Re-Brand the PNM!
The Lyrics and The Licks
REVISIT REVOLUTIONARY NATURE
It is necessary to reconnect to the historic, progressive potential of the PNM. The PNM in its eight (Cool terms of office to date i.e. 1956-1986, 1991-1995, 2001-2010 or 43 years of holding office, has attempted to transform the colonial system and order in the following ways:
Made the State the foremost facilitator of private capital enterprise and entrepreneurship, locally, regionally and internationally. The fiscal policies outlined to complement the early five-year development programmes are there to be examined as evidence of this.
Transformed the State to be the major motor of economic development, in heavy industry, large and medium manufacturing, agriculture, the service sector, communications etc., taking over whenever and wherever private capital, foreign or local, proved inadequate or unwilling to take up or fulfill available options. The State moved directly into areas of the economy and took over management function, thereby expanding the State Capital Sector.
Fuelled the development and further enhancement of the people's sector i.e. Co-operatives, Credit Unions etc.
Established free education at Primary, Secondary (comprehensive and technical) and Tertiary levels geared to dovetail with the requirements of the overall development plan. How successful has been the resulting fit and flow from school to job is debatable, nevertheless the general tendency is quite evident.
Conceptualised the orderly divestment of State Shareholdings by way of the a viable, mature Stock Exchange and the particular mechanism of the Unit Trust to allow for the participation and ownership of shares by the largest possible number of citizens.
In recent times, the mission has been to complete the liberalization of the economy in unison with the demands of the time as dictated by global free trade and the world capitalist system of which we are an integral part.
The major failing in this context has proven to be the continued absence of an overall Industrial Policy that will signal to all the direction of our economic diversification, the best niche-markets of the world in which we can adequately compete, the new areas of economic activity that would create the necessary structural linkages within the domestic economy as the basis for any further and future export thrust. However, these planks (A-F) outlined above reflect the coherent progressive nature of the PNM, its revolutionary nature, that clearly had begun to play itself out by the 1990's.The PNM has come a full circle; from champions of a dependent, somewhat protected, nationalist economy (recall the days of buy-local, import substitution, tariffs on imports, pioneer status, tight monetary controls etc) to full liberalization in context of global free trade. Are we to move now from being champions of the requirements of developing Nation Statehood to the absolute abandonment of sovereignty in context of globalization? What is to be the basis of a new path towards further socio-economic development of T&T? What is to be the prevailing tendency in this context? That is the present political predicament. The leadership crisis within the PNM is only a symptom of this predicament.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
The children and grand-children of the founders of the PNM have to take responsibility to re-fashion, re-design and re-brand this vehicle created by their ancestors for the transformation of society. It is widely accepted that the PNM has been veered off its moorings for quite some time; therefore the efforts to re-calibrate it shall take tremendous doing. Any serious new leadership of the PNM whether in office or not, although being out of office renders the challenge much easier, must immediately seek to do the following:
Set up a structured PR Department of the Party, and where necessary engage full-time professionals. The single purpose here must be to find and design the means to deal effectively with all the negatives with which the PNM has been stigmatized over the years. The means used by the Party to respond to any specific criticism will differ from issue to issue as determined by the professionals involved. The work of this PR Department must ensure the Party the capacity to engage intelligently with clear, precise, objective analysis whenever necessary without any delay. Criticisms are best dispelled immediately after they are proffered. False propaganda repeated often enough without instant refutation, come to be accepted as gospel.
The Party must be seen as a school of learning from which a government can draw human resources. All the bureaus and/or committees established by the Party must, therefore, be fashioned in such a way so as to dovetail with the requirements of governance. The idea is to eventually facilitate a smooth human resource flow from Party to Government if and when required. This is not a strategy to pre-empt the functioning of the Public Service but to prime Party elements to enhance the workings of the State Apparatus. Furthermore, the existence of a high-powered, pro-active research/information unit within the PR Department of the Party would suggest the establishment of a Super Ministry of Information which, in today's world, really ought to be the dominant Ministry of Government.
The Party must seek to maintain a life, a dynamism of its own, distinct and separate from any Government. The point being that all state organizations are by nature and function conservative. It is the nature of all state bureaucracy to maintain the status-quo. The Party must distance itself from any such debilitating conservatism. The Party must serve constantly to inform and push the lethargic state apparatus and bureaucrats forward. The Party must remain the agency for change and progress. Government must be prodded by the Party not to ignore the politics of the day. That was one of the cardinal sins of former PNM regimes. Day to day governance can be as far removed from politics as heaven is from hell. Politics is the exercise of putting vision and meaning and coherence to the struggles and sacrifices we undertake in daily existence. "Politics" places the options, the choices and the parameters logically before us. "Politics" answers the following questions: For what are we to sacrifice? What are we to put aside today to be able to build tomorrow? What is the nature of the tomorrow we envisage? Party life, as distinct from the life of governance, can only be sustained by genuine politics. Thus, a government can stay in power, while its Party is long dead.
If the Manning Administrations, as Government, have failed to perform the duties of governance creditably, then as Party, the instrument of politics, they have been much worse; in fact, they have been woefully inadequate. Probably it may be wise in future to guarantee that Cabinet Ministers and Party Leadership are not one and the same people so that differences in their primary concerns and focus can be brokered smoothly within the existing democratic structures and framework. At the very least both the Chairman and General Secretary of the Party should not be Cabinet Ministers, freed, therefore, to deal with the real politics of the day and to steer the constant, ongoing development of the Party. The obvious tension that shall emanate from this measure must be viewed as healthy and educational, even preparatory, in light of the similar delicate tension that always has to be managed between government ministers and their technical public service staff in the various ministries, departments and statutory agencies. The public servant focuses on the technical parameters as dictated by economic possibilities and the laws of the land and therefore brings this to bear on the minister's agenda; there is always tension but the tension serves to keep both sides in line. Similarly, the Party leadership, separate and distinct from the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, brings the politics of the day to bear on the agenda of governmental activities. We shall move out of the realm of "underdeveloped", the day we come to master the management of such delicate relationships.
To facilitate such a relationship between Party and Government, we may have to look carefully at reforming the Party Constitution to determine which of the rules and regulations would have to be changed subsequent to any separation of Party Leadership from Cabinet. The Party Constitution states that the "General Council shall be the governing body of the Movement and shall be responsible for its policy, organization, administration and discipline..." and shall "have power generally to do all things as are necessary for the enforcement of the Constitution and the achievement of aims and objects, principles, policy and programme of the Movement..." But if, as is the present case, the General Council has been compromised to the extent that it is now comprised solely of hand-picked members loyal to the Party Leader who is also the Prime Minister, how can different points of view and differing concerns and interests ever come to be adequately expressed at General Council level? How are we to measure the quality of the membership of the General Council to guarantee they are fit to do the job required? In fact, how can any such General Council member be expected to do the required job when faced with the awesome power and authority of an incumbent Prime Minister who is also Party Leader and chairs the General Council generally or only allows his special designate to do so at times? Will any General Council member ever dare to criticize the Chair or merely continue to rubber-stamp the wishes of the Chair? People recognize immediately whether their presence can ever really make a difference; once the structures that obtain are debilitating and render people in any way impotent, even if only psychologically, then people would act accordingly. Hence the apathy! And the syndrome that prevails is one in which "everything is left to the leader." Structures can produce and test the quality of people we want but the structures must be designed and operated in a manner to give people the fullest exposure to inculcate the confidence and empowerment to be directly involved in the entire process and so make decisions. The work programme and the functioning of the General Council can provide the empowerment and, therefore, the moulding of the quality and characteristics that we envisage. Also it should be noted that no one is born to do political work; so the existence of a Party School can be a mechanism to help develop members to be sterling General Council activists. A regulation can stipulate that every newly elected Party Group officer must attend Party School for a fixed period after being first elected. In addition, to make the empowerment and exposure more widespread we can then even rotate the officers representing Party Groups at General Council in order to make it difficult for the General Council itself to become incestuous.