The winds of change are blowing around the world. Is the Federation of St. Kitts-Nevis ready to handle the days ahead or will this country be caught just reacting and reacting again, unable to take advantage of shifting circumstances? Or is this country possessed of the ability to understand history in the making and act in a manner that makes the best of circumstances for its people?
Change is everywhere. China is struggling with restless Tibetans. Ancient feuds flare up as new allies seem to be emerging daily in Iraq. Pres. Robert Mugabe may finally be on the way out in Zimbabwe. In America, a man of mixed heritage may be on the verge of wrapping up a major party’s nomination for president. In Cuba, new Pres. Raul Castro is loosening restrictions on consumer goods, opening hotels to Cuban citizens and is ready to turn over some unused land for private growers. As this paper goes to press, CARICOM leaders are meeting in a special summit to discuss the growing problem of crime in the Caribbean and what can be done about it.
In the Federation, there are issues of great importance facing us today and in the foreseeable future, including food availability and affordability; the future of energy; family stability; housing; the quality of emergency services; debt reduction; and the role people want the government to play in their lives.
All of this means that in the next election – which some observers say will take place in the fall – it is imperative for citizens of the Federation to be as well-informed as they can be about issues and the people who are seeking office. Many of these issues are complicated and will require some real work to understand. As for candidates – citizens will have to weigh a candidate’s experience, ideas and character to make a sound choice. And it is always good to recall the words of 19th century German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck before choosing at the polls: “People never lie so much as after a hunt, during a war or before an election.”
What the public should demand from office seekers is transparency and details. “Transparency” is often overused today, but that doesn’t take away from the value of its meaning in the context of government actions: to be clear about what is done, why it is done and how it is done. Language should not be used to hide or distort. Language should be used, in a timely manner, to make plans and actions obvious to all. When words are not used for clarity, the inescapable implication is that words are being used to hide ineptitude or corruption. It is human nature to shout with pride and whisper in shame.
For details, it is not enough to hear about plans and goals. In public policy, what matters are the nuts-and-bolts of how things get done. For example: No politician has ever promised less roads or worse schools. When they promise more roads and better schools, the question they should be pressed to answer is, “Exactly how will you do it?”
Democracy is not easy work, but change is coming and it will be in the hands of Federation citizens to determine if these changes will be harnessed for their betterment or to their detriment.