Published On: Mon, Aug 20th, 2018

The high expectations of governments by the people

Dear Sir,

I am perplexed by the manner in which Caribbean people see governments. Consistently, throughout the Caribbean there are high expectations by the “man in the street” for government to provide jobs, provide essential and non-essential services and to play a role in raising living standards. Again and again, the choice of the people, as expressed by the political leaders, is to choose government as the operator of services and owner or developer of infrastructure.

The history of the Caribbean in the post-colonial period suggests that these expectations have never been met, are not being met and the future perspective for them to be met is poor.

How did we get to this high level of expectation by Caribbean people in governments?

Was it because in the colonial periods the governments provided consistency? Or is it because decolonization created the expectation that the wealth that was no longer being shipped offshore would be better shared by indigenous decision makers?

It surely cannot be that Caribbean people have reason to believe that governments are the best choice to be operators of organizations. Endless numbers of government owned airlines have lost money, provided poor service, and saddled the populations with debt. Government operated Ports in the Eastern Caribbean have charges that compare poorly with international standards and poor service. Major infrastructure projects are rarely executed without some form of suspected maladministration and often with great losses. Even those services which are core government tasks like building and maintaining roads are poorly realized and seldom with sustainable costing.

In spite of this all, the man in the street will support governments playing a role in such projects or services.

Is this because in spite of the extensive and easily accessible evidence, candidates for elections convince them of an alternative reality during the election process? The lack of political parties that make the case for reduced government suggest that this may be a partial explanation.

The Caribbean experience of government ineffectiveness is consistent globally, especially in developing countries. But the need for effective privatization is growing more rapidly than in our region.

The answer to these fundamentally important questions might open up opportunities to ensure that capital investment by the public provides consistently good returns, reduces the public debt, and leads to an improved development trajectory in the Caribbean including Sint Maarten.

Robbie Ferron