Legacy of PM Dr. Harris’ Team Unity Administration (Part 1)

BY Timothy Caines

Eighteen months into Team Unity’s (TU) second term governing the affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis, the opponents of the Alliance are at it again. Again, conjuring fantasies of the end the most powerful and successful political alliance the nation and the region has ever seen. Seemingly, they forget their own proclamations back in 2015, that it (TU) would not last a year; leading them to deceive themselves and supporters much to their chagrin in 2020. Having witnessed one year turn to five, and then a second term with an increased mandate; the forces opposing seems to have adopted a “politics 24/7” strategy, in an effort to weather at the strength of the Alliance. A fool’s errand, as TU has proven over the almost ten years of its existence, that adversity (and opposition) makes it stronger.Team unity was born under circumstances far different to what we have been accustomed in our politics. We had seen political alliances before, but those then came in the dead of night after an election when no one party could form a government. We saw this in 1980 with PAM/NRP; and again in 2010 with Labour/NRP. In the case of TU however, three parties formed an alliance two full years before the election, to change the course of a country thought to be going down the wrong track. Moreover, the way in which the leadership of the Alliance was chosen was unprecedented. It was not the accustomed “my party has the most seats so I should be Prime Minister”; or the “my party has the deciding seats so give me Prime Minister”. Rather, it is was a careful and researched consideration at the time, of who was best suited for the role, who would command the respect and preserve the cohesion of the alliance; who was most acceptable to the electorate as a person who could lead the country, and who would ultimately give the alliance the best chance of success at the polls. Dr. Timothy Harris emerged as that person, receiving the most favorable nod from a majority of Kittitians and also Nevisians, in poll after poll between 2013 and 2015.Considering the current political landscape of the Federation, it is fair to assume that for at least the next two election cycles, the Government of SKN will be in the form of an alliance of some nature. Will we revert to the darkness of the dead of night; or will preconceived alliances, based on principle and the greater good, be the first legacy of Team Unity within St. Kitts and Nevis?To say simply that Team Unity set a standard or benchmark for the working of an Alliance is a gross understatement. There would have been no formation of Team Unity without Dr. Harris, Hon. Sam Condor and the PLP. There would have not been the engagement and energy of the campaign without Vance Amory, Mark Brantley and the CCM. There would not have been any victory and the Polls without the ground support of Shawn Richards and the PAM. A near perfect synergy of strengths, strategically rotating strengths and positions; with each allowing another to lead where strongest, considering the task at hand. Working also with the incredible goodwill and support that Prime Minister Harris generated and mobilized; we saw an Alliance, operating almost as a single Party. The evidