What is the added value which each political party brings to the coalition government?

Dear Editor,

As soon as the 2015 elections results were announced, I started writing that President Granger needed to have close to his fingertips information for credible brokers, mediators, negotiators and facilitators. The coalition government is made up of individual political parties, with individuals, some of whom are very powerful in their own right, and the parties are all different entities. Therefore, how do you put this dynamic arrangement of a coalition government together and not expect to have, ‘earthquakes’, ‘hurricanes’ and ‘tremors’. There will be challenges and major ones too, since partnerships are unnatural arrangements, but there will also be benefits.

While I am aware that the PNC component of the coalition has been flexing its muscles, so to speak, and as a result, both the AFC and WPA have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with aspects of the partnership, I am of the strong view that it will still be premature for either the AFC or WPA to leave the coalition. However, the government needs to carry out a serious review of how the partnership is working or not working. This must be done with the intention to make adjustments where necessary.

My suggestion for the review would be that it has to be very strategic. Firstly, there are three key elements in a partnership: mutual benefit, transparency and equity; and these are all major issues in the coalition government. The WPA and AFC want more of the benefits to be mutual, more transparency and more equity. However, it is important to note that a key factor that influences the success or failure of a partnership is the stakeholders’ ability to engage at different levels and to find solutions to challenges.

Another issue in the coalition is transparency. A case in point was the appointment of the Gecom Chairman and the reaction of the AFC members. On the point of equity, here is where I am of the view that the WPA and AFC are somewhat wrong with their expectations. Equity in a partnership does not mean equality. The AFC or WPA cannot be equal to the PNCR in the coalition government, for eg, the PNCR brings a larger constituency, hence, they have more representatives in the government. Nevertheless, even though the parties are not equal, they should all have an equal right at the table – representation, decision-making, etc; equity therefore means, equal right.

Another important aspect of a partnership is added value; each political party brings something to the coalition that enables it to achieve success that no one party could have gained on its own. The question therefore is what is the added value that each political party brings to coalition government?  In preparation for the 2020 elections, each party in the coalition should determine what is the added value that it brings to the coalition government?

One gets the impression the PNCR component is sometimes of the view that the smaller parties do not really bring an added value, but that perception is wrong; some of the smaller parties may not bring votes but they enhance trust by being a part of the coalition and a value must be placed on that. In determining the added value the questions to be asked are where did the trust which caused persons to vote for the coalition government come from? And what inhibits that trust?

How are the political parties reliant on each other? How can they foster more diversity in the coalition government? Do the individual political parties have sufficient internal cohesion to make it work? Is there sufficient predictability to make the coalition work? Trust is very important for fostering predictability.

Finally, each political party having determined the added value that they bring to the coalition government should then engage or re-engage from this standpoint. So, I sincerely hope that the WPA would not rush to leave the coalition at this stage but will continue to strive to engage further.

Yours faithfully,

Audreyanna Thomas

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