Outside – In As Others See Us In St Kitts.
St. Kitts Nevis is tiny in relation to practically any other nation on earth. As a consequence these two lovely islands are highly dependent on external investment since natural resources are scarce and the main USP is the climate and waters of the Caribbean. History as in all things influences our thinking and there is little doubt that ‘The colonial history including slavery’ still weigh heavily in the local psyche. However time marches on and the people and Government of SKN need to focus on their independent future as a young tourist economy with much to offer the world. The things we (ex-pats, investors) all love apart from the blissful climate, is the cheerful and essentially kindness of the local population. We see enterprise and learning, we see courtesy and kindness. Sadly we also see issues that are foreign to us, most of all the pernicious influence of patronage. In some ways in such a small community ‘patronage’ is endemic almost unavoidable. In everything from jobs, membership fees, to perks and contracts, patronage degrades from being helpful to ones friends to undue influence and ultimately to absolute corruption of the system. Everyone is aware of this but there appears to be no attempt at all to develop a system of government to counter this insidious foundation of the current civic system. There is of course a simple response to patronage and that is transparency. This a word barely used at all in the recent elections. Every party has promised the earth to its followers including good governance. The electoral process in St Kitts Nevis is hard for an outsider to understand. The results seem to depend on who can fly in the largest horde of overseas based ‘voters’.This to us outsiders indicates that the leading parties again demonstrates the complete contempt for the democratic ideal. By all means have the legitimate citizens who have property on the island have a proxy vote but most of us feel that flying in people, some of whom, have never before visiting SKN beyond reasonable. The night time deliveries if white goods as gifts from then sitting political partywas sad to behold and illustrates the corruption which until the election seemed endemic. It is often said that politicians everywhere are corrupt and that the very nature of power leads inevitably to this conclusion – need this be so? Perhaps, but surely there ought to be a clear understanding of what a democratic state stands for. Most politicians, I believe, set out to follow this ideal but so many fail and it seems that the political landscape in SKN is typical. Those of us expatriates who have invested heavily over the years have little if any reservations about the friendly people of the Federation but we do have trouble in understanding the ways and means by which the islands are run. When I say we have invested heavily this is certainly true of most of the nation’s resident expatriates, those who spend time and money here. There is of course an entirely new sort of expatriate who have chosen to buy citizenship by investment. Many of these folk will never visit SKN and will use their passports simply as a convenience to travel the world. In many cases this is ethically tenable though one has to query why anyone needs a second passport at all. If the grounds are that they being persecuted or are reasonable people who have the misfortune to live under unreasonable governments, fair enough. However there have been examples where rich persons of unethical backgrounds have availed themselves of SKN passports which merely puts unsavory people into the international melting pot where they can pursue their illicit life styles. Would not transparency be apt here? The questions of how many passports? How much revenue has been received? And where that income has been assigned? Surely it is the right of every one who is a citizen of SKN to have answers to these questions. The sames goes for the management of the ‘Sugar Fund’. The 2015 election was beyond doubt flawed, there is muted anger and protest after the results have been declared. All parties have erred, and each will say ‘he did it, so it’s OK for me.’ This is the rule of corruption where right and wrong have lost their meaning. Will a change be too much to hope for? – Progressive change and a move towards transparency and good governance from the Governor General and Speaker down through the PM and government. A Government that does right by the constitution not because of what’s written, this one is certainly flawed, but because it is right and just to do so, written or not. We live in hope. Every right minded person will have been glad to see a change of Government. Twenty years in power just doesn’t work. The new Unity Party has been well and peaceably received and the new PM has started with general approbation even by labor supporters. Long may this continue. One cannot but help being pleased because of the separate parties making up what is in effect a coalition, they will help to keep each other honest. The new Government may well be tempted to investigate the goings on of its predecessor, which is right and proper. Let it be said that there will be issues of poor governance and it may be possible under the law to seek retribution. Let there not be personalized vendettas, but simply the rule of law adjudicated in the courts and not on the streets. The issue of patronage remains at the core of SKN problems. The new government must set an example where all residents are treated equally. This means no personal favors just fair and equitable distribution of available state assets. Not jobs for the boys but jobs for the best qualified. Since the electoral history has been such a checkered one, maybe this Government will have the courage to look at real reform of the constitution and the electoral system bringing SKN into the mainstream of political democracy. From the outside in, we all wish all our friends and the new Government well.