Governments and sustainability

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a sustainable future, but how?

The concept of ‘sustainable development’ has appeared on lots of agendas lately, not in the least during the Rio+20 conference in June that has left lots of people with quite uncomfortable feelings. It seems to be very difficult, if not impossible, for humans to rearrange their way of life in order to transform this concept into reality. Governments play a vital role in the process, but in practice often prove to be a significant stumbling block. On Curacao this is certainly the case. The Island’s constitutional structure changed less than 2 years ago. We invited an insider of the current system to describe what’s going on. I’ll introduce the person by the pseudonym Titus alba, for obvious reasons:

It could have been so beautiful.

A brand new constitutional structure and a new government. Ah, the possibilities!

By now, we have progressed 22 months. I will not go into the political problems and everything around it. The newspapers take care of that and also on facebook one can find intense discussions taking place, preferably by not dealing with each others arguments but by going into name calling and accusations of treason. Very constructive of course, looking for consensus and such, you know how it is.

No, we stay closer to home, or better said, at home. That new organization, remember? Ministries they are now called. Uneasy agglomerations of organizations that were swept together, former services and departments. They are now led by real management teams (MT), yessir. Highly paid civil servants, earning salary bracket 17, who have to get things done. From being a former independent toko one has become a toko in a toko. Does it all work? Lets start by stating that it will only work if, and only if, it is all properly led. You know, managed.

Now, a few examples from daily reality:

Countless steps have to be taken before decisions can be made.
A top down approach because what the minister wants must be executed apparently, and yes, really, why on earth have experts within the ministry and listen to them? Papa knows best.
In the same spirit, have your MT put aside any advice from the organizations within the ministry, preferably without any discussions and consultation, because they now best, even if many a member of the MT doesn’t know s**t about the matter. Have your organizations function as clerks.
And yes, the Minister is surrounded by an ambiguous group of advisors, policy advisors or something. Mostly non civil servants. Their political signature is however not ambiguous.
Apply a complete nonsense about a totally unworkable division between policy and execution, accompanied by academic discussions on what is what. In the mean time though, this apparently has been abolished as the members of all the MT are very much involved in daily tasks and executive matters (see before).
Those involved in executive tasks do not get anywhere if they get stuck with a matter that is beyond issuing a permit of dealing with a petition, because there is noting in place to bring that matter forward. Thou shall not be involved in policy matters. Down boy!
Ah, the policy organizations. They are completely in the dark, lost from reality. They function in a practical and content-wise empty space. On order to erect these organizations, the former departments and services were either robbed from their best cadre, or the policy organizations are staffed with leftover people without any real experience and knowledge about policy matters (they had to be placed somewhere, don’t you think?). That happened a lot.
Between all these organizational entities there is still no consultation and discussion taking place in a structural way, so the bridging these MT have to do, is nowhere to be seen. There is absolutely no notion of what these sector directors and the like are meant to be doing, other than looking into petitions or execute directly what the minister wants to be done by whatever means necessary (see above).
As we are talking about cooperation, did you notice any two ministries working together? No? Bingo! The compartmentalization is now complete.
The last civil servants with expertise are silenced or are being harassed to leave. After they leave or take up their pension, there will be nothing but silence.

No, I am gloomy to say the least. When the political wars have abated and we look out on the smoldering rubble of what’s left of our state of law, looking at the financial abyss that was created in a few years time, we will do that with a fully demotivated and unworkable government apparatus that has been overstuffed with political appointees.

Leon Pors

About Leon Pors