In an address to the Rotarians, President of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA), Gregory Aboud, suggested that the present ills of our society are mainly due to inefficiencies in services provided by Government agencies (central and local).
He then blames this, not to failings on the part of individuals, but to a flawed model. He argues that no one is made to be accountable for these failings and apparently blames this on the Westminster model of governance. In my view however, there is nothing in this system that discourages or prevents accountability. Indeed it is the failure on the part of individuals to enforce the rules made under the Westminster model that results in lack of accountability.
Aboud refers to the powers of the Prime Minister. I have written of those powers in the past and on how simple amendments to our Westminster constitution can address this issue so I shall not repeat these proposals here. He asks the question: where in this (Westminster) model is the representation promised by democracy?
To address this issue one must first agree on a concept of democracy. I summarise my concept in simple terms and outline the main structure in this country and that in the United States to which Aboud seems to prefer.
As I see it , democracy aims at citizens participating in governance to the greatest extent possible so that they may have as much control as possible over their well being. Now it is obvious that large numbers of persons (about 900,000 adults in our country) cannot meet together to debate and decide on issues and so in democracies a group of persons is selected by the citizens to represent their interests in governance. Since there are often diverse views on how a country should be governed, groups within the citizens come together to form political parties and vie with each other to represent the total number of citizens. The process for selection of representatives is by one person one vote. In this country a Prime Minister is selected from the elected representatives from the political party that has won the greatest number of elected representatives.
Decisions are made in Parliament which passes laws for governance and approves a budget to finance the common services to be provided by Government (health, education, transport, national security and so on).
In our system the Government is run by a Cabinet consisting of Ministers (Executive Officers) headed by the Prime Minister (the Chief Executive Officer) who selects the Ministers from members of Parliament. In the United States system the Executive Officers (Secretaries) are not members of Parliament.
They are selected by the President (Chief Executive Officer) and have to be confirmed by the Senate and are not easily removed. By convention they resign if the President no longer wants them.
Also in the United States, the President is elected separately and is not a member of the Parliament. In both this country and in the United States the Ministers and the Secretaries are beholden to the Chief Executive Officers, Prime Minister or President, for their jobs.
The difference is that in this country the Ministers can be removed by the Prime Minister but in turn the Members of Parliament can remove the Prime Minister by a vote of no confidence. This cannot be done to the President in the United States. Aboud has proposed that the Prime Minister be elected separately from the members of Parliament. In what way does this reduce the power of the Prime Minister?
Let us not forget that in the United States if the Senate and Congress are controlled by different parties there can be stalemates which in the past have almost brought the country to a standstill as a budget to run the country could not be passed.
Aboud makes the point that in our system representation of the needs of our citizens is diluted (I am uncertain what he means by this) and that the winning party takes all. But in the United States if the Party to which the President belongs is the same as that which controls the Senate and Congress the winning party also takes all and if they are of different parties stalemate may result. In my view any suggestion of under representation of the needs of citizens is made through misunderstanding of what representation means in our system.
Members of Parliament are not a part of the Government and they are not executive officers (unless they are Ministers at which time they are wearing different hats). They are to represent us in Parliament which is not an executive body. This is why the allocation of $10 million to members of Parliament is a serious error and suggests a misunderstanding of our governance structure.
While Aboud blames our ills in governance on the Westminster system which we inherited from Britain it is interesting that the model which he praises is the Local Government system which he recognises we inherited from the British.
I agree with Aboud on all the deficiencies to which he has pointed. I do not agree that these are due to our having a Westminster model of governance and I certainly do not think that he has made out a case to demonstrate that our ills are due to this model. It is my view that our problems are mainly due to the activities of the persons who run the system and I maintain that any problems with our present system can be addressed by amendments to our constitution.
To change the way in which participants in the system act can be done only through education which will take at least two generations. Nevertheless we must start now to address changes in our education system. I also believe, as I have often written about in the past, that the only way in which a greater number of citizens can participate in governance is by strong Local Government including Village and Community Councils.