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‘Mega storms’ and rebuilding the Republic

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How the country weathers the likely “mega storms” David Abdulah recently spoke about depends on astute leadership. Symptoms of impoverished leadership foreshadow optimism. It is stewardship clueless about productivity, transparency, quality control and priorities. Building institutional capacity is not on the agenda, so it appoints unsuitable people to positions. Self-preservation motivates decisions.

The Government spent an estimated $25 billion (an unconfirmed amount) to bail out Clico and now plans to avoid accountability on how it spent the money. 

In October 2010, it told Parliament it had spent $7.3 billion on the bailout and that an estimated additional sum of $7.0 billion was needed to settle all debts making a total of $14.3 billion. 

In the 2015 parliamentary budget debate, we heard the sum was $20 billion and more recently, $25 billion. Exactly what is the sum? From inception, the Government threw a blanket of secrecy around the bailout. 

Now, instead of doing the principled thing and accounting to the public for how it spent the money, it plans to use more money, which it could better spend, to appeal the High Court’s judgement ostensibly for reason of client confidentiality. 

The High Court ordered it to publish audited accounts and information on creditors. It hasn’t considered that finding a way to balance client confidentiality with the need for transparency in the use of public money is the appropriate thing to do.

Abdulah is right. “It’s time for the Second Republic brought about by constitution reform as well as reforms to the culture and practice of politics.” He cited three mega storms: the economy, institutional collapse, and failed leadership.

He said the economy is in trouble with falling prices of energy, which account for 40 per cent of GDP and 85 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. 

That’s not alarmist. Said Terrence Farrell quoting Central Bank statistics in his recent article entitled “Reckless Endangerment,” energy revenues fell by $3.3 billion or 27.5 per cent in the first eight months of the current fiscal year. Spending increased by $580 million or 1.6 per cent. Capital expenditures grew by 9.3 per cent, and Government’s revenues declined by 1.7 per cent. After profligate spending, it now blames failed fiscal and monetary policies on the elections.

Institutions are collapsing. The justice system is in distress, the prison and public services are in a mess, and Central Bank’s policies necessitate urgent consideration. 

No state institution is unscathed from unprincipled behaviour. Continuing to occupy minds and space is Section 34, which would have resulted in the acquittal of campaign financiers charged with fraud. 

Commentators have focused on the early proclamation, but Parliament was misled about consultations with the legal fraternity prior to the Government bringing the bill to Parliament. 

The Law Association, the DPP and the Criminal Bar denied that the section was in the bill at the time the Government held consultations with them.

The Government had five years to change the bureaucratic process for hiring a Police Commissioner. It didn’t. 

Why? It continues to disrespect Commissioner Stephen Williams now acting for over three years, compromising him and the Police Service. Surely, if there is a national priority, it is the level of crime and the Police Service.

On another note, the police confirmed a threat to the life of the Opposition Leader, and the Minister of National Security said he had no knowledge. 

After media scrutiny, he said he knew unofficially. It was not an encouraging sign coming after the recent prison break, and after the police leveraged their power against citizens, locked down the country and caused millions in business losses. 

The police executive, the Government and National Security were clueless.

About “failed leadership.” Every major problem goes back to leadership competence. Whether it is “reckless endangerment” of the economy, or deception by firing ministers for just reason then rewarding them with consultancy positions at the taxpayers’ expense or, bringing national security offices and the country’s image into disrepute. 

International bribery in the Hyatt Regency made headline news, but that was of no significance in Government’s decision to appoint a Minister of National Security.

Every election provides threats and opportunities. We should not surrender to defeatist memes that all governments are corrupt, so it doesn’t matter whom we put. That belief reflects the electorate’s fatigue with crookedness, but it also tantamount to an abandonment of our children’s future to lawlessness. 

Corruption is not only bribery and fraud it includes political cronyism, nepotism, and influence peddling. People know they are not putting saints in office when they elect a government. 

They know there is bound to be some measure of unethical behaviour as in all institutions. Still, wrongdoing should be the exception, should not be without consequences to people involved, and not a leadership trait compounded by incompetence. 

The result will be an economic disaster, total collapse of public institutions and chaos. The achievement of projects could not compensate for the immense harm done to a society socially and economically. 

A government must govern responsibly. There is an opportunity to build the Republic.


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