Heed words of ‘national icon’
The two interventions should focus national thinking on issues whose importance extend beyond the pointless political cut and thrust.
Sir Ellis, newly designated “national icon” by the Government, spoke as the uniquely distinguished elder in public affairs.
But the best tribute imaginable now is actually to heed his words of wisdom.
“Whoever is in power will now recognise that the diet necessary for a healthy nation is no longer the diet which it has been fed in the past,” Sir Ellis said in a Sunday Guardian interview.
He called on the ruling party to recognise the imperative of constitutional change and to move to bring it about through wide national consultation.
It is the Constitution which has enabled the present painful anomalies, starting with the absence of provision for “power sharing” or any workable alternative following drawn elections.
Parliament has not functioned since October. One consequence is the impossibility of monitoring Governmental performance. The Government can pretty much do what it wants.
The floundering in governmental affairs has also influenced economic affairs. Major corporations have been citing political uncertainties as negative factors in business performance.
Excessive liquidity in banks has been the order of the day. An economic slowdown has hit retail sectors.
Against this background, however, the party in Government has been more spendthrift than conservative in its management of the public purse.
Worse, as UWI economist Dhanayshar Mahabir observed, is the lack of transparency.
“The public is of the belief the Government is working with a bottomless pit of money,” Dr Mahabir said.
“They don’t know the real story. Instead, they (the public) remain gullible and easily swayed by handouts.”
Dr Mahabir had been assigned by the Manning Government to do a due diligence check of the public finances. He had reported a state of good order, and projected continued health, so long as the Government kept rein on spending.
Such recommendations for restraint continue to be ignored. Dr Mahabir now estimates the $1,000 book grant will add a cool $90 million to the Government's spending bill.
This follows salary increases and allowances for MPs and Ministers; improved benefits for State board members; and the settlement of pay issues with public servants, including doctors.
The deficit, Dr Mahabir fears, now stands at $1.7 billion, far more than the $1 billion claimed by junior Finance Minister Conrad Enill.
Former Finance Minister Wendell Mottley, now a political leader, also expressed worry about relentlessly spiralling expenditure, and the lack of transparency: “We are in the dark and the country needs to know what is the true state of the Treasury.”
It is, indeed, the country which entitled to the last word on how its Government and its economy should be run.
The recommendations of its “national icon” should be urgently carried into effect.
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