by Kenny Green

To understand the dynamics of the importance of social protection and the working class we can refer to a particular case. India is a superpower. One of the BRICS and a country teeming with wealth. It also features close to 350 million people with no access to modern sanitation, or in other words, the basic flushing toilet. In fact, they do not even have access to the basic pit latrine.  To make it even more unpleasant, they practice open defecation, a practice which in our countries would be labelled as close to barbaric.

Human Development is not just measured by who is at the top nor is it based on cold GDP statistics. It is also measured by how the society on a whole is balanced. For many people who grow up in circumstances that do not require such access, the lack of access to some of the basics that elevate our own countrymen, seems amazing. The desire to eliminate pit latrines therefore comes to mind. At face level it appears at odds with a modern society in which a toilet with running water is scarcely seen as an achievement. However, within the context that major countries still have extraordinary numbers of people who lack the basics, it is paramount that we raise the standard for ourselves and for our own. 

The key to this is the private sector and the capital wielding class in Dominica and its perception of the workers. The allegiance to the Government of the day is no surprise if the private sector operates solely to the ownership interest. If the safest and most secure job is that of a public servant; if the most reliable employer is the Public Service; and if the opportunities to get housing, an education and even to be able to have solid healthcare are related to Government patronage, then why would any working class person pay homage to the values of those who want greater say in policy decisions but have zero interest in elevating those who are the literal “boots on the ground”? 

It is an oddity because the choice is not between mendicancy and some mythical lost independence. The workers of the 80’s and 90’s were not better treated (at least statistically). Inflation may have made their circumstances worse off, but that inflation is generally caused through margins controlled by the private sector and not Government. The present Government’s biggest challenge is that it has to be more clever and more diversified than ever, because private capital has many more options than previously, and Dominica is a risky environment. 

Dominica Breweries and Ross University left after multiple shocks to their capital models; DCP took the financial buyout exit option that all entrepreneurs work towards; and with climate change pointing out that building shocks into revenue models now has to be a staple of doing business in Dominica, the system has to be adaptable. Government itself has to make changes to the economy once again as it plans for a new future, a virtual one in particular. 

But also, there has to be serious thought put into the infrastructure that raises the human development index.  The impending “international airport” is an important step, but the Hospitals in the capital and the North East, as well as the clinic infrastructure and virtual diagnosis systems, are increasingly critical in order to build functioning independent communities. There is still too much economic emphasis on Roseau at a time when technology is disruptive enough to allow for this to not be so.  As part of the economic viability, and a carrot for working people in Dominica in particular, diversifying the Public Sector footprint away from Roseau should be a key goal of the Government.

Moving the Ministry of Tourism to the new natural hub for the industry, the North, and the Ministry of Agriculture to the North East, as well as Culture to the South, can create a new vibrancy and also enable financial opportunities for those communities. It also reduces the pressure on Roseau in many ways, including the most logical, for transportation, planning and disaster purposes.  It is the ultimate resilience.

The fashioning of a National Health Insurance plan should be fast tracked to coincide with the physical infrastructure currently in build across the island. Tax reform, which reduces Income and corporate tax to a feasible flat rate between 10-15% should be on the agenda, and a National Insurance levy can then be applied to channel some of those savings into a Health Insurance pool that can take care of the working man and woman who does not have the income to afford private healthcare. It should be mandatory, and income graded. 

If a Government is to be relied on and a legacy is to be made, the structures have to become institutionalised in such a way that they become part of the national identity. 

What of the private sector? The change that new technology and new investors will bring, will create its own transformation of the private sector. What is for sure is that change cannot be driven by those who perceive that the working class are mendicant for looking after their interests in much the same way the private sector does.  Human existence is shaped by that very economic and therefore political reality.  Someone whose children would not have been considered for either education or housing in another era will not want to abandon it simply for the right to be able to help someone buy a bigger fish for themselves. That is the economic hard-sell which underpins most of the rhetoric that does not come with stated incentives.

The advent of Covid19 has also created a backlash against classic right-wing economic policy. The idea that healthcare should be part of the capital model and be profit based has been thrown on its head. The idea that UBI (universal basic income) simply is mendicancy, rather than a useful buffer against societal chaos, has also created serious issues for right-wing policy towards welfare.  Therefore, it is important to consider that compassionate Governance should not simply now be an individual personality trait but has to be policy based.  Human Resource development and management is going to be the most crucial factor in economic growth going forward. The hope would be to find common ground between democratic socialism and patronage, practiced through direct social management and the profit incentive which drives the private sector and right-wing economic policy.  Until then the division is deeply ingrained into the intent of the players involved.

About the author:
Kenneth Green is Managing Partner of Advance Global Partners, a management, investment, and Immigration consultancy. He is a Director of a number of companies in Dominica and a former President of the Dominica Association of Industry and Commerce. He is an experienced professional with engagement experience in the Caribbean, Europe, the UK, and Asia.

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