Caribbean politics is transactional

Dear Editor,

  Caribbean politics look from a distance  like they are highly democratic. The indicators that  guide you to this view is that there is limited suppression of views, lively debate and regular changes in the power holders in Caribbean politics. But at the same time, it is obvious that democratically elected Caribbean governments are not effective in providing services, growing and developing their economies and in long-term planning for their voters. You can confirm this with statistics as well as by visiting most drinking establishments in the region.

  The key that defines Caribbean politics is that it is transactional. The voter votes for a candidate expecting the candidate to provide employment, benefits or entitlements in the short term. The candidate who wants to stay in power knows that he has to supply the jobs, benefits and entitlements in his term of office before an always lively election season arrives. The often-heard expectations of “what is the government doing for me?” confirm this.

  The inevitable result is that governments are focused on the benefits that need to be delivered before the next election. The inevitable result is also that there is no execution of matters that go beyond the governing term and are likely to promote long-term wellbeing, because the immediate “transaction” always takes precedence.

  It also means in the Dutch islands, that the extensive advice and review institutions that are set up under the Dutch constitutional framework (Council of Advice, SER , Law Enforcement Council) do not function because  of this transactional relationship between voters and politicians. The constitutional concept was that policy would be driven by such institutions with a strong scientific, forward thinking and legal base, but that is not happening. Instead, the decision-making is being largely driven by political parties whose basis for decision-making is largely based on the “transaction” to maintain power, and offer direct benefits in return to identifiable voter groups.

  The voters should not expect that under these circumstances the long-term projects like infrastructure investment, waste solutions, and alternative energy will ever be prioritized, because they do not fit into the short- term transaction that is so obviously the core modus operandi of Caribbean politics, also well represented in sweet Sint Maarten land.

Robbie Ferron