Villagers should have been consulted in advance on site of health centre
Stabroek News
October 23, 2001

Dear Editor,

With respect to your recommendation in your editorial "A little tact" in Stabroek News of Oct.20th, I am sadly disappointed that you first suggest a little more tact in the Ministers's efforts at persuading the villagers to accept the health centres and second,another Cabinet walk about.Does it not occur to Stabroek News that this is a matter of participatory democracy?The village councils of the areas concerned should have been involved at the planning stage and would have agreed on the location and any other dimensional issues to be sorted out even before the centres were designed.The World Bank used to call that approach "Beneficiary Participation in Project Design".That was about 2 decades ago.We continue to remain backward and want to continue with top-down decision making in every stage of the project cycle.

The second point is that the Cabinet walk about decision is dysfunctional.In the context of greater participatory democracy,these health centre decisions should have emerged from the budgetary planning allocations of the Regional Council.In other words,the Minister and his entourage had no right to have been there in the first place other than as invited guests.The opening ceremony should have been presided over by the Regional Chairman, the Neighbourhood Council Chairman and the village leaders.

It is amazing how difficult it is to shake elitist approaches to governance out of the heads of even enlightened authoritarians.If it is that difficult for Stabroek News to embrace bottom-up democracy,can you imagine how difficult it will be for the politicians who feel their only sense of worth is in the appearance of importance that these opportunities provide.For the good of better governance ,it would be useful to go over some of the arguments raised by me, by Dr. David Hinds and by Mr. Ravi Dev on bottom-up democracy.The undoubted expert on this issue is Brother Eusi Kwayana.Please help us to move forward and escape from the 19th.century.

Yours faithfully,

Clarence F. Ellis

Editor's note

The editorial did suggest that "efforts should have been made to have the pros and cons of the site selection ventilated beforehand."