By Terry Forrester
It is with great lack of foresight that the prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis has decided to reduce the cost of his citizenship by investment (CBI) program by 50 percent in an effort to raise funds for his country after the passing of Hurricane Maria.
We are all saddened by the devastation but this sends a shocking and terrible message to the international community and indeed to the rest of the Caribbean.
The St Kitts and Nevis prime minister needs to understand that this is a time for the region to come together as brothers and sisters to seriously look at the many challenges facing our region and to develop medium and long term strategies to be more self sufficient and independent. His decision speaks to a problem of serious systemic deficiency, which correlates to equal systemic social problems that are now affecting our region.
Only a few months ago the islands in the OECS agreed to a protocol of jointly strengthening the region’s CBI programs by sharing information on applicants who are refused so that they don’t hop to another island as a new applicant.
This strategy is good and speaks to the seriousness of “due diligence” and therefore any member who is that desperate may have the tendency to bend the rules and compromise the integrity of the entire Caribbean CBI program.
This is why we need strong leadership in the region and strong institutions to help build capacity and integrity in the Caribbean.
We seem to be lacking true leadership and direction. The political style of many politicians in the Caribbean, Grenada included, is one of ‘dependency’.
This misguided “political dependency syndrome”, which has been practiced over the years, is now unfortunately coming home to roost.
Many of our political leaders have taught our people that “If you vote for me, I will look after you.” This political handout strategy over the decades has cemented the thinking among large sections of our Caribbean populations that they don’t have to work.
This culture has also brought about and caused a serious breakdown in law and order, increased sex crimes, violence, suicides, poor relationships, lack of trust, low productivity, low implementation rate, low self esteem, increased begging, all because of selfish politicians who continue to keep the people in a state of mental and physical poverty and ignorance while our God-given resources, including agriculture, are left in ruins and our food import bills sky rocket to the hills. We are in desperate times and therefore desperate measures are needed.
The people need to understand that the political dependency syndrome through the policy of handouts is intended to benefit only the politician who is selfish and uncaring as he maintains power through his strategy of keeping his people in poverty so he can continue with his ‘Santa Claus’ program of handouts rather than sourcing real jobs in agro-industries and other opportunities to provide a real “hand-up” to the people.
This is a crime against the people. Nonetheless, the people have since become wise to the handouts and therefore have framed their minds into a culture over the decades to take what they can get from the politician because the next time would be just before the next election. It has gotten so bad that some people are even boldly stating their needs to the media and announcing “no road, no vote”, etc, etc.
Our Caribbean leaders are all guilty of this trend and hence contributed to the poor state of mind and lack of dignity that most of our grass-roots Caribbean young men and women are suffering from today: Lack of direction, lack of purpose, lack of morality, lack of dignity, lack of self worth, are all symptoms of what many political leaders in the Caribbean are guilty of cultivating and shaping. They all share a legacy of selfishness so as to maintain their power and kingdom.
Meanwhile, the effects of that culture have not escaped the fabric of our regional institutions and I will prove to you how this is all correlated.
In a recent report by Dr Warren Smith, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, on Monday, September 18, as he delivered remarks at the Caribbean Leadership and Transformation Forum, entitled “Delivering Results”, he reflected on “the low implementation rate that exists in the Caribbean”. He cited the absence of “political will, an acute shortage of capacity, weak execution, low achievement and poor delivery” as indicators of systemic problems affecting our Caribbean region.
I am therefore reiterating that there is a correlation to what the CDB president spoke about and we therefore need to address the issue as a region.
There is a kind of virus that has infected many of our politicians and therefore all they can see is themselves as a “Santa Claus” and how they can retain power forever. They have corrupted the minds of our people with continued false promises, farfetched policies and have failed to inculcate in the minds of the masses that hard work and education are the main routes to success. The notion of foreign aid and “investors lining up” are just straight up lies. Our people need to wake up and stop thinking that political handouts will sustain them, hence the resulting negative effects as clearly expressed by the CDB president
This trend needs to be reversed and corrected sooner than later because it is crippling the growth of our region. Our politicians need to inculcate in the minds of our people that hard work and commitment to succeed are the main ingredients to self-sufficiency. The Bible tells us that by the “sweat of thy brow, thou shall eat bread”, but the uncaring and dictatorial nature of many politicians in the region are showing by deeds and words that “by the sweat of thy brow, during election period, thou shall get handouts”, hence the continued culture as indicated above.
We therefore need to promote a new direction, a new breed of caring politicians to help reverse this dangerous trend in the region.