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EDITORIAL: Debate that tells us much

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Debate that tells us much

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The major debate these days is that on privatization – and how it may be of benefit in these tough economic times.
In a sense, the topic appears to have sprung, as it were, out of the blue; but it seems clear that two major political parties are adopting some form of privatization as a part of their economic policy for the immediate and foreseeable future.
This issue has, of course, come to the fore as a consequence of the fiscal and other problems that have arisen of late, but we venture to say that the economic downturn has only hastened an examination which is a natural development of the post-colonial experience.
On attainment of Independence, it fell to the leaders in Government to enlist the full power of the state to lift up the entire society, bedevilled as they were by grinding poverty during the latter days of external control of our destiny.
Education, transport and health in particular were enjoyed at the point of delivery bereft of much of the true cost, for where the relevant services were not entirely free, the cost was a fraction of their true value.
It was all part of the long hard battle to build the societies in this island and it was necessary for the Government to adopt a paternalistic role, and few who understand the nature of the development of our societies would blame the administrations of the day.
But societies develop and, as with growing children, there comes a time for reassessment of the paternal role, and hence the importance of this debate.
Our island enjoys a very high standard of living, and with an income tax system which for many reasons has shown itself not to be as efficient as the value added tax (VAT), the fine-tuning of the fiscal system and the provision of services are two policy battlegrounds that demand the highest quality of analysis and intellect to properly rebalance the income and expenditure sides.
The public should regard it a boon to our democracy that the two major political parties have been giving their views on this important topic for the benefit of public consumption, and we urge the widest participation in the exercise.
Everyone can learn and benefit from the debate; but whatever emerges from it all, our democracy will be enhanced, for such discussion makes for a better informed electorate to decide on their preferences for political office.
We regard the debate seminally important and wish that more issues of importance were ventilated in this way during the run-up to election time. Election campaigns are notoriously famous for light-hearted comments night after night; these current and direct meetings with the public are useful.
It is a tribute to our political system that it can accommodate these important debates even thought  the date for the next election is yet to be announced.