Regrettably I have to confirm that for the first time since my Grandfather Clennell Wickham started writing People and Things in the 1940s, this article has been unilaterally suspended by the Newspaper that agreed to host it. Clearly, my perspective on this occasion is very different to that which I offered during the 1999 and 2003 elections. I am therefore grateful to BU and to BFP for carrying this review of the politics of inclusion which is yet to see the light of day”.
THE POLITICS OF INCLUSION REVISITED
The Sunday Sun of January 3rd 1999 presented an article entitled “The New Politics of Inclusion” which sought to critique an apparent “programme” of the Arthur administration which was apparently intended to allow for greater participation in the governance of our country. This article took the position that the politics of inclusion represented a development that was not only good but absolutely necessary for the proper development of a country like Barbados which is both small and resource deficient.
This perspective was, however, a theoretical argument which assumed much about this programme of inclusion which this author presumed would take democracy beyond the right to vote in elections and allow Barbadians the opportunity to play a role in a government that is open, accountable and participatory.
The BLP fought and won the 1999 election and created history in the process. The bumper harvest of seats in that election was no-doubt assisted considerably by this programme of inclusion, which can now be reviewed against objectives which were both political and developmental. This review is concerned more with the delivery of developmental objectives, however, since the 1999 article is used
as a base and it concluded that:
”The politics of inclusion is worthy of consideration, so long as it can be identified as a derivation of “participatory democracy”. The nature of participatory democracy is such that is can easily be confused with a programme of overtly political patronage and the use of public funds to advance a political cause. A fine line separates the two; hence it is essential that either party adopting such a programme give it the fullest possible expression so that the objectives of the programme are clearly a contribution to national development”.
Needless to say, very little has been forthcoming from the Arthur administration regarding the philosophical and developmental objectives of the politics of inclusion, hence it is difficult not to conclude that it has been a crass programme of political patronage, that had nothing to do with development. The programme targeted “progressive” elements of Civil Society as well as political operatives; however in virtually every case there has been a direct political benefit, while an objective assessment of our system of governance now does not reveal any obvious contributions to the enhancement of democracy.
In a contribution that was perhaps ill-advised, Mr. David Commissiong who was one of the beneficiaries of that programme, indicated that he was “offered a ministry” in the Arthur administration in return for his support and that of the “Pan African Brigade” and while the PM has stated categorically that he did not make such an offer, it is clear that some discussion of options took place with agents of the PM who might or might not have been acting on his instructions. As a result Commissiong was able to negotiate the establishment of the Pan African Commission and a directorship for himself. The extent to which this commission has contributed to the development of Barbados is questionable, however the expenditure of three million dollars annually on its activities is not in question. Moreover it is a fact that the Commission has allowed the BLP to embrace “left leaning” characters such as Dr. Michael Hutchinson, Dr George Belle and Commisiong himself.
This component of the politics of inclusion programme is instructive since it provides evidence of the manner in which political commodities were traded and moreover we are now able to reflect on the extent to which these trades benefited the BLP’s politics, but not the development of this country. It was important that the BLP capture this “ideological bias” that the Pan African Commission represented since the BLP has always struggled to occupy that political space that is left of centre and consistent with its socialist philosophy. The DLP has traditionally been considered the more progressive of the two parties and as a result personalities like those associated with the Pan African Commission were always assumed to be Dems. The programme of inclusion successfully changed that perception overnight and added the philosophical dimension to the practical politics of attracting DLP politicians to cross the floor.
In almost all instances those who were “included” have lost their independence and become BLP apologists and in virtually every case these apologists have been rewarded in some way at the public’s expense. As a result the list of consultants attached to the office of the Prime Minister and indeed several other government agencies has grown exponentially and if the PM were to be brave enough to respond to Parliamentary question tabled in the last term requesting such information, then we would be in a position to know exactly who these consultants are, what they do (if anything) and how much of our money these people are paid.
As one reflects on the last three BLP terms, one struggles to identify the fundamental improvements in our governance that this inclusion has brought. The net size and expenditure of the central government has grown and this government has successfully executed some projects, however several of these have been poorly managed which speaks volumes about the extent to which government’s capacity has been enhanced. Moreover there are several governmental deficiencies that are yet to be touched by this intellectually enriched administration. As a result, we still do not have anything resembling integrity legislation in Barbados and our public service is still able to withhold information from taxpayers that was collected using taxpayer’s money. Certainly these two governmental innovations have been installed in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago without a politics of inclusion and in this author’s opinion the transparency offered by these initiatives is considerably more beneficial to governance and far less demanding on the public purse.
It is doubtful that a thorough reflection on the politics of inclusion will ever be written and this is unfortunate since it would be nice to hear some beneficiary of the programme speak to its benefits and attempt to convince us that it was not a crass vote buying exercise. It would also be interesting to see a comprehensive analysis of the extent to which this programme might have impacted negatively on our development in a way that goes beyond its enormous cost. Certainly if we accept that the opinions previously offered by persons like Commissiong were useful to democracy in Barbados, then any attempt to bring such persons under a party whip should be viewed contemptuously.
Peter W. Wickham (Wickham@sunbeach.net) is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES).
This article will be included in our next print edition.
For the story as to why and how journalist Peter Wickham was banned from the Nation News, check out Barbados Underground’s post Peter Wickham’s Articles Banned By The Nation Newspaper