On Tuesday January 23 instant, The University of the West Indies will honour the memory of its first vice chancellor, Sir Arthur Lewis, who also won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1979.
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Waterfront Centre, we have a problem
We admit that reading our pages nowadays can be a challenge even for the most optimistic citizen. It is hard to have an edition without seeing more troubling news. Examples from the past few days alone include the deeply troubling data about our economy and the government’s coffers released by the Central Bank last Friday, another woman missing (this time policewoman Nyasha Joseph), a broken down NFM mill potentially jeopardising some of our rice production, gang leaders extorting money from road contractors and methanol plants being mothballed due to our falling gas production are just some of the developments in our nation recorded over the past week or so. They are unlikely to be the last ones.
As we know from our own daily life experience, the first thing needed for someone to confront a problem is to acknowledge the problem in the first place. The second one is to stop blaming others or circumstances instead of working on the solutions to the problem. These steps are easy to explain, hard to follow but essential to deal with if we are to improve things.
Our leaders at the Waterfront Centre should take a leaf from these principles. As more and more people voice their deep concerns with the direction of the economy, poor governance at state enterprises, corruption, rising crime and inefficient health and education systems, the government’s default reaction is of denial by blaming others for the problems.
According to this narrative, all the failings at state enterprises and the bad state of the economy must be blamed on the UNC’s previous administration; at a more personal level, women ought to be more careful with their choice of men to avoid entering a violent relationship to reduce gender-based violence.
There is certainly an element of truth in those statements but we do not elect our leaders so that they can tell us who is to blame for the problems. We elect them so that they can act to fix the problems. This does not mean the government must find and implement solutions in isolation. As responsible citizens, we must also play our part.
However, every time the Prime Minister and his ministers blame something or someone else for any problem, they not only fail to show true leadership but help foster the blame culture as an easy way out of any difficult situation. And, let’s be frank, the choices are always endless: our colonial past, US neo-colonialism in the region, the education system, the drugs cartels in South America, addiction to decades of oil revenue, greedy multinationals and so on.
The blame game must stop now. We urge the Government, our leaders, to start showing what leadership is about, even if their actions may be uncomfortable and painful to many of us. History is very unkind to those who make a habit of just passing the buck by blaming everything and everyone but themselves at critical times. It tends to be a lot kinder to those who acknowledge a problem and deal with it. And that is the kind of leadership we need right now.