Politicians around the globe and specifically in the Caribbean and Africa should have been sleeping with one eye open as they followed the flow of events in Sri Lanka over the past few weeks.
The latest development in the Sri Lankan saga is the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa on Thursday, July 14, after he fled the country a few days earlier. In the past weeks the country of Sri Lanka found itself firmly in the grip of people power as the masses took to the streets, storming and occupying government buildings and burning the official residence of the prime minister.
Political leaders in the Caribbean and Africa should be paying close attention because the same problems currently plaguing Sri Lanka are also at our doorsteps. The novel coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine, disruptions in the global food supply chain, increases in food and fuel costs, and the prospects of a global recession should be keeping our leaders awake at nights.
Africa and the Caribbean have been assigned the role of producers of raw materials to feed the industrial beasts in Europe, America, and Asia. Regrettably, Africa and the Caribbean have never been strong enough to dictate the price of the commodities we produce. Commodity markets in the industrial world still set the price of coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar, precious metals, minerals, and oil. The coronavirus has severely disrupted the tourist industry in the Caribbean. African and Caribbean governments are therefore caught between the rock and hard place of International Monetary Fund (IMF) programmes and increasing the tax burden on the masses.
As more countries approach the economic precipice now being experienced by Sri Lanka, international lending agencies will become more reluctant to lend money to those with a poor repayment prospect. Governments in dire need of injections of foreign currency will have no choice but to agree to the harsh conditionalities imposed by the IMF and other international lending agencies. Chinese loans may give us some breathing space, but these loans also have to be repaid eventually. When the repayment date comes around we may be forced to trade away some of our sovereignty.
Politics as usual is no longer an option for politicians in Africa and the Caribbean. Our political directorate must rise to the occasion and apply the best of their taxpayer-funded Western education to the task of creating an economic environment conducive to a dignified standard of living for the masses.
Politicians who are in it to win it for themselves and their cronies must be encouraged by the strongest possible measures to move on and seek other avenues to fulfil their megalomaniacal ambitions.
People power is the last resort of the masses to force politicians to align policies with the will and desires of the people. Government by the people, of the people, and for the people is no feel good platitude to be paraded at election time and then retired until needed in the next election cycle. As the global economic climate becomes more unstable, governments will have to dig deeper and come up with bold new strategies to ensure that even the most vulnerable in society can still get a daily meal, some medical attention, and a roof over their heads.
Servant politicians who bend over backwards to cater to the legitimate needs of their constituencies will be showered with praise. Politicians who act as though they are the masters of the people will find themselves under siege like Gotabaya Rajapaksa. They might also find themselves on the run, or worse, as people power emerges in Africa and the Caribbean to remind politicians about who the master is and who the servant is.
Lenrod Nzulu Baraka
Founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center