Letters to the Editor, 11th April, 2017

Promises, promises! Arvind Mani,  Nadi Euripides was a Greek playwright born around 485 BC who said: “When one with honeyed words but evil mind Persuades the mob, great woes befall
11 Apr 2017 15:23
Letters to the Editor, 11th April, 2017
National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad.

Promises, promises!

Arvind Mani,  Nadi

Euripides was a Greek playwright born around 485 BC who said: “When one with honeyed words but evil mind Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”

His words have proven so prophetic over time.  And when Professor Biman Prasad declared that he would make a new mill in Penang if he wins, I was reminded of it again.

What are election promises for? Who on earth do they convince?

This is the promises dilemma. Elections are commitment games. We vote for the candidates and parties whose values and policies are most appealing.

But how can we be sure they’ll follow through? All we have is their word – their assurance they will act in a certain way under certain circumstances.

Of course, commitment problems are common across all spheres of human endeavor. In the marketplace we often pay up front for services to be rendered later.

But we have courts to enforce commercial contracts that have not been fulfilled. In politics, there is no institutional mechanism by which voters can enforce the pledges that their elected representatives have made.

HL Mencken famously defined an election as “an advance auction sale of stolen goods”. He was not cynical enough. Voters bid without any guarantee that the auction will proceed to settlement.

But elections are weak discipline. They’re only held every four years. And four years is a long time to wait to enforce a contract.

Elections are an imperfect control. Sure, voters weigh up the honesty of candidates, but honesty is not the only factor that determines an election.

There are other constraints on breaking election promises. A dissatisfied electorate, even in non-election years, can make it hard to pursue your agenda.

Politicians may even be constrained by personal ethics… who knows?

If politicians really wanted to demonstrate a credible commitment to the electorate, as the economist Robin Hanson writes, they would post personal bonds – e.g. their homes – that would be forfeited if a promise was broken.

Then we’d know they had skin in the game. Of course no politicians do this.

So why the promises?

Here’s one answer. Parties don’t see election promises as promises in the plain English meaning of the word.

Instead, promises are signals designed to express a deeper character of the political party.

This practice is, of course, deeply deceptive – election promises as signals rather than genuine commitments – but it’s a deception we’re used to.

Voters are rational. We know campaign nonsense when we see it. Voters infer the true policy position of candidates for office despite the thicket of untruths. But let’s not pretend to be surprised.

We’ve been voting for broken promises for a very long time.

Political promises are tricky things: created to charm, and made to be broken.

The cynical ease with which voters sometimes assume they’re being lied to isn’t some random distrust — rather, it’s a time-tested reaction to what we know to be true about politicians.

It’s not just promises to voters that politicians break, either. Sometimes, they’re just as comfortable breaking promises to their colleagues — or even to themselves.

Coke Games

Satish Nakched,  Suva

The Ministry of Education is discouraging the consumption of fizzy drinks in the schools and the educational institutes and have been removed from the coolers. This is regarded as an unhealthy habit and not in line with the wellness programmes.

The country is in a crisis mode with an increased number in Non-Communicable Diseases cases and putting the Health Ministry under considerable pressure to control the threat and diabetes is rated the number two killer.

The Coke Games has a huge negative impact on the initiative and the organisers must reconsider substituting the name of this very successful competition with another healthier and a sugar free product of theirs which will inspire a healthier life style.

The name change of the game is needed to cease affiliation with the product that contributes against the strategy of the Government’s health plans.

It is difficult to comprehend the current scenario where schools are discouraged from selling this drinks but the company concerned is allowed to sponsor this big event that has maximum advertising exposure to the children who the ministry is trying to target and discourage consumption.

Violence is not an option

Floyd Robinson,  Nasinu

With recent reports of alleged bullying at a prominent boarding school in the Eastern Division and Police stepping in to stop brawls between rival schools in Suva are of concern, especially, with the upcoming Coca-Cola Games.

How are teachers dealing with such issues? What role is there for guardians and parents?

Let’s not leave it to Police and security guards during the Coca-Cola Games.

All in all, respective stakeholders need to send a strong message out to students. Violence is not a solution and there are legal consequences.

In summary, our children, our future leaders, need to learn to respect others and address issues through proper channels.

Violence should not be an option.

Tents as schools

Narayan Reddy,  Lautoka

Sad to see some schools in Ba have mud as the floor for the temporary sheds.

We celebrated the commemoration of TC Winston and one can imagine the cost involved.

Maybe we are spending the budgeted allocated money unwisely. Our children are our country’s future and they deserve the best. I wouldn’t be surprised if most children fail the upcoming exams because of these conditions. I am sure my Government can do better and repair all the affected school’s.

Food for thought, Mr Minister sir!

Good sporting day

Ashneel J Prasad,  NZ

Lautoka won the CVC. Fiji won the Hong Kong 7s. Truly a good sporting day.

Feedback: rosi.doviverata@fijisun.com.fj

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