Published On: Sun, Nov 12th, 2017

No Banana Republics in the Caribbean

By Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

Maracuja Republics, yes. But Banana Republics, definitely not!

A few clarifying lines of political science may be appropriate here. Every government system is a ‘Cracy’ which originates from the Greek word for power: ‘Kratos’. Democracy is the most favored since it is supposed to be the power of the people (demos=people).  Experts with an academic background claim that due to human nature being essentially faulty, every government system in the beginning of its development has been a ‘Kakistocracy’, meaning rule by the stupid; a form of governance where the worst or least-qualified citizens are in control. But of course, since we are all non-experts and often lack the appropriate academic backgrounds, we have to see the Kakistocracy claim as a case of mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Plus, in today’s positively well-developed society, it may not be defensible to claim that ‘human nature is essentially faulty’.

Just one more classification that we cannot go around. By definition, a Banana Republic is considered a Kleptocratic system that economically depends upon the export of bananas. It features a society composed of an impoverished Ergatocracy and a ruling Plutocracy, composed of the Aristocracy of business, politics, or the military. Such system is something that is unheard of in the region and the expression Banana Republic is sharply criticized and even considered an insult here. So, let’s move on to the subject of Maracuja Republic. I never like name and blame games and therefore on the topic, I will refer to the government system of the island St. Tosia as a positive example.

St.Tosia is called a Maracuja Republic because it blooms like a Passiflora Incarnata. The Passion Flower, knowingly has herbal calming effects but also may increase the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid in the brain which decreases the activity of certain brain cells which is not uncommon for the local politicians and noticeable in their speech and action. The fruit of the Passion Flower is of course the Passion Fruit or Maracuja. St. Tosia is an island full of passion. The islanders are extremely passionate which comprises anything from love, affection, mania, fascination, obsession and neurosis. The Passion Fruit is a vigorous, climbing vine that clings by tendrils to almost any support, something that is also typical for the politicians on the island. There is no similarity whatsoever with Bananas which grow in clusters hanging from the plant. Because of these differing characteristics a Maracuja Republic is not comparable to a Banana Republic.

St. Tosia is more in line with what the laid-back region is really all about. The island is a political adhocracy. This philosophy is typified by aversion to planning and a tendency to respond only to the urgent as opposed to the important; focusing on ‘firefighting,’ rather than on establishing systems and procedures through goal setting and long-term planning. On the one hand, there is a world of business interests driven by society members who migrated to the island, and the other hand a swarm of followers, supporting and taking sides among families and clans of native St. Tosians in its House of Assembly. The worlds of business and politics often blend harmoniously well depending on the potential opportunities of benefits and favors for the individuals. And so, the St. Tosian Adhocracy is flexible and non-permanent and can respond fast to a changing environment and circumstances. It can be a thriving factor in the wellbeing of the island for some.

St. Tosia with its population of 25,000 people, has eighteen government ministries and nineteen members of the House of Assembly. So, all is fine and orderly with so many departments, authorities and legislative supervision. The constitution of the island was written by Zadekiah Jones, a man with tremendous social foresight for his time in 1898 when the government form on St. Tosia was established.  It was Zadekiah’s viewpoint that it is better to have more administrative offices rather than just a few because the government could employ more politicians and followers as civil servants. One may expect that this would create more bureaucracy. On the contrary! On St. Tosia, it enhances adhocracy since nothing gets done in the first place unless it absolutely urgent, and then it will be done on the spur of a moment related to a festive event.  St. Tosians love parties and the incentive of having a party can be very motivating to take quick and positive decisions.

With more political seats available, one needs fewer votes to be elected for office. It supports a democratic system that distributes political power in the hands of the public which forms the electorate. In St. Tosia, it was never quite clear whether it would result in less power for more people, or in more power for less people. It’s quite confusing. About one hundred votes are enough for a seat in office which pays well, provides healthcare and pension benefits plus a bodyguard and a private secretary of choice and without job qualification requirements.

The political stability of St. Tosia is mainly caused by its people not agreeing on anything. That practically means that no change will happen. And so, everything stays as it is, which may be the most obvious characteristic of what political stability is all about. Political stability is one of the symptoms that foreign investors value and are looking for. It is one reason why St. Tosia is very popular in financial circles abroad. The other reason is the investment incentives that are offered to them. With the torrent of assets being brought to the island, the economy is flourishing and blooming like a Passion Flower.

As a closing remark on Bureaucracy that comes from a different part of the world. US Admiral Hyman G. Rickover was quoted to once have said: “A system under which it takes three men to check what one is doing is not control; it is systematic strangulation.”