Kofi Annan recently stated there wasn’t a crisis of knowledge in the world, but a crisis of leadership. I tend to agree with this statement.
There are readily available solutions for Barbados’ debt problem, the Caribbean’s lack of growth, and the social issues we are quick to point out in America but slow to recognize locally. The job of the leader is to get the job done either by persuasion or by coercion –– a thankless task indeed!
Who would want to be the politician who tells the populace the cure for the national debt may well be wage reductions; or that pay should be linked to performance metrics; or perhaps the solution for pension funds to be solvent in the long run is bold investments or a cut in pensions? It would simply be easier to say everything is fine and continue merrily.
This phenomenon isn’t only happening in Barbados, but is a global issue with few brave souls willing to campaign on known solutions.
Kofi Annan suggests there are three solutions for ordinary citizens to help bring about the change we need and encourage our leaders to lead.
First, he indicates that we should all vote, especially younger persons who would take a longer view of what needs to be done.
Second, Mr Annan advocates citizens use activism to highlight causes and concerns. The most recent example of Barbadians doing this was the “no to Cahill movement”.
Third, use your power as a consumer to promote corporate practices and behaviour you support versus those you don’t.
I disagree with Mr Annan’s solutions not because these are bad ideas in and of themselves. I disagree because nothing here narrows our focus on what a good leader should be.
In our local and regional context, Mr Annan’s recommendations also take the focus away from encouraging citizens to know when to swallow the hard pills –– for example, wage cuts. Could you imagine a Caribbean politician being elected while campaigning for spending cuts?
It is simply easier to tell the electorate the lies they want to hear and then try to manage those lies once elected. I should probably say at this point I’m not referring exclusively to one party or one period in time.
If only the voting populace knew the qualities of a good leader! That would solve this issue. Imagine a group of individuals ready and willing to tell the public their honest views, whether politically correct or not, or whether popular or not, and being able to change the national discourse. Unfortunately, this isn’t what most voters would accept. This isn’t the standard to which most voters hold their prospective leaders.
Most voters don’t read manifestos and have only a limited knowledge of what was promised versus what was delivered. Instead, voters focus on abstract things like how the candidate makes them feel, or blind party allegiance.
Even more unfortunate is that politicians know this and that is why less and less attention is being paid to actual facts and figures. Even if we wanted to become better informed,
our excuse would be: “I’m too busy for that.”
Admittedly, I have fallen into this trap of being too busy to follow national data, looking at it less and less each year. We all think someone else would look into these phenomena and educate the public.
But guess what? On an island of 166 square miles you are that someone else, and, for my regional readers, whatever the size of your island the same applies.
Be the change you want to see.
(Craig Harewood is the investment director at Ourinterest Inc., an investment company that tradeson global markets and from time to time assists small businesses
and boutique investors.)