“National transformation and upliftment,” according to Gaston Browne will be a key feature in the Government he expects to lead from around mid-June this year. This would naturally involve people-oriented national development based on the prospects he outlined for an Antigua and Barbuda inclusive society. Social inclusion is not, however, just a response to exclusion that became noticeable across the country in the last few years.
Social inclusion is about making sure that all children and adults are able to participate as valued, respected and contributing members of society. It is a way of raising the bar and understanding where we want to be and how to get there as a nation. It is for this reason that Caribbean Times wants to commend at this early stage the pronouncements being made by the leader of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) as he begins to reveal his party’s plans for Antigua and Barbuda.
It is clear that the days ahead will likely attract the imagination of the people, especially against a background in which, there are numerous persons that felt left out of the economic pie and social programmes carved up and served under the United Progressive Party (UPP) over the last decade or so. To be certain, social inclusion reflects a proactive, human development approach to social wellbeing that calls for more than the removal of barriers or risks.
Even here, Gaston Browne’s call for the people to support the ABLP’s efforts is commendable and pragmatic. The reality of the situational tasks would mean than any plan for social inclusion requires local and international investments and multilateral action to bring about the conditions for inclusion.
It is true, that the UPP administration has done some good though not nearly enough as it promised and had the means to deliver. Hence, it makes no sense throwing out the baby with the bath water. Browne’s assertion that he and the ABLP are ready to carry on and extend such things as the school meals programme, the provision of scholarships, and increased training opportunities for persons in the public and private sectors, is a step in the right direction.
It must be a reminder to the people of Antigua and Barbuda that contrary to many things being said in recent weeks and days from the UPP, and especially the self-congratulatory tones which spoke of excellence in performance and 100 % delivery on promises, those types of exacerbations are nothing but rallying cries mooted in the most perverse propagandistic rhetoric.
Nonetheless, it was PM Spencer that gave away the ruse that was being played when he borrowed from Harold Lovell suggesting that the UPP stands on its record and deserves a third term to continue building a new society which laughably only came to mind in this election year with the Throne and the 2014 Budget speeches. Surely, the IMF has now more than revealed that Antigua is not on the pathway for a sustained trajectory of growth. As said earlier, zero or minus economic growth coupled with no enhancement of investment capital will create an inclusive society; the task would become doubly more difficult to achieve and over a longer period.
So that the PM’s clarion call for UPP supporters to rally around that party’s candidates is understandable, but it appears to be a call coming way too late and, particularly that he has finally conceding that it takes a galvanising of people to “create” and execute “a charter for the future development of Antigua and Barbuda.” The problem today is that Prime Minister Spencer, if he was to get a third term, would utilise the same shallow policy sources and short-sighted Ministers as was the case for the better part of the last and lost decade. On the other hand, and speculatively with Prime Minister Browne at the helm, the country would benefit from a more critical, purposeful leader more likely to truly chase down all resources capable of that very inclusive society.
It is precisely for these reasons, that Caribbean Times must ask Antigua and Barbuda to consider the Browne pronouncements about fashioning a socially inclusive society. Bold, yes! But although all the details are not public and may not even appear obvious, what is certain is that Browne and the ABLP understands the urgency for the transformation of Antigua and Barbuda and the value of the people to such a pathway if real progress and national development are to occur.
Caribbean Times looks forward to presenting the views and details on the quest for social inclusion as to be presented by the ABLP. Caribbean Times will not neglect to carry the views of the UPP, and especially if for some reason between now and June 12th, many come to see the light and do as PM Spencer is finally suggesting that: “We cannot return to the past.”