Friday, June 20, 2014

The one thing that is clear to me that a government has five years to govern ...if the prime minister does not call early elections

The government must govern

Having watched the budget debate over the past few weeks, I was encouraged by the fact that there was some discussion which created dialogue not only amongst the parliamentarians, but also the citizenry. It was interesting to see issues such as the proposed web shop gaming regulation, value-added tax, concerns about transparency in the budget presentation, freedom of information, crime, etc., thoroughly ventilated by government and opposition parliamentarians.

Contrary to what some may think, it is healthy for parliamentarians to constructively comment on matters that may appear contentious even if the view put forward is divergent from the political party they support. What were even more interesting were the political innuendos that were generated from the rousing discourse.

I am extremely pleased as a Bahamian to see that our democracy is alive and well. We are evolving as a young, independent country to a point where the next generation is being vocal in all aspects of society. For the generations born post-independence, it should be recognized that protesting, arguments and divergent views did not just come into existence in the past few years. It was because of a generation of young people in the 1950s that was the catalyst for independence in 1973. The key issue here is that when we understand our history, the adage, “the more things change, the more they remain the same”, is so true in our little Bahamas.

Like any other developing country, The Bahamas has its fair share of challenges. It also has an electorate that expects instant solutions to all the problems. Quite frankly that forms the basis of a potentially disappointed electorate that wants things to happen, and to happen right now. Surely, that is a recipe for disaster as there has to be a methodical and deliberate approach to governance that affects solutions that will be meaningful and truly beneficial.

This is not just a theoretical view, but one grounded in reality. Regardless of what each of us thinks should be done with respect to every government decision that is made, it is our collective efforts that elected the government to do the job that they are doing and it is our responsibility to make our views known to them in a respectable and articulate manner.

We cannot justly criticize the government for decisions that are being made which will ultimately result in a better way forward for us, simply because we lack the intellectual capacity to suggest alternatives that are better than the decisions they are making.

The level of ignorance that some have with regard to good governance and informed decision making reaches a point that is higher than the all the dung the wild donkeys of Inagua can produce. The electorate has an obligation to make rational and reasonable recommendations to its members of Parliament.

It cannot be right that we elect our members of Parliament to make decisions on our behalf, criticize them, yet offer no logical set of solutions for consideration that is equal to or better than the positions they are taking.

Shared responsibility is what can occur when the citizens and the elected officials work to address the challenges and problems of a society.

While we may argue about the manner and form in which policies are implemented, the substance of the matter is equally important. Isn’t it ironic that the electorate, which enjoys the nice roads of New Providence today, is the same electorate that criticized the former administration and resoundingly voted them out of office in the 2012 elections?

Likewise the same electorate voted overwhelmingly in support of the current administration, yet many are quick to condemn the government for decisions it has made.

The one thing that is clear to me is that a government has five years to govern if the prime minister does not call early elections. If it is the case that the government has five years to govern, the electorate in all fairness must give the government a chance to govern so as to lawfully fulfill the promises as set out in their commitment on election day.

To take a critical approach before the government is able to achieve its objectives is not only illogical, but suggests that the electorate does not expect the government to fulfill its promises or it believes the government is disingenuous. Either way, it is not helpful for good governance. It should be clear that I am not advocating that we not have critical reviews and/or thoughts over decisions made or contemplated by the government. I am suggesting that we ought to be forward thinking and frank in our expectations and support of a government to govern.

In The Bahamas it is neither rational nor necessary to complain about the government when citizens do not advocate and speak to their members of Parliament. What part are you going to play in the struggles of our country? How are you going to assist the government to make a difference? If it is that you are of the view that just being opposite to every policy decision or administrative action will make for a better democracy, then that may be a role citizens may wish to take on. However, if you want to make a lasting impact by affecting policy today, ensure you communicate with members of Parliament. Citizen action is an essential component of a robust democracy.

The government was elected by the people with a clear and focused agenda. The budget debate always gives citizens and residents an opportunity to critically analyze the direction that the government intends for the country. Are there always areas of focus which can be better aligned to the needs of the country? Will the decisions taken be in our best interest? The answers to these questions are arguably subjective. Objectively, this is a little past the second year of the current administration and in spite of the various views, they must govern.

• John Carey served as a member of Parliament from 2002 to 2007.

June 20, 2014