EDITORIAL: Harness former PMs’ memoirs
The proper governance of any country and particularly in relation to its economy is not best evaluated only by the results of the policies they executed, but also by analysis of the options which they faced and the hard choices they made.
Sometimes it is possible to argue from hindsight that leaders may have made the wrong choices; but all this is better examined if they have written their memoirs, and in that sense voters and analysts alike can walk in their shoes. There would be much public benefit to be gained from such exercises.
Without these experiences, the onset of economic difficulties may provoke some of our more public-spirited commentators to declare that the Westminster system has failed us. Such a strong diagnosis would have benefited from prime ministerial memoirs.
On Friday last, former prime minister Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford, delivering a DLP lunchtime lecture, spoke about the value of experience in handling problems of the local economy and made the very valuable point that he is the only one in this country who has leadership experience of guiding the country through a recession like that of the 1990s.
A certain reverence is due to the opinions of any former prime minister and indeed we should always treat with respect the views of any of our former ministers of government whenever they give us the benefit of their experiences, rare though that is.
Only recently, Prime Minister Stuart reminded us of the shortage of memoirs of former leaders and has promised that he will do some writing in the future, presumably when he demits office.
The public interest suffers and is harmed when public debate cannot be enhanced by the input the knowledge our leaders acquired when they were under the hammer of experience, and the solutions and stratagems they employed to try to put right those challenges which confronted them.
We make no provision for former leaders to record their experiences, but had such a facility been available, Sir Lloyd’s memoirs might have contained nuggets of information on how he dealt with the crisis, and the alternatives which were considered and discarded in favour of the solution eventually adopted by him.
By the same token, former prime minister Owen Arthur’s account would enlighten us all on how he was able to successfully manage the economy and increase and maintain employment while avoiding the economic icebergs which have devastated the efforts of the Prime Ministers who preceded and succeeded him.
Managing any economy, especially a small open one, is a work in progress, and as we have been told by at least one Nobel Prize winner, economies are living instruments which react to policy, and policy can make the difference in a recession. Correct polices will shorten the recession. Wrong policy will lengthen it.
Economics is an inexact science, and the lived experiences of our leaders are often the best guide to workable policies. We need to harness these experiences, study them and put them to good use. Sir Lloyd had a point.