The politics of under-development

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Dear Sir

In Saint Lucia, every five years a small group of individuals come to gather with the aim of capturing state power.

In recent years, the state power most sought after has been the power to issue contracts. Thus we saw tussles over the contracts for the rebuilding of the HIA, Choc Housing Projects St.Judes and the Castries Gros Islet Highway.

At the community level, elections are now decided by mini contract allocation with voter mobilization linked to grass cutting, home care workers and transportation contracts.

In essence, we have become a “contract democracy” with ghetto youth, on street corners shouting” boss man give me a little contract”. The new paradigm is the result of a shift in the role of politicians from primarily legislators to project managers.

It is an acceptance of a kind of “End of History” in which there are no contested solutions to what currently exists and helping people cope with conquest in return for votes is now the “logical” possibility of our politics.

As a result, a new tool of enquiry is ignored and the opportunity for empirical research is denied. Thus today no one can really explain what is driving the gun violence in Vieux Fort or the escalating homicide rates. Nor can we explain why the food import bill is rising, yet our youth unemployment continues to be high and no one can figure out how to link the two adverse economic factors.

But worse of all we seem to have abandoned values that would lead to the creation of a more equitable and just society.

Tolerance for example is increasingly being replaced with insults and threats of violence. Consensus seeking or building is interpreted as betrayal, and even democracy is challenged by a desire to have a kind of Leninist dictatorship of the ruling elite, with each new administration enforcing the loss of legitimacy to speak of its opponents.

Politics in Saint Lucia is played out by creating artificial barriers like the boundaries European colonialists drew in Africa. As a result, strategies for community development are linked not to national goals, but to voter segmentation.

The net results of our politics are now nothing short of “underdevelopment”, with economic stagnation and increasing apathy. Surely the logic of this situation leads to growing disenchantment. How long can we continue along that path?

Last year the rhetoric of “Five to Stay Alive ” mounted to a mess of maladministration. What are our expectations of “putting you first” without a meaningful departure from the politics of “under-development”?

Samuel Bowers

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