Social democracy, transparency in government and the law
According to Wikipedia, social democracy is a political ideology that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a capitalist economy. It is a policy regime involving collective bargaining arrangements, a commitment to representative democracy, measures for income redistribution, regulation of the economy in the general interest of the state.
The current beleaguered occupier of Dominica's office of the Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, says that he believes in fair trade and that he is a social democrat. He made these statements last week while he was trying desperately to defend a very controversial awarding of a no bid massive contract project to rehabilitate the Roseau West Bridge to a foreign firm. He quietly by-passed local engineering firms which are well capable of carrying out the desired works.
Many observers and some experts allege that the price tag for the West Bridge which was awarded to the NSG Barbados Ltd. firm is overly exaggerated. They are questioning why an estimated 176 feet bridge, 300 feet of river wall and some river dredging could cost EC $ 18.2 million (US $ 6.7 million). But the 64 million dollar question is why would self-proclaim transparent social democratic leader by-pass local capable and reputable firms when his country's (Dominica) economy is at stand still and the people are up to their necks with debt, unemployment and poverty? Isn't this a blatant disregard of Dominica's procurement laws when untendered contract are awarded to firms? Is there something more sinister underneath the surface of this lucrative deal with the Barbados firm?
But Mr. Skerrit proclaims that he is a strong proponent of fair trade and points out that if Dominican firms can tender for projects in other countries, Dominica must be allowed to do the same. Is he also talking about his Bajan pal and Labour party operative and political consultant Mr. Hartley Henry as well? Shortly after the last General election in 2014 in which Mr. Henry and lots of his compatriots were deeply involved in the Labour election operation, Henry boastfully announced that the election in Dominica gave a significant economic boost to the Barbadian economy.
Mr. Henry calculated that millions of dollars were spent on Barbadian consultants, travel agencies, printing and advertising services. Upon hearing these statements should all Dominicans put their heads in their hands and weep for our country in shame and concern for our dignity? Is that what fair trade is all about? Any by the way, does Mr. Henry has an official designation and/or is he employed in an official capacity with the government of Dominica? If so, why has this never been announced to the public? If not, why is he involved in high level sensitive diplomatic discussions with foreign Heads of States?
Does Mr.Skerrit understand that Social Democracy aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian outcomes in a country? Does he understand the age old Dominican tradition that 'charity begins at home' and more so- in times of crisis for Dominican families? Or does he only care about winning elections by any means necessary and staying in power? Well earlier this year he told his faithful followers at a meeting in St. Joseph which was broadcast live on radio, that the only reason why he is seeking another term in office is to beat United Workers Party (UWP) leader Lenox Linton and that when they meet members of UWP leadership they should call them traitors. Does the PM understand anything about the key role that leaders and radio played in sparking the initial flames of the genocide in Rwanda stated in 1994?
Critics contend that Skerrit has adopted his own version of the Golden Rule: 'He who has the gold makes the rules'. But Mr. Skerrit laments that his government is a transparent and upright administration. If that is the case, can he address the allegations with evidence (not just talk and insults) that the price tag for the West Bridge is grossly overpriced and that Mr. Henry or people close to him did not have a hand in this contract? Can he speak to the allegations that the no bid contract for the West Bridge was awarded to the Barbados firm as a form of kick back for promises he made before the 2014 General elections? Was this big fete necessary as a ground breaking ceremony for the bridge? Was this a warm up for the 2019 elections and does he respect and honour Dominica's constitution and its laws? Finally, where does all this big money come from to finance Labour's lavish and expensive political campaigns?
If Skerrit can satisfactorily answer these serious allegations in a factual and fundamental manner, then rational and logical thinking Dominicans will be satisfied that his government embraces transparency in financial matters and it is accountable and prudent. Also real and true social democratic leaders are forthright, honest, transparent and responsible with and in their dealings - because it is the people's (State's) money and yes---their 'good business' to know.
Until such time, PM Skerrit needs to define himself as something else than a social democrat. More like an autocrat who has surrounded himself with of all sorts of local, foreign and domestic characters. What is sad is that this lucky young man from Dominica's deep interior, with no experience and credentials who assumed the highest office in the land by accident after the deaths of two PMs in four years, has made our country and himself some–thing less- far from the ideals of social democracy. And that has to be considered one of the greatest of all failures and disappointments in Dominica in the modern era.