By Dr Isaac Newton
With the local economy in the wilderness, it’s not surprising that the momentum is rigidly against the incumbent. By sheer numbers, the DNA of triumph is not decided on a single issue.
Party unity, the perception of likeability, competence and resourcefulness conveyed by leaders, can turn seven mornings into a dreadful midnight. Promises of plenty won’t replace expectations of execution. Nor shortcomings can’t be identical twins.
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
The winners of the next general elections in Antigua and Barbuda will have to do three things. Implement a comprehensive economic recovery and growth plan against the fiscal constraints of the IMF; install a catch-fire national vision rooted in commonality, job creation, proper financial management, and innovative but sustainable approaches to education, taxation, healthcare, energy, social security and entrepreneurship and; convince voters that either a rescue mission is the best solution, or the current program is working effectively.
In speaking to ten individuals who identified themselves as registered voters, I asked, “What would turn you off from voting in the next 18 months?” 99.9 percent remarked: “No more of the same.” My guess suggests this message contains a double meaning. Beyond average, the people need tangible evidence from the government that brighter days will soon show up in a smiling economy. Yet, the bell curves for the opposition. Voters implied the need for the extraordinary. I wager that the opposition must cough up a superior picture of nation building, by balancing credible critiques with an outstanding plan of action.
You may ask: How could a single response represent a larger outpouring of unarticulated sentiments? Contrary to myth, if you pay keen attention to the backdrop information coming from the person on the street corner, in the barber shop and on the bus, the magnitude of emotions will clarify the political landscape. Disaffection is rising across party lines.
This is not just fatigue. It is a willingness to punish leaders who fail to convert diverse interests into the greater good. By accepting the people’s historical behavior at face value, you can miss their impulse for transformation between springing forward and falling back.
Although this statistic does not contain the weight of significance in correlation to the wider voting population, I am in touch with the national tea leaves. The people’s convictions, feelings and desires can make rarity become reality. I have seen political outcomes that are surprisingly predictable and at the same time, full of shocking wake up calls.
Finding the right measurement of the people’s dreams and needs is what winning the elections is about. The Antigua Labour Party (ALP) should be going after voters who will not automatically support its party colours. Independent voters require a unified party powered by both wisdom and fresh legs. They want a leader that can inspire pride in personal fulfillment and national development.
Will the ALP turn the curve with Lester Bird (former prime minister)? Can it get in with Robin (former deputy prime minister)? Could Labourites pull off an upset with Joseph (former tourism minister)? Perhaps, the party can adjust its sail with Gail (prominent senator) or maybe it feels whether from in front or behind, Brown can win anytime (party chairman). The fact that the leadership issue has not been finalized says the opposition can regress or progress, depending on how its big-picture strategy of ‘victory for the ALP’ is executed.
Nothing will destroy the credibility of the government if it miraculously turns the economy around. Multiple big projects will make a difference, only if full and livable employment is available. Through a series of coaxing supporters back into the fold, stimulating the business sector, and persuading young voters with entrepreneurial opportunities, the United Progressive People (UPP) government can re-position itself, as the administration of pluses and change.
On this principle, the UPP will have to motivate a wide cross section of people to participate in its people-first agenda. To re-brand itself as the preferred party in incremental and dramatic accomplishments, the government will have to justify past policy-seeds, in the context of present fruits and future harvests. Short of intelligently pursuing a strategy of achievements, the government's desire for constituency boundary reform (despite its rationale for equity) could result in all kinds of miscalculations based on chance alone. Immediate and mid-range deliverables must show that the UPP is a caring administration.
In any event, all political decisions, if they don’t withstand the test of national advancement, will prove to be senseless in the first place. That test is measured by the degree to which leaders meet the specific needs of different audiences. I hope in deciding the way forward, political strategists avoid the deadly sin of pride. It will cost a fortune; simply because it’s easy to be deceived by objective data interpreted through coloured lens. But the risks of being deceived without the merit of scientific data far outweigh the benefits.
I am confident that those who are invested in the political, economic, social and emotional success of the nation will spring forward by reaching back to our rich legacy of “Each endeavouring, all achieving.” Young and old are animated about the boiling issues of crime, poverty and inequality. Thank God, the nation is alert to healing, justice, restoration and prosperity for all. Our development will not stop with the next election. There is plenty to do. Getting it done will massage our maturing democracy. If am wrong, permit me to believe that our national ideals are still intact.