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Are manifestos meaningful and beneficial to the average Grenadian?

At a massive rally Saturday night, 14th May 2022, record elections-winning leader of the ruling New National Party (NNP) and Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. Keith Mitchell announced that the next nationwide elections will be on 23 June 2022, and allowing a final one-day opportunity for qualified and desirous citizens to register so as to take part in the process.

Within normal conditions, Mitchell had up to the end of April 2023 to call elections; but his ring was no surprise. Nomination Day for elections is June 1st to establish the name, symbol and constituency of each of the candidates; essentially to meet the requirements under section 39 of the Representation of the People Act.

This occasion should also be taken by the candidates to show a mark of genuine respect and thoughtfulness for the electorate, with the vast distribution of the various manifestos for public scrutiny and debate, although the people have no serious ‘authority, bearing and control’ as regards the substance, practicality and veracity of what is contained.

It is agreed that the presentation of a manifesto is merely about a political ritual of appeasement and grandstanding which is aimed to capture the ‘appreciation and acceptance’ of voters, and thereby declaring that primarily a party of candidates (or an individual candidate) is ready, capable and knowledgeable for governance.

Regrettably, this seller’s document purportedly for assessing the intentions and policies of the candidates is generally full of ambiguities, rhetoric, disguises and exaggerations, and are disclosed at the climax of a silly season of confusion, fanfare and ecstasy.

Moreover, most negative about manifestos, elections and governance is that the common people do not have ‘detailed clues’ about the inputs, intrigues and interests of the “behind the scenes” which often takes priority over their grievances, needs and expectations, and this results in the much disappointments, disturbances and discomforts after they had voted.

The imperativeness for the soonest unveiling of the manifestos as a decent obligation of those who are aspiring to direct the socio-economic prosperity of the nation, without compromising its patrimony and sovereignty, is most applicable for the two mature parties.

Both parties, the NNP and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), have had the experiences of leading the Government and in the current run to secure State power once again, they have been articulating on the areas and approaches to be addressed if victorious.

Critical for the voters on the vital task of analysing reasonably the worth of the manifestos to be offered by NNP and NDC, towards assisting in trusting confidently any of those parties for ‘good governance’, is the relevance and extent of performances regarding past manifestos.

As pointed out in previously circulated article “Why Vote In Grenada’s Elections: Know Behind The Scenes (Part One)”, it is unfortunate that the common man does not have the expert guidance of ‘open arbiters’ on such decisive event.

In the last elections, some light was shed with the electorate on choosing objectively whether or not to vote and which party deserves the vote, via the internet-circulated article “Grenada’s 2018 Elections : The NNP And NDC Manifestos”.

The article raised that a manifesto essentially aims to form a ‘patriotic contract of fiduciary responsibility’ of the politicians with the people, but this is not ‘legally and/or morally’ binding; there is no sound guarantee for the meaningful fulfillment of the manifesto, neither is there an effective mechanism for the people to protest against any disappointment, misrepresentation and dishonorable conduct in Government, as well as to bring the culpable politicians to justice.

Particularly, it is outrageous and devious for candidates to promise ‘elaborate and glamourous’ projects for his/her constituency, when the reality is that usually the manifestos do not specify issues on the basis of the different constituencies, the fiscal budgets do not formulate development programmes as line-items per constituency, the national affairs of strategic plannings and financial allocations is by Central Government, and that the Prime Minister takes control at pleasure of the ‘collective good’ about implementations.

Also review “Grenada’s 2018 Elections: Beyond the Issues!” This related article highlights that despite the appeals, justifications and wooing by the politicians for the ‘precious favour’ of voters, the ordinary people are kept ignorant about the many prevalent factors affecting the fulfillment of manifestos and the practice of governance, as well as about the associates and financiers of the campaigns.

Foreign policies, diplomatic ties, trade agreements and institutional obligations, as well as vexing and destructive issues such as the ‘demands with enticements’ for reforming constitutional provisions on human rights and social norms, for exploiting the natural resources and for engaging in debt swap, are hidden and diverged from the unsuspecting electorate.

Particularly, the shaping of the National Sustainable Development Plan 2020-2035 with the integration of the United Nations Development Goals and the flavours of neo-colonialism, and how the party’s manifestos reflect those happenings, are not surfacing on the political platforms.

The composition and contents of a manifesto are generic covering the values and visions of the party, aside from the typical headings of Government’s undertakings; and the manner of the execution of the manifesto depends largely on the attribute and focus of the political leader.

Some specifics and innovations based on external trends and imperatives, and/or on extraordinary projects would cause variations in the formulation of a manifesto, with entries such as Renewable Energy, Digital Technology and National Health Insurance.

Moreover, similar threads appear in the manifestos of different parties and in most cases, even with whatever different approaches are proposed, no solution or no substantial improvement can be had on the particular issues, due to external forces.

