­ing of the politi­cians who had been man­dated with the con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide pol­icy di­rec­tion to that work.”

Be sure to read more from Dr. James Fletcher’s work in progress—How To Run A Gov­ern­ment—in our next is­sue. I prom­ise your eyes will be opened, per­haps wider than is com­fort­able!

Dr. James Fletcher, for­mer Saint Lu­cian Min­is­ter for Pub­lic Ser­vice, In­for­ma­tion, Broad­cast­ing, Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment, En­ergy, Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy: He is cur­rently putting the fin­ish­ing touches to a book en­ti­tled ‘How To Run A Gov­ern­ment.’

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