Politics is often described as an art; which is to say, it is not a precise science that demands accurate measuring, and predictable results. In other words politics is as unpredictable as it is imprecise. The cynic may even suggest that the art of politics often rests on the margins of confusion as people of all descriptions and idiosyncrasies are its main ingredients. Still, it would be unwise to completely separate politics from art and science.
The influence of art and science on politics suggests why successful politicians surround themselves with men and women of diverse persuasions, including art and science. A prudent leader is therefore expected to make wise choices based on advice given by the qualified and imaginative people.
Such management choices are a tough call whenever governments are confronted by a treasury rendered empty treasury by their predecessors. How does a government keep the functions of the State running effectively with a budget hurriedly slapped together by the regime it succeeded? Luckily, money is a quantifiable instrument and there is no art to hide the contents of the national treasury. Determining how funds are allocated and which State functions are prioritized, is clearly an art. There is no science that determines which should benefit first: education, health, agriculture, roads, sports or housing.
It is this art of managing scarce resources to provide necessary and essential goods and services for a peaceful and happy citizenry, which makes politics difficult, often intimidating. The job of maintaining the integrity of the State while applying judicious levels of taxation which are easily complied with is also an art. The worst application of art (or science), in the affairs of State is the frittering away of money on frivolous, whimsical projects, such as a promenade to nowhere, or a public facility built by persons with no completion date set—and no penalties.
The successful ruler develops the art of listening to the problems of his people rather than to persons who tell him only wants to hear. When such a leader fails it is usually because he was ill informed or that he chose to take the wrong advice. Wrong or misleading information leads to false conclusions. A leader can ill afford to neglect uncomplimentary information, regardless of the source.
In a society noted more for its critics than for thoughtful, intelligent and reasonable deductions art and science need to be applied with caution. When in that same culture the people have been given a voice without caution for prudence, discretion and humility, by what yardstick is the spoken word measured? If the subject of the gift is illiterate, the State must turn to radio and television to explain its work, its challenges and itself. A vacuum created from a lack of regular factual information is likely to be filled by others of questionable interests. Is such a situation art or science? Is it neither, or both?
This island’s current financial situation makes for interesting discourse. The picture painted by Dr. Ubaldus Raymond (Minister in the Ministry of Finance), gives an indication of the parlous state of the economy. One may query Dr. Raymond’s findings, but there is no art by which to avoid the truth (hard data), it represents. Statistics, science, economics and hard numerals dominate the work of the Ministry of Finance, at this time.
Dr. Raymond did not say what steps are to be taken to make Saint Lucia simply sweet again. He did indicate, however, that starting with the budget for fiscal 2016/17 the island should begin to experience some relief from its long night of misery. His words were like a breath of fresh air to the long suffering.
The State has been variously described as the individual writ large. If the individual has no money to sustain himself what should he do? Is he expected to sit and dither and waste time crying over his situation? No! He will rise and find the means to sustenance and survival. So, too, must the State! No leader can afford to twiddle his thumbs, or fall on his knees in reverential supplication, expecting manna to fall from the sky. His duty is find sources of investment and job opportunities.
Such a leader must be frank and honest with an accounting of his efforts. He/she must never, never lie to the citizenry—or remain silent when questioned. To get and seek investments is both an art and a science. Where to search and how much to invest in travel is the science part. Which proposals to trust is the art.
In our present situation, government ought not to shift employees around as some unlearned neophytes and party hacks would recommend. The government can deliver by working with experienced civil servants who can guide and help it build a better Saint Lucia. Those whose necks should be chopped are the ones who seek to frustrate the efforts of governments. So, too, should the necks of party hacks placed there by the former regime for reasons other than serving we the people. The country must always come before de partee.
The first priority of this new government ought to be, not jobs for the boys. A better example must be set than was the standard before June 6. The government knows the people who helped get it elected. It knows, too, that charity begins at home and that politics is still largely an art—not a precise science.
For the above reasons, one expects the art to be executed with a velvet-gloved iron fist. Such art is not to be found in books but in the hearts and minds of those who desire to lift their people to the unimaginable heights.
The author has served as minister in both UWP and SLP administrations.