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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Parliament needs- to catch up!

J. Roughan
1 April 2011

These past seven months, the months between the August national election until today, have not been light and sweet for the members of Parliament. Unfortunately, many of the missteps, difficulties and bad press have been of its own making. Members jumped from one side to another, from Government to the Opposition one week only to see the very same member jumping back to Government once again. Parliament's public image has taken a severe knock. People's respect and confidence in this institution has been badly shaken.  
Describing Members conduct to 'grasshopping' presents a false reading as if all this political meandering was being done to show a clear direction or purpose. What it did do, however, was to show that some members did not have sure and clear principles except what would benefit them personnally. Their actions had little to do with the people of the constituency.
Now, somehow citizens of the nation are suppose to forget all about this unseemly conduct, somehow put it all aside and take this week's House's deliberations on the Budget as the real face of Parliament. That's a big ask!
With so many serious problems face the nation--deep and persistent youth unemployment rates, few Adult Education programs, difficulty of women's entry into Parliament, falling behind in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, round tree logging coming to an  abrupt end, etc. etc.--the last thing the nation needed or wanted was to witness some Parliament members putting themselves first above  national interest.  
The present government--Philip's National Coalition of Rural Advancement--has basically wasted 7 months in office fighting off the Opposition and finding it difficult to create unity among its own members. Historically, at least in the period between 1978-2000 a new government enjoyed   only 33 months on average in office before being ousted in a motion of no confidence.. It's gotten worse, in this the newest millennium--2000-2011--, a Prime Minister's time in office has fallen from 33 months to 19 months on average.
If this proves true to the present NCRA government, then, no matter how well thought out and ambitious its development plans are, it has at the best a year's grace before having to face a successful motion of no confidence. This reality is the country's basic political instablity. The Philip- led government, unfortunately, wasted its first 7 months in office with much in-fighting.
Now during the Budget debate Members must begin redeeming themselves in the eyes of people. Game playing, press statements and public antics rather than real leadership qualities only reflect the years gone by--the last century, for instance--and are a far cry from what our people need and demand.  
Members, however, are in an excellent position to begin redeeming themselves this time around. Parliament is currently working through a $2.2 billion budget. The easiest thing to do would be to merely accept ways of spending such a whopping amount of money without seriously thinking about the impact it has for our future. Take the Growth Centre idea, for instance. The basic thrust of Growth Centres is to enhance people's knowledge, advance understanding and share local wisdom and insights. 
A first step would be to set up a FM radio station in each constitunecy for the member to be in constant contact with his people, Closely following should be local research teams searching out the weaknesses and strengths of the constituency, shared out on the FM radio and through a monthly newsletter. Not far behind, Centres should be experimenting with better ways of using, storing and transporting local foods,  profitable ways of harvesting timber and bush products, employing youth supervised by local experts in building leaf houses, trying out solar lighting, etc. etc.  
Economics follows on a society's knowledge base. The cart doesns't come before the horse. When Japan became the second most powerful economy after the devasting destruction of World War II, it's knowledge base became the foundation of its economic miracle. There are no short cuts. Investment in Japan's economic miracle came when the outside world realized that although Japan had limited natural wealth--few minerals, no oil deposits--it did have a well educated, eager population. Isn't it about time that our own majority--the 83% rural population--have a bite of the apple and not limit growth to the urban centre which has so disappointed the nation?

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