“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – Psalm 23: 1-3
The Brundtland Commission’s report (1987) defined sustainable development as: “Development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Sustainable living is an eminently sensible goal but there are many seemingly endemic frustrations which impede the path to success. Some of these frustrations are (1) high government debt, (2) excessive government employment, (3) decaying educational systems, (4) natural disasters and (5) unimaginative growth strategies.
The government and private sector have to be continually prepared to address each frustration, one after the other, in order to recover our sustainable living lifestyle.
The government of a country is elected to determine policy and makes laws to regulate the governance of the country in support of this policy; and government collects taxes (direct and indirect) and obtains loans to provide a myriad of services.
When the government debt is high, interest rates rise, savings are reduced, inflation occurs, there is less flexibility to respond to financial crises, investor confidence wanes, wage increases are at risk and growth rate increases are threatened.
When the symptom of high government debt appears, in small economies, the solution is, sooner rather than later, to seek a long term solution, with negotiated conditions, from a big player (e.g. IMF, World Bank or rich country). The government should not tinker with local solutions because it usually exacerbates the situation.
There is an optimal number of employees required to run the civil service which consists of the permanent professional branches of a government’s administration. There is the temptation by the political arm of government to make appointments to the civil service, in excess of the optimal number, to create jobs and thus ostensibly reduce the unemployment rate. This practice, unnecessarily increases the cost of running government and puts pressure on the government debt.
The solution is to aggressively develop an entrepreneurial sector and create jobs in this way rather than to unashamedly pad the civil service because it is the easier option for apparent short term gain. Much lip service is paid to enterprise development but only aborted and failed schemes exist, it is time we turn this situation around.
Our people are our most important resource, yet our educational system has failed us. Instead of having a higher and higher number of graduates through our primary, secondary and tertiary educational systems who are being prepared in response for work force demand, we seem to be getting a higher and higher number of failures who can only boast of a school leaving certificate. These drop outs from the system are then attracted by gangs and the drug trade and pursue a life of crime and disaster.
The solution is be prepared to rehabilitate the drop outs through a well organized youth camp with objectives of teaching a trade and instilling acceptable social behavior and discipline, with military precision, until they are fit to rejoin society. We must also be prepared to revamp our public safety system and punish severely, according to the crime, those who have slipped through the system.
Natural disasters such as floods, earthquake, hurricanes and cyclones are not within our control. The 2017 hurricane season is currently creating havoc and threatening our sustainable lifestyle.
The solution is that we must continually heed early warning, preparedness and recovery advice in order to mitigate the impact of potential devastation.
We in the Caribbean seem to be stuck in a time warp where we keep on doing the same things and expect to get different results. Where else in the world is there a region which can boast of diverse multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-culinary, multi-genre (musical) and multi-lingual assets? The Caribbean is also blessed with a strategic location for the potential creation of wealth since we are made up of an archipelago of attractive islands and mainland territories nestled between North and South America, Central America in the West and the Atlantic Ocean in the East, in and bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
The solution is to be innovative and think out of the box and exploit these resources led by tourism, mining, renewable energy, agricultural, cultural and knowledge industries. The recently concluded Caribbean Premium League is an example as to how we can brand the Caribbean.
Let us remember that the Lord is our shepherd and we shall not want. Let us transform ourselves into characters prepared with life essentials to mitigate disaster and seek a sustainable living lifestyle.