Taking St. Kitts and Nevis to the next level

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

“One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

“This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,
“Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied,
“The one you feed.”

-Author Unknown (possibly a Cherokee parable, and going back probably at least to the 1950’s in print – but unconfirmable) – http://www.sapphyr.net/natam/two-wolves.htm

The theme for this year’s National Consultation was, “The Green Economy – A pathway towards a sustainable future.” At that meeting, Sir K Dwight Venner, the Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, described the “sub-regional states as having overstretched governments, an under performing private sector, and a dependent civil society” and he urged us to “restructure our domestic economies.” At a political rally after the National Consultation, the leader of the incumbent party was rallying his supporters and making the case that his government should be given another chance to take St. Kitts and Nevis to the next level, to help create an economy that was based on renewable energy and agricultural self-sufficiency.

What was not mentioned at both venues and not discussed was the need for structural adjustment of the political landscape, with all of the political parties working together, to effect the changes which are necessary to make this vision a reality. This transformative agenda would necessarily engender a new mindset based on a ground/bottom-up approach to governance, which puts the vulnerable environment first, inclusive of its air, water, soil/land and seas, supporting and empowering its most vulnerable people second as we endeavoured to rebuild a more vibrant and flourishing economy. This would then entail us going further and restructuring our institutions, be it government, private sector or civil society, so that they would become more inclusive and exemplary stewards of our most precious resources, our environment and our people. This is opposite to the top-down approach that has become entrenched in every facet of our society today, not only locally, but regionally and internationally, where we have extractive and exploitative institutions dominated by the elites in their quest for more wealth and more power. This has resulted in the denigration of both of our environment and our people, which are our natural and human capital, respectively.

This realization of the necessity of political restructuring to foster the transformation of our economy was impressed upon me after reading the article, “Why Switzerland Has Some Of The Happiest, Healthiest Citizens In The World.” Here is an excerpt:

Switzerland is home to one of the world’s most thriving economies and also one of the happiest populations on the globe. So what’s the Swiss secret sauce? The tiny, landlocked central European country is known for investing in its people. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Human Capital Report, Switzerland invests more in the health, education and talent of its people than any other country in the world.

“Switzerland is a very small country with a small population, and it actually has very few natural resources,” Saadia Zahidi, Senior Director of the World Economic Forum, tells The Huffington Post. “The biggest resource it does have is people, and that’s what it’s been investing in for quite some time. It’s led to an economy that is competitive, highly innovative, and has adopted technology fast.”

Leveraging the skills and talents of its people is key to the future of any country or institution, and will determine how prepared a country is to face the demands of a competitive global economy, the WEF Human Capital Report explains. WEF’s comprehensive index examined 51 indicators to determine how various countries invest in their people, and how they’re leveraging those investments in terms of productivity and a robust economy.

“Countries that invest in human capital end up getting returns in terms of economic growth,” says Zahidi. “And then countries that have that economic growth are able to reinvest further in human capital. So you have this virtuous cycle that’s established.”

Human capital is a function of four pillars: health and wellness, education, work and employment, and what WEF calls an “enabling environment,” which includes factors like legal framework and infrastructure that allow for returns on human capital. Switzerland topped the index by generating high scores across the four pillars, coming in first in the health and wellness and workforce and employment categories, second for enabling environment and fourth in education — which goes a long way in explaining the success of the Swiss economy.

What struck me most after reading this article was that our economic and political institutions, as they stand today, not only locally, but regionally and internationally, pay lip service to the development of this human capital by undermining its four pillars. Let me explain. If we look at the four pillars through the lens of the top-down approach to governance, which deals with the enrichment and empowerment of the elites, we would see that the machinations of their institutions does the complete opposite. Instead of maximizing health and wellness, the system is gamed to maximize illness and disease. Instead of having an education system that encourages critical thinking and creativity in all spheres of life, we have deception, misinformation, ignorance and conformity. Instead of having service through meaningful and fulfilling work and employment, we have servitude via a monetary system that embraces a debt-form of slavery. And finally instead of having an “enabling environment” that provides the legal framework and infrastructure that allows for returns on health and wellness, education, work and employment, we have, truth be told, a “disabling environment” where what is being “enabled” is illness and disease, ignorance and servitude, all to the behest of enriching those in power. This lens goes a long way to explain much of the social diseases we see around us, as most of the growth in our economies capitalizes on the negatives to maximize profits, than capitalizing on the positives to maximize well-being.

We must constantly remind ourselves that the rules of society, be it formal or informal, are all written and enforced by the elites and for the elites, in the vain attempt to consolidate more power. The bottom-up approach turns this on its head, by giving a voice to the voiceless – the environment, and power to the powerless – the most vulnerable among us. All of our wisdom traditions even beckons us to do so. They had a firm grasp back then of what we called human capital, and realized that by protecting and providing for the needs of the least among us – the poor, the oppressed, the orphans, the widows, the resident aliens, the weak and the sick, our societies would be better off, more productive and would thrive and flourish. Instead of having a top-down economy which is a trickle-down economy based on the false premise that a rising tide of wealth will lift all boats, we would have in its place a ground/bottom-up economy which is a trickle-up economy based now on the true premise that a rising tide of wellbeing will lift all boats. It is as simple as that.

I cannot see St. Kitts and Nevis going to the next level with a politically tribalistic mindset, where parties come before principles and country. I can only see us ushering this transformation to the green economy, by not only restructuring the domestic economy, but also restructuring the political landscape to produce a less overstretched government, a more productive private sector and a less dependent civil society. It goes without saying, that what we need to effect this change, to produce a more beautiful St. Kitts and Nevis our hearts tell us is possible, is nothing less than a government of national unity, which is more inclusive, more loving, more caring and sharing, and willing to champion the needs of the voiceless and powerless among us.

One of my colleagues, Dr. Thelma Phillip-Browne, said it best in an email she posted on the SKNList:

“We just need to get back to principles enunciated for us from time immemorial. Educate our people, share amongst ourselves, be our brothers keeper, cultivate our land, maximize our innate potentials, unity is strength! Rebuilding from the ground up!”

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