Thursday 22 August, 2019

UWI Vice-Chancellor: Caribbean needs new form of political governance

Photo: Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. Photo courtesy the UWI.

Photo: Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles. Photo courtesy the UWI.

Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, said that Caribbean countries now require new systems of political governance which will truly serve the needs of their citizens.

Speaking to LoopTT at the UWI’s St Augustine campus, Sir Beckles commented on the university’s recent inclusion among the top five percent of the world’s best universities, according to the 2019 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

The UWI, which placed 501-600th out of over 1,250 universities worldwide and ranked 37th out of over 125 universities in Latin America, is the only Caribbean university to be included on the list. 

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Sir Beckles said while Trinidad and Tobago experienced economic growth within the past 50 years, poverty has also increased, leading to a rise in crime and violence.

The Caribbean has a history of violence…it has a peculiar history in that regard, it was built on violence and sustained through centuries of crimes against humanity.”

“First we have to effectively diagnose this…why would citizens in a nation-building agenda resort to organised crime within their own societies?”

“A troubling issue has been the fact that in many societies, economic growth did not lead to a reduction of poverty. In this country, after about 50 years of very impressive economic growth, the social indices have shown that despite economic growth, poverty increased, and with the increase of poverty came the increase of crime.”

Sir Beckles said that Trinidad and Tobago’s government must, therefore, prioritise the protection of vulnerable communities as statistics have shown that violence is the result of the growth of these vulnerable communities.

“What is required is a governance conception that inequities must be addressed. You cannot accept that significant economic growth can lead to an increase of poverty, you cannot leave vulnerable citizens behind," he said.

 

Time to end ‘voting communities’

Sir Beckles also said there are signs that the trend of ‘garrison communities’ which were maintained by political parties as ‘safe seats’ is changing.

He referred to the recent Barbados election which saw a historic clean sweep for the Mia Mottley administration in May 2018.

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“A new form of political governance is required. It is being spoken about at the moment across the region…political parties have been asked to consider what is the significance of having garrison communities.”

“For example, a community is kept in a state of poverty because it represents X number of votes, and those people in that space are corralled for elective purposes and are not seen as places of investment, infrastructure, education and so on.”

“There’s a new governance emerging. I suspect that the Barbados election has some interesting messages. There were constituencies that had not changed sides in 50 years because they were assumed to be ‘safe seats’…up came an election and all of those so-called safe places were wiped out.”

“The citizens rose up and said ‘we don’t want this form of governance…if you cannot deliver efficient political and social management let someone else try’.”

“I think the message there might resonate within the region where citizens, in the search for social security, are no longer prepared to put political alliances as their number one priority,” he said.

The Times Higher Education listed the UWI in 37th place within the Caribbean and Latin American region and 501-600th globally among over 1,250 universities.

The Times Higher Education is a data provider which looks at university excellence in every continent across the world.

In recent years, The UWI has established centres in Suzhou, China, New York, USA, and Lagos, Nigeria, with others being discussed for Canada, the European Union, Latin America, and the UK.

As a result the University is positioned as one of the most globally engaged universities, a development that positively influenced this top third ranking in the Caribbean and Latin America.

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