“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” – 2 Chronicles 1:10
Two weeks ago I was invited to attend a two day regional forum on reinventing Government in the Caribbean mounted by the United Nations Development Programme, the Caribbean Centre for Development Administration and the Barbados Government.
Although my schedule was rather tight, I sandwiched my already programmed workload between attending the opening session of the forum and mingling with participants over cocktails on the first day. On the second day, I punctuated my schedule by attending an interactive session at the forum which I rather enjoyed. In this way I was able to get the best of both worlds in the time available.
I learnt, on the second day of the forum, that a half-day regional consultation on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, hosted by The Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor and facilitated by Executive Director Dr. Naresh Singh, would follow. This Commission is co-chaired by former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto and is the first global initiative to focus specifically on the link between exclusion, poverty and the law (www.undp.org/legalempowerment).
My attention was immediately aroused by the name Hernando de Soto whom I recalled is the author of the book “The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else”.
Five years ago, Professor William Allen of the Department of Political Science, Michigan State University, invited me to East Lansing to give a lecture in support of his course on Culture, Politics & Post Colonialism. The main objectives of the course were to explore the complexity and range of de-colonization and post-colonial texts and to demonstrate the connections between the study of scientific paradigms and historical developments. My lecture was based on De Soto’s, book which was required reading for that course and my lecture was entitled “Addressing Caribbean Economic Issues through Innovative Holistic Capital Partnership Initiatives”.
De Soto’s theme in the book is that capitalism has lost its way in developing countries. It was not equitable and creates a wealth divide even though it is a popular theme for successful business persons. This, however, aggravated the situation since there was a tendency to be out of touch with the poor. His proposed corrective measures were to document the potential of the poor, promote savings psyche by all, enable the poor to convert their work and savings into capital, address civil disobedience, mobilise the poor as an asset and implement a capital creation system for the poor.
My theme in the lecture, in the context of the English Speaking Caribbean, was to promote holistic capital partnerships to address de Soto’s corrective measures. I focused on mobilising a private sector chariot as the engine of growth coupled with public sector support to provide a user- friendly enabling environment.
The recommendation was to encourage good governance (the effective management of relationships) among private sector, trade unions, politicians, public service, Caribbean Community Secretariat, Caribbean Development Bank and the University of the West Indies.
The relative roles of the partners are as follows: the private sector – to stimulate and sustain rapid global niche market growth inspired by innovation and technology; the trade unions – foster enhanced productivity towards global competitiveness for fair compensation; the politicians and public service – build an environment of public sector effectiveness; the CDB – to develop an adequate & appropriate capital market; the UWI – to increase the tertiary output per capita; and the CCS – to promote regional integration through the Caricom Single Market and Economy (although five years later, I think it is wise to manage our expectations as we contrast the CSM and CSE).
In the context of the types of capital to be included in these innovative holistic capital partnership initiatives, I included physical, natural, financial, spiritual, human, intellectual, social and cultural capital.
I concluded that holistic capital partnerships were based on: relationships –
a wide-reaching term, designating views in which the individual elements of a system are determined by their relations to all other elements of that system; synergy – where the sum of the interaction will be greater than the sum of the individual parts; system transformation – where in addition to the individual parts of a system, there are emergent properties that add to or transform the individual parts; and interdependence – which means that no element of a system can exist apart from the system in which it is a part.
Based on what emerged from the forum two weeks ago, the above advice given five years ago is just as relevant today as it was then. This is disturbing since it could suggest that we have not made much progress in reducing the wealth divide.
We must recognize that the root principles of democracy are based on President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, 1863: “…that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not vanish from this earth”. Our leaders must pray for wisdom and knowledge, that they may lead our people, our leaders must engage civil society in their partnership to ensure sustainable development particularly for the benefit of the poor. Then and only then can we build trust in Government.