The Grenville Phillips Column – The Way of the One Trough
History can be studied from an infinite number of perspectives, and no historian can study them all. I study history from several different perspectives, one being seeking patterns among nations. There seems to be a model that former colonies do not appear to deviate from once they have been granted independence. It currently comprises seven phases.
Phase 1 is the period of competitive elections, where politicians tend to compete by enticing voters with promises of free government services. Two dominant political parties typically emerge, each with its own philosophy of financing the country’s development. Typical financing methods include: taxation, borrowing, nationalising productive industries, or combinations of these.
Since politicians rarely have any relevant management experience, the country soon finds itself in debt. Once the debts exceed a maximum limit (40% of GDP), the debt becomes unsustainable.
Phase 2 is the period of the debt spiral. An economy in a debt spiral cannot recover unless the established political parties drastically change their development philosophies. However neither of them do and the debt accumulates until the country is on the brink of economic ruin.
Phase 3 is the period of the final election. Normally, the party who promised to place the country more in debt wins the elections. However, there comes an election when both established parties are fully aware that they cannot keep their election promises. But they make them anyway, since that is the only way that they know how to compete. Thus, they guarantee the economic ruin of the country.
Phase 4 is the period of military intervention. With a ruined economy, severe austerity and poverty becomes the people’s daily experience. Social unrest follows and it is directed towards the politicians. The people realise too late that the politicians have economically ruined a once prosperous country with reckless promises and corrupt practises. Concerned for their safety, the politicians seek protection from the military.
Phase 5 is the period of military take-over. With limited revenues, the government is unable to pay public workers, and the military starts to manage an increasing number of government services. Eventually, the military leadership grows tired of sharing power with the incompetent and corrupt civilian leadership, stages a coup and takes over.
Phase 6 is the period of military control. The military leadership have no experience in managing productive sectors of the economy, and are shunned by the international community. So they tend to develop alliances with ruthless dictators who teach them how to maintain control by intimidating citizens.
Outspoken speakers, writers and singers are persecuted. However, soon the paranoid leaders resort to the torture and murder of anyone suspected of being a threat to their rule. Needless to say, all women, except the very young and the very old, become targets of rape.
Phase 7 is the period of tolerated deception. After looting all that can be looted from the country, the military appears to submit to international pressure and agrees to hold a general election in order to select a civilian government. The military leader resigns, leads a political party and wins the general election, thus maintaining control.
Every former colony that became independent after World War 2 can find itself in one of the periods; although, surrendering a country to the IMF can prolong Phase 4. Barbados is currently in Phase 3. However, we have a unique opportunity to create an entirely new path.
By electing any established party, we would have selected the way of the one trough. It will be a Barbados where the political trough is the only one that will be filled. Politically favoured individuals will be allowed near the trough where they can only hope for spillage when the politicians feed. The rest of us can only hope that those near the trough will be kind.
In a Solutions Barbados administration, there will be no political trough. The rain will fall on all of us, and we will each contribute a small portion (10%) to look after our most vulnerable.