THERE are several schools of thought out there that posit different opinions about Government, its role and its efficiency. Some believe that we are better with bigger Government; government that is all encompassing in our societies and responsible for all and sundry. Other schools believe that the less responsibility government has the better for society, due to how inefficient government is as a general rule.
I, for one, tend to side with the latter school of thought, given as a general observation of post modern society, government overreach slows down development, particularly economically.
The most obvious examples are of countries that have followed the socialist model of government, with a heavy focus on centralisation of power in Government and its control not just of a country’s economy, but of its education, healthcare and even domestic affairs.
Caribbean countries frequently fall victim to this particular form of government, and we continue to suffer the consequences. We believe that Big Brother will take care of our every need (so says his manifesto every five years or so) and in exchange, we’ll give up every inch of our initiative, ingenuity and creativity, resulting in a Nanny State, where we expect government to be responsible for changing our proverbial dirty diapers.
And while on the surface level this sounds all fine and dandy, in reality, given the inefficiency of government operations, due to the thousands of pounds of bureaucratic red tape that tends to surround its every action, economic development is usually on the slow side, and in an ironic twist of fate, tends to be heavily dependent on foreign aid; as is easily observable here in our own Caribbean states.
At the SLP press conference a couple of weeks ago, the Opposition Leader was lamenting how wasteful the current administration is, using the planned demolition of the abattoir in Vieux Fort, a multimillion dollar gift from Taiwan, to make his case.
I agreed in principle with the Castries East MP, except his attempt to lay this sort of wastage solely at the feet of the ruling UWP. This sort of wastage is par-for-the-course not just with one party, in one country, but with pretty much every single government in every single country.
Governments simply tend not to run efficiently. In fact it shouldn’t even be expected that they do.
And if one were to break down the example provided by the Castries East MP, we could see that there are several layers at work here. First and foremost, our over-reliance on foreign aid and foreign backed or led projects is easy to see.
The abattoir?A gift from Taiwan. The Horse Track that will see it demolished? A project overseen and led by a foreign investor.The George Odlum Stadium? Another project done by a foreign power. And who foots the bill for all of these foreign-backed Government pet projects? The taxpayer. But that’s another discussion for another day.
The overarching point is that this isn’t a UWP problem. It’s a problem of government overreach that they all tend to do in this current era.
And the overarching issue from the standpoint of our citizens is that the vast majority of us, do not even comprehend a world in which we are free from that kind of government overreach, and how that freedom, in turn, would vastly improve the status of our economy and our own personal finances.
We actually believe that government ought to have the right (and more crucially) the obligation, to take a percentage of our hard earned money (because in essence that’s what the tax system is); and decide unilaterally how those monies are used and what for.
However, as the saying goes, “very few people spend other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own.” And governments are no exception to this rule.
At the end of the day, taxpayers’ money isn’t the personal funds of government ministers, and so once these taxes are collected, the fiscal wastage ensues. Whether it’s in the education sector, or the health sector, or any sector in the country; government control of these sectors, guarantees excessive waste, and in the Caribbean, it gets away with it because most people believe that the solution to this is for government…to spend more money.
There’s a lot of talk going on about St. Lucia’s impending 40th Independence Anniversary, but we will never truly be independent, until we free ourselves from the notion that we need the government to manage our own personal finances, and our various societal sectors.
In order to grow as a nation, we need to know and believe that we can do a far better job managing our own money and affairs, than the naturally inefficient government can.