ONE OF the biggest events in a general election season is the release of the parties’ manifestoes. These documents are typically launched with much fanfare, unveiled at specially organised events and published in easy-to-distribute formats.
Two weeks before the election, that is yet to happen.
The PNM may feel the past five years are manifesto enough, that voters will stay the course. Yet the harsh reality, brought home by the pandemic, is that the world has altered dramatically.
The goalposts have shifted to an extent that it is not adequate to simply point to your record from a time and a world which no longer exist.
Equally, the UNC, frequently calling on the PNM to focus on plans and not mud-slinging, has offered little detail to support some of its more attention-grabbing promises. The party’s website lists plans, but they are terse to a fault.
In relation to the vital issue of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF), the UNC says it will “start drafting legislation to fully integrate the HSF into a new fiscal responsibility framework.”
Start drafting? “Fiscal responsibility framework?”
Some might say people no longer bother to read manifestoes. Indeed, many are turned off by the acrimony, the sound and fury signifying nothing. And the truth is some parties have done little to correct the notion that people vote on race, not issues.
But manifestoes are important. They are a way to gauge the intentions of a group. They help track progress over time. And they can be used to hold governments to account.
Further, if a manifesto helps only one undecided voter, it will have fulfilled a vital role.
Not even to bother to release such a document, or just to expect people will keep track of your long speeches, your diatribes and lectures, your attacks, your platform rhetoric – all of it amounts to an attitude of cynicism.
It is no excuse to say the campaign is short, the lead-time to the poll short. For five years it was known this would most likely be the election year.
Dismayingly, the lack of substance extends to other areas. It is not just manifestoes.
The first covid19 recovery plan report has not been published.
In relation to the list of legislative matters left to languish on the floor of Parliament, the electorate has not had the benefit of any parliamentary committees that might have studied such bills and legal advice received relating to them.
It may well be some parties are withholding plans to maintain an advantage. If so, they are cutting it close.
That, itself, is telling. Releasing a manifesto ahead of time invites greater scrutiny.
Meanwhile, the electorate is expected to buy all the platform promises cat in bag.