By Dr Isaac Newton
How do we examine the United Progressive Party (UPP) government’s performance for the past nine years? Shall we approach it with delight or doubt?
I suggest another view-- a dispassionate criticism that considers both the finite limits and the infinite possibilities of nation building. Also we should ask: How do we openly participate in our own development so that we become the active centre of progress?
Dr Isaac Newton is an international leadership and change management consultant and political adviser who specialises in government and business relations, and sustainable development projects. Dr Newton works extensively in West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America, and is a graduate of Oakwood College, Harvard, Princeton and Columbia. He has published several books on personal development and written many articles on economics, leadership, political, social, and faith-based issues
In response to my recent article entitled “Why PM Spencer is wrong
,” one reader pushed back. He offered a list of the government’s accomplishments. I have chosen to include only the most salient parts of our sharing to stimulate serious reflection. I hope this helps us constantly re-evaluate the best path to keeping our eyes on the star and feet on the floor.
Ponder. “Every noble work is at first impossible,” Thomas Carlyle.
Doctor, you could not be more wrong… Your assumption that the policies of the UPP government has "practically wiped out our vibrant middle class" is bull-pokey.
In spite of the unprecedented challenges the UPP has faced, the government has delivered. The UPP is committed to putting people first. Please find a modicum of UPP achievements below, that common folks can identify with.
• Pensioners now collect minimum cumulative pension of $1,150 per month. Under ALP in 2003 received just $250 per month
• Giving more to pensioners by increasing monthly pensions to $800
• 133% increase in minimum social security pension to $350
• Rescuing Mt St Johns Medical Center to give better service to the denizen
• No taxes on wheel chairs, prosthetics or hearing aids
• $350 per month for folks over 70 who previously received no pension or social security
• Taking care of widows and widowers by giving them two-thirds of spouse's pension
• Senior citizens get 50% reduction in property tax
• No ABST on medical, nursing, dental and optical services
• $2,500 grant for seniors, disabled and needy to improve homes
• Introduced government residential assistance and care program (GRACE)
• No embarkation tax for over 60
• School Meal Program. Over 1 million nutritious meals served 2010
• $350 yearly grant for school uniforms for every primary school student
• $500 yearly grant for school uniforms for every secondary school student
• National student loan fund offers student s low interest rate loans for higher education
• Police protection of women and children a top priority. Units dedicated to training for gender based crimes. Police task force on sexual violence set up
• (STEP) skills training and empowerment program to help unemployed single mothers find jobs
• Widows of pensioners to receive tw-thirds pension for the first time
My good sir, there is much more...
I affirmed his central point by probing its measure, standard and assumptions:
My Dearest Friend (Name withheld),
I appreciate your sage analysis … Is your laundry list a spectacular depiction of the sustainable, humane and prosperous society that Antigua and Barbuda has become under the management of the UPP? …This evidence of national development is boldly detached from poverty reduction. Yet you haven't communicated that it is a matter of utmost urgency for fresh discourse and proper action…
Nation building boils down to managing complexities in bad and good times, by utilizing the best human capital through innovative capacities available for the concrete improvement of the lives and living circumstances of the masses...
The connections between your list of deliverables and the realities of most Antiguans and Barbudans override the purpose of the higher public good. It fails to detail how our nation is healthier in material wealth, in body, in soul and in spirit. I dare not say that those who uncritically accept our state of affairs as the best that we could have done under the worst of conditions are guilty of the most ludicrous self- delusion…
Developing Antigua and Barbuda can’t be reduced to simple ideas for happy children who are unconcerned about the fragility of our national future which is currently heading for a sure catastrophe…
Let us find a healthy way for each to endeavor so that all could achieve! Remember that truth is a liability to the greedy and the powerful. Truth can only champion a just cause at great cost…
Bright and sunny regard…”
The question, “What sort of development we ought to pursue?” is not settled by simply saying that the UPP did a few things. The government’s actions should align with positive human development. I suspect if the UPP had taken the mistakes of previous administrations as its laboratory to be more caring, resourceful, loyal, creative, determined and daring, the country would be more advanced.
Arthur Burns is right, “In achieving ideals, a reverence for learning and education is indispensable.” We should explore more fully the relevant skills and strategies our leaders need in the 21st century to lead with admirable results.
From my meditation on this reader’s “Do List” I cannot say that the government has made a big difference in the lives of the men and women on the street, and in the wider context of national and regional growth.
Given the broken state of the country, even if one were to add much more to this “Do List” it remains a prism, which reveals and hides heart-wrenching suffering. These include: hunger-induced crimes, joblessness, homelessness, bankruptcy, choking taxes and unmanageable inflation. Add deep psychic pain, especially of so many intelligent young Antiguans and Barbudans, who are forced to live without while their elected officials live in plenty. Worst yet, foreign companies and consultants have gotten a millions at the expense of the people themselves.
Only in our view of the future that our past is both condemned and valued. The people will only get what they demand. We cannot risk being uncritical in choosing a better future. If we do, we’ll cry later!