Breaking the Economic Stranglehold
Restoring the Essence of the Nation
Over the last three articles, we have been discussing three interrelated strategies that are highly important to break the domination of the corrupt ruling regime. In this article we will begin to expound on the second area – efforts to break the economic stranglehold that the ruling regime has on the people. Research has shown that political context and process are central to shaping the way politicians and policy makers decide for or against progressive changes that can deliver legitimate, capable, accountable and responsive states. It has helped explain why some countries achieve economic growth and political stability, while others remain locked in conflict and poverty. (Taken from a DIFD research synthesis paper titled - the Politics of Poverty: Elites, Citizens and states).
Clearly our country is locked in poverty and underdevelopment which we need to break. Moreover, we desperately need to avoid civil strife and violence, but sadly the parameters for such are already in place in our country given political fraud, political victimization and military intimidation. The centrality of politics in building effective states and shaping development outcomes is clearly borne out in the DFID funded research. Development is Politics! Underdevelopment is Politics! But clearly in the case of Dominica, the ruling regime has engaged in politics primarily in pursuits of personal interest to the detriment of the country's optimal development. They clearly want to hang on to power at any cost and so they have set out to dominate the people of Dominica and to subvert democracy in the country. The regime seeks to maintain power through a variety of strategies and a major one of these is to withhold progressive changes from the reach of the vast majority of the people. They do so because they fear that as people progress towards economic independence and dignity, it would be impossible to dominate them! They pursue a set of carefully laid out cunning strategies through which they lead some people into thinking that the regime has the economic interest of the people at heart, when in fact they are standing in the way of progress.
Let us examine the three aspects of their economic suppression strategy. First, they use illicit financing sources, or they misuse public funds, or they even use legitimate public programmes, to provide significant gifts in order to entice voters. These gifts may be significant ones such as the provision of low-income housing and the provision of assistance under the rapid response programme. However, none of these gifts or bribes have been designed to empower the vast majority of the people to thrive or to allow them to have a significantly better life. Instead, the gifts are designed to invoke great gratitude and loyalty to the regime in the context of a weak economy with high poverty and high unemployment. Clearly, the regime is not interested in growing the economy in ways that would result in many people becoming economically independent. In fact, many of the economic actions they engage in are designed to serve the personal or political interests of the ruling regime or the interest of their local and foreign co-conspirators.
Secondly, the regime re-enforces the false notion that better cannot be done or that the country is doing the best it can. They use a number of strategies to get that message across. For instance, when they stay things like "the PM is the best PM in the Caribbean" the underlying message they are actually sending is that better cannot be done. They are sending the message that though the country is still struggling, it is the administration of the PM that results in things not being worst. Of course, nothing is further from the truth – our country is among the worst economic performers in the English-speaking Caribbean which is a direct result of extremely bad and corrupt economic management. Clearly, under capable and honest leadership, the country could do much better.
Thirdly, the regime led many to think that should another political group take the reigns of leadership, then that new government would no longer provide gifts.
Together, all three aspects of their strategy results in many voting for the regime because they received gifts and/or want to remain in line to receive significant gifts or favour. The voting decision is buttressed by the lack of hope – they don't think the economy will improve to allow them to help themselves rather than depend on gifts. Their voting decision is further entrenched by the fear spread by the ruling regime that a new regime will no longer provide gifts!
In the next article we discuss how we as a people can pull our country out of despair despite this government use of their politics to serve their own interest rather than the best interest of all the people.
Kent Vital Economist