Suggestions for politicians

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The little bit of advice that we are about to offer would be quite fitting for any moment in time, but because 2017 is still brand new year, there’s still an opportunity for all of us to add to or strengthen aspects of our resolutions.
Usually, by this time of the year, for the majority of people who have pledged to do better, resolutions have already been left dead in the water, though from where we stand, that fact should not in any way deter them and others from striving to tag their desire to improve as a work in progress.
That brings us to our talking point for today – the almost concluded 2017 Budget Debate, which is expected to wrap today in Parliament with remarks from Prime Minister Gaston Browne.
Following the presentation of the $1.2 billion Budget over a week ago, residents, as has been the custom, were highly anticipating hearing/viewing spirited presentations from each of the 17 elected government and opposition Members of Parliament, which commenced in the Lower House early last week.
Well, the feedback has been that many viewers and listeners had been lost, turned off, or downright disenchanted with what passed for a debate, long before last Friday.
So, we would like to ask our MPs: What on earth is the rationale for spending hours rehashing decades-old issues that are far removed from the current topic on the table, namely the statement of revenues and expenditure to finance Antigua & Barbuda’s affairs for the rest of this year?
Were all of you completely satisfied with the allocations for each ministry or department? Were you all totally unmoved by the fact that residents would be burdened by more taxes from this year?
However, we say kudos to those MPs who actually addressed those points presented and highlighted a few more that were of national importance, like poor infrastructure, unsatisfactory delivery of services, etc.
But what was glaring was that some speakers took the floor for at least an hour and a-half, without even addressing a single aspect of the budget. As some of would say, we find that totally unacceptable!
Another point we would like to make is that we know from experience that when deliberating in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament, MPs and senators alike have the latitude to discuss what they regard as burning issues which hardly added to or subtracted from the current Bill before them, since they merely use their “debate” to throw jabs at their colleagues on the opposite sides of the aisle.
During those exchanges, we can almost feel sorry for the House Speaker and the President of the Senate who seem to be presiding over a hall full of unruly schoolboys as the trying to maintain order.
So our two-cents worth of advice to our politicians include the following:
Remember that you were elected to office mainly because people gave you the mandate to lead, and it is only fair that you do so with distinction.
You are role models to schoolchildren in Antigua & Barbuda who identify the photograph of every minister of government and proudly repeat your portfolio. Many of them will tell you that they aspire to become the leader of the country.
We admonish you to cease hiding behind the opportune cloak of “diplomatic immunity in Parliament” which you use to slander and vilify your opponents. It certainly fall way short of the good leadership qualities that we expect of those at the helm.
End your love/hate relationship with the media, especially OBSERVER media. We are here to report the news and not to make your party/the government look good. You and your PR machinery are doing quite a good job at that. Also, don’t blame us when you “mis-speak” and get quoted on what you said, and then claim that your words were taken out of context.
It’s what you say and not how long you take to say it that demonstrates how au fait you are with the subject matter. It makes no sense to expound on a topic for 30 minutes and then complain, when just a fraction is reported, that the press didn’t publish all of what you said.
Take responsibility for all your errors and shortcomings and stop alleging that reporters are biased or that the media organisation has had it in for you ever.
Please understand that “no comment” is a comment and that it does not automatically kill a story. If you dodge the media, it’s likely that they will hound you, and more than likely that the person who is placed at a disadvantage when you refuse to speak to the media, is you.
Try listening more attentively to the voters, who have the power to appoint and dis-appoint you. Although it may take all of five years to do so, they are the real bosses.
We hope we have given you, our leaders, much food for thought.

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