Related:  Is the 2022 elections manifesto of NDC complete?

For example, pronunciations and motivations toward Education and Skills become futile, virtually by the ‘commercialisation, monopolisation and authorisation’ of the Caribbean Examinations Council on the core foundation for human resource development, entrepreneurial and economic diversification, and for up Gross Domestic Product.

The NDC formed the Government in the 2008 elections with a manifesto entitled “The Heartbeat of Change”, and two of the pertinent components therein were on The High Cost of Living and Making Grenada Work for All.

It was not able to continue in power from the 2013 elections, with the party’s manifesto centered on “Action Transformation Agenda – Going For Growth”; whilst evaluating itself as Grenada’s Best Choice and its tenure as Laying The Foundation With Solid Achievements.

NDC’s efforts to regain power at the 2018 elections also failed, despite producing a series of documents for governance including a 2017-2030 Policy Agenda on Investing In The Future, Today!!, along with its manifesto of “Putting People First” as The Opportunity Charter.

The NNP lost the Government on 8 July 2008 after three consecutive terms from 20 June 1995, with a manifesto captioned “Go Grenada – You First. Let The Progress Continue”; two of the featured components were Tried & Tested Today ready for tomorrow and Committed to the challenge.

It was able to regain power on 19 February 2013 with the party’s manifesto centered on “We Will Deliver !”, promoting A New Economy with a Blueprint For Recovery, Growth and Transformation. NNP consecutively sealed NDC from the Parliament at the 13 March 2018 elections with the manifesto “Keep Moving”. Its tag and/or slogan for the 2022 elections seems to be “Tried, Tested and Delivering” which engages previous themes; but what is the likely luck?

Continuously claiming at every stage to be ‘renewed, re-energised and ready’, NDC has been boosting its chances for the upcoming elections with a Transformation momentum led by political newcomer, corporate lawyer Dickon Mitchell.

Is there any signal of need for the voters, as well as for the NDC’s team, to be mindful about its success and its capacity to nurture the rank-and-file supporters, to execute the manifesto, to sustain the Government and to be re-elected?

The party had entrusted itself the huge task of attacking “The High Cost of Living” at the onset of the global financial recession in 2008. Eventually; it is said that the recession was the main reason for NDC’s struggle and not able to survive in Government, including its challenge to fix thoroughly the issues surrounding public officers’ pensions.

NDC has again now declared its determination to beat this ‘social scourge’ amidst a likely global recession, the lingering global pandemic, the threatening ripple-effects of the Russia-Ukraine war dreadfully on the supply and cost of food and energy, the rising Climate Change panics, and local high public debt and economic woes.

The NDC has been campaigning thus far on eradicating poverty and stimulating the economy by establishing a marijuana industry, referencing the 2018 Caricom Report and the universal usage of the herb; by generating employment and increasing the minimum wages; by borrowing to honour the 2022 Glasgow Judgement for the payments of pensions-benefits to retiring public officers; by introducing a bimonthly salary system; and by reducing some Government’s taxes.

How substantial and sustainable are those measures, for the nation as a whole and for the poor working individual, when no mention is made of the ‘big and weighty’ issues?

Is the private sector including foreign partners such as holders of Citizenship By Investment, also onboard especially for the ‘balancing requirements towards equity’? Is NDC willing to peruse business-deals, with a view to re-negotiate and to recover uncollected taxes?

Is NDC prepared to tackle the other primary determinants for poverty and for degenerating the welfare of the poor and vulnerable including the youth and elderly?

There is a large spread of an unregulated (or, poorly regulated) environment which includes the financial, insurance and telecommunication companies, placing unbearable, unjustifiable and unconscionable charges, services and treatments on the people.

Despite how attractive and convincing the statements on the various political platforms including elections-manifestos may be and whatever party gets the nod to govern the nation on Thursday June 23rd, the average Grenadian must prepare for the worst case scenario to the future.

Careful attention must be for the environmental and international shocks as well as about any ‘devil in the details’ of the intentions and policies of the politicians.

Everyone needs to take personal commitment to navigate the socio-economic upheavals; also with the considerations to undergo ‘austerities and sacrifices’ under another round of Structural Adjustment Programme in whatever form or fashion. Are those cautionary realities in line with the glories offered on the platforms?

It would be instructive to refer also to the previous article “Why Vote In Grenada’s Elections: Who Benefits? (Part One)”. A noteworthy message is that the critical-thinking, non-partisan patriotic citizens may account for the bulk of non-voters at elections, and are poised for any outcome.

They generally place a high value on their votes in the national interest and hence are dedicated in seeking clarity on the issues offered, credibility in those who are offering, and signals that there would be rewarding representation in the Government on behalf of the people.

J.K. Roberts