By Suzanne Leslie Bailey, Guest Columnist
It is an incontrovertible fact that politics and government are inextricably linked. After all, a political party must win a general election in order to form the government. Successful political candidates and operatives then seamlessly transit into government.
Of concern to me is the inability of the politician to appropriately balance political affiliation and governance, where the priority should be the country and all its people.
My first job after graduating from the University of the West Indies, Mona, was as a senior budget analyst with the Ministry of Finance. After each election, there was a flurry of excitement to adjust the Budget as mandated to accommodate the new ministries and departments that were formed or merged, sometimes with no clear synergy between them. This, in my opinion, was to make room for key political operatives. This is a glaring example of politics finding its way in the halls of government!
Regrettably, too many of our politicians unabashedly wear their coloured political coats on their government jobs, resulting in dire consequences. Our governance machinery simply does not adequately work. In fact, it's broken!
Too many ill-fated and politically influenced decisions are taken, resulting in the nation's and people's interests being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. This results in the same script being read to the Jamaican people time and time again, which sounds something like this: "We all must unite as a people and sacrifice for the common good of the nation"; or "The country faces severe challenges and will require us tightening our belts."
Yet, as the years pass, the road to the achievement of this greater good gets rockier and longer; and the belt around the midsection is never loosened. Contrastingly, progress is made by many politicians and the politically connected. How come?
In my own moments of introspection, I have had to confront some very difficult questions: "Can the current crop of politicians make it happen for Jamaica?" And: "Does the current political system even make it possible?"
For me, it is not the issue of a politician's age that is of concern, but the inability to give birth to new and revolutionary ideas - ideas that open the door and let in the fresh air of structure, order, professionalism and objectivity, and those that steer clear of the old and beaten path of political tribalism.
My observation is that political parties slam the door on anything or anyone that seemingly threatens the status quo. Diehards, connected and born - JLP or PNP - are more readily embraced and squeezed into the few available key positions than 'newcomers' heralding new ideas. This has created a very stifling environment, from which no new and different politics will emerge. These diehards and long-standing politicians and operatives cling jealously to their positions, even when it is clear that the air has gone out of their political career.
In our current political system, for the most part, the persons who are lauded as good organisers and mobilisers are those who can throw money around (sometimes ill-gotten) to ensure overflowing buses to conferences and lure people out to vote. How much creativity does that take? Very little.
If you dangle sufficient money in front of some people, it is a done deal. A more convincing display of true leadership and organisation would be to have a clear vision for the people and the path to realising it; articulate the merits of your party and candidacy; and serve the people consistently and well - not just close to election time.
This modus operandi could then be applied to governance. Some politicians and other cynics - or realists, as they may call themselves - will dismiss this perspective as na´ve and unworthy of consideration, as that is just not how politics 'run'. Well, the current politics is running the country into the ground!
The 'rabble-rousing' nature of politics has no place in governance; but sadly, it finds its way there and hence the predicament in which we find ourselves. I have grown weary of the raging debates on national issues - crime, corruption, lotto scamming, heavy tax packages, tight budgets, IMF deal or no deal. Debate of such matters is devoid of objectivity and truth and characterised by the usual finger-pointing.
Frankly, this utter nonsense is taking us nowhere fast!
Suzanne Leslie-Bailey is a law student and former research coordinator to then Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.