The Scarlet Pimpernel Blog
Wednesday, 01 December 2010 06:55
By The Scarlet Pimpernel
Our Political Leaders- After half a century of political observations, I am completely persuaded that the position of politician in Antigua & Barbuda is undoubtedly the best occupation anyone could have in the known world.
It is the career path through which one receives the opportunity to become a minister of government, which is the doorway to a surfeit of legal and extra-legal perks, power, and authority once your party gets elected. Persons with minimal job qualifications, little or no education, leadership experience, or moral fortitude will suffice, because in that peculiar line of work, less is more.
It is all about partisan party politics in Antigua & Barbuda, hence, individual standing, and qualities like integrity, personal commitment to the common good, patriotism, competence, and vision are overshadowed by the colours of red and blue, which have more invidious connotations for the people in Little Antigua (LA) than they do for the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles (LA).
Moreover, the most incredible rags to riches stories unfold in Antigua & Barbuda’s political arena, where seeming political enemies, who are really tight social friends, tactfully protect each other, while role-playing opposite sides of various sophomoric, theatrical scuffles, artfully orchestrated to confuse the people into keeping their attention off the real issue, which is the disastrous amount of government spending that reaches the pockets of our government ministers.
Since all of our politicians either have their hands in the cookie jar, or have been there and done that, at one time or another, none is naive enough to start squealing on the others. Consequently, a fiendish fraternal protection is guaranteed for all politicians, despite much public “talk” about investigation, arrest, and jail. We have even seen misguided civic organizations like LUMP stifled into oblivion by the strong allegiances within the political fraternity.
For more than a generation, clever double-talk and barren promises have comforted the aspirations of a people far from foolish. Venerated behavioural psychologist BF Skinner would be proud of how our politicians, over the years, have astutely purveyed a sophisticated form of operant conditioning on the people of Antigua & Barbuda, to the point of abuse, where even highly educated, professional men and women have been transformed into gullible hacks who stubbornly refuse to employ the critical faculties when it comes to local party politics, and vociferously defend the callousness of their abusers. The few people who manage to rise above this malady perpetually blame the unfortunate victims, ignoring their learned powerlessness. Indeed, this political reality is more bizarre than fiction.The Electorate
A poor, para-literate, politically polarized populace with an unbelievably penchant for neglect and an extremely short political memory constitute the majority of the local electorate. The business class and the university educated professional class, that I affectionately call the “local bourgeoisie,” must remain in the good graces of their ministers, because they rely on “party favors” for survival in our micro economy. The members in this clique have learned various sweet sounding melodies to sing for their supper, while others sink below the roving radars that track political affiliation and fake non-partisanship to avoid punishment. The money class remain loyal members of the PIP (Party in Power) and get fat off supporting the corrupt practices of the PIP.
In Antigua & Barbuda, the people have eyes, but cannot see; they have ears, but do not listen; they only hear what they want; even brilliant minds refuse to understand any information presented that contradicts preconceived political convictions. Sensible individuals regularly excuse and condone wrongdoings within the political party they support. The political savvy of the electorate is publicly characterized by such choice phrases as: “… Antiguans are not a reading public” … “Antiguans have very short memories” and my favourite, “Antiguans are not quick to become outraged and violent like Jamaicans” when they get duped by politicians. My guess is that we have simply lost the revolutionary spirit that lifted us out of chattel slavery and into wage slavery.
Antigua & Barbuda has a very high literacy level, but the majority of the people do not read, and those who do, read headlines, blurbs, and pictures. Thus, the culture of political learning involves carefully listening to political talking heads and participating in the cult of “say after me”. Meanwhile, the media is masterfully employed as the tail that wags the dog, and it does a remarkable job of telling the people what to think. The National Debt
Recently, the people have been told to be concerned, for a political moment, about the national debt; consequently both sides of the political divide participate in theatrical performances to defend the right of their political party to mortgage the nation’s future. Evading observation in the countless debates which have clued the public into focusing on the accuracy of the numbers, rests the real story, an epic tragedy of Shakespearean quality:
The loans which have skyrocketed the national debt are a clear and convincing indication of the means through which government corruption is generally financed. Believe it or not, it is through these loans that have unconscionably swollen the national debt that politicians become instant millionaires. Clearly, some of the loan monies get spent on projects that helped to develop the country, but the lion’s share of the national debt has been transferred into personal accounts.
To mask incompetence and encourage corruption, both political parties have been feeding the people the same lie; they both agree that it is extremely difficult for Antigua & Barbuda to acquire development loans on the international market, on account of its bad credit rating and abysmal repayment record. It sounds good, it seems logical, but it is not the whole story, which makes it an attempt to deceive the people, which is my definition of a lie.
This collusive tactic is perpetrated to enable the government to avoid legitimate, low interest loans from sources that do not provide kick-backs to government ministers. Consequently, local and regional lenders willing to assist in corrupt development loan financing practices are the preferred accessories.
Put on your critical thinking cap and ponder the reason(s) why local banks that have very strict risk aversion policies and generally deny loans to enterprising individuals and local companies, would grant enormous loans to a government that has an extremely high risk of default. Should shareholders of our local banks be prepared to file class action lawsuits when they realise that local banks have been major political campaign contributors and have agreed to be rewarded with high interest government loans? Instead of condemnation for this illicit collusion, the people are encouraged to applaud our local banks’ support of the government, and not pay attention to where all of the funds from the IMF disbursements are going.
I sometimes work in the area of large scale international financing of private and government projects in Africa and Latin America, and I can assure you that international lenders are sensitive to the economic plight of developing countries. For example, Barclays Bank has loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to African countries that have much worse economic situations than Antigua & Barbuda.
High commercial interest rates in Latin America make international financing the only feasible source of funding for numerous government projects. In this light, Antigua cannot legitimately claim inability to secure development loans internationally when China, which has excellent relations with Antigua, is one of the primary sources of low interest loans to developing countries.
The world’s money supply is based on debt, not gold, and there is a mind-boggling amount of legal and “processed” money in circulation which has to be put to work to generate profits in the form of interest payments on debt. A little known fact is that most of the monies acquired from illegal activities are cleansed by respected, legitimate international banking entities that are always happy to finance feasible large-scale government development projects.
International lenders will routinely provide loans to relatively stable governments that can provide a dedicated income stream for repayment. It is for this reason that I cannot understand why the UPP government is bent on divesting all of our statutory corporations, which are their best means of qualifying for the international financing required to revive the national economy, because much more than taxes is required at this point.We Need a Saviour
Now that corruption on the part of our political leaders has brought the nation to the precipice of poverty, widespread joblessness, starvation, wanton crime and violence, are we willing to remove our red or blue blinders and embrace a patriotic disposition characterized by a willingness to call a spade a spade and condemn the wrongdoings of the leaders we desperately support?
Our political leaders have demonstrated their utter cluelessness in the face of our national economic meltdown. Despite plenty of the talk for which our politicians are famous, there is no particular or collective plan to revive the economy.
I realise how scary it is to digest the fact that our elected leaders and opposition are incapable of meeting the challenges that face the nation, but in these dark days I urge you to cast off the shackles of partisanship and embrace the Golden Rule of love for your country and for each other, and I guarantee you that a saviour will appear among the many stones that the builder has rejected.
The Scarlet Pimpernel is the nom de plume of an Antiguan born “knowledge broker” whose intercontinental exploits involve work as a university founder and educator, military strategist, international legal consultant, United States prosecutor, published author, trade advisor in Latin America and international investment counselor.
The inimitable acuity of the “Pimpernel” is sought after by entrepreneurs, investors and governments from Dubai to Brazil. Recent work, created for Latin America, which speaks to the conjunction of technology and education to reduce cost, motivate students and improve testing results will be translated and introduced to school systems across the Caribbean later this year. “Employing anonymity to domesticate the ego ...”