St Lucia’s P.M. laments ‘new dependency syndrome’ in Caribbean societies
Guyana Chronicle
July 6, 2002

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St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony has lamented the troubling emergence of “a new dependency syndrome” sweeping across societies within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). A feature of this syndrome is the situation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) mushrooming nearly everyday and depending on governments for financial assistance and sustenance.

Dr. Anthony described this dependency syndrome, as “a psychological deformity” whereby governments are placed in a very difficult position at budget time on deciding which NGOs, and how much funds, should be allocated to these bodies based on their requests.

“It is almost as if nothing can be done, nothing can be achieved (by these NGOs) unless of course you get government’s support, government’s finance…,” Dr. Anthony asserted.

The St Lucian leader was speaking last Wednesday at the conclusion of the historic two-day Civil Society Encounter with CARICOM Heads of Government held at the Ocean View International Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

“I also want to drive home…the troubling psychological or ideological problem (whereby) nearly everyday, NGOs mushroom in our society and their first source of funds must be from the government. At budget time they all engage in requests after requests. Nothing wrong with that (but) it does place the government in a very difficult position of deciding how to allocate to which NGO,” Dr. Anthony said in his presentation at the caucus.

“One troubling (aspect is the emergence of a new dependency syndrome sweeping across our societies; a psychological deformity. Almost as if nothing can be done, nothing can be achieved unless of course you get government’s support, government’s finance or otherwise,” he added.

Anthony also called for the strengthening of accountability of the political directorate and politicians and of companies and institutions, be it civil or otherwise.

Touching on the issue of accountability of funds, Anthony pointed out that nearly every government in the region has had experiences of one kind or another where funds made available to NGOs or other civil society organisations “are perhaps sometimes not always utilised in the way those funds were intended or there is a reluctance to understand that once those funds emanates from the coffers of governments, that there is a public interest element to those funds” and therefore accountability becomes critical to it.

The St. Lucian Prime Minister also lauded the civil society caucus, where a number of issues were discussed and recommendations arrived at which are aimed at ‘the way forward’ for the region. He said that it is vital that such interactions and forums take place.

He noted that even at the domestic levels where governments attempt to fashion models of debate and discussions and involvement, more often than not, civil societies shy away from those forums and then, even the concerns and issues which ought not to be politicised are politicised.

“We cannot afford to not be part of these issues and engagements. When these opportunities are afforded and given, they (should be) well utilised and they need to be called new principles of engagements,” Anthony suggested.

“For me, fundamentally, the need for our societies to evolve in the context where we de-politicise issues that are fundamental to the well-being of the society that those issues are not subject to partisan political contentions,” he said, pointing out that a classic example of this is crime.

“There is no government (of the CARICOM countries) which is not facing the crisis in dealing with the problems of crime throughout the region. Crime is so critical and crucial to the well-being of our people, that we cannot allow it to become a subject of partisan politics,” Anthony said.

He also admitted that many of the proposals, which came out of the two-day civil society caucus were “imminently sensible, realistic and practical”.

“The problem, however, is that while it would be easy to enunciate broad statements of philosophy, broad statements of intention, broad statements of principle, the difficulty is always to fashion the matching mechanisms to give support and expression to these various statements,” Anthony said.

“I suspect therefore that the (search for the essential and) appropriate mechanisms will continue for some time. However, it is true to say that there are sufficient indicators that at some level, some suggestions have emerged (such as) the whole question of interaction between governments and members of civil societies,” he noted.

According to him, some of the proposals are obviously not new but there is no harm in reinforcing them and keeping them since they continue to have value.

The St. Lucian Prime Minister also pointed out that he was a bit dismayed and surprised at not seeing sufficient evidence of the role of labour in the consultation process across the community.

“So many of the issues that confront the single market and economy pertain to labour and nearly all of us have a fundamental challenge in all our countries to modernise our labour institutions and the labour laws that govern how these institutions work,” Dr. Anthony said.

“The point that I want to drive home is simply that as we make our proposals for engagements with civil societies, it is vital that we do not lose sight of the imperatives from the CSME (CARICOM Single Market and Economy), or for that matter, that we lose sight of the principle of equity across civil societies,” he said. (Mark Ramotar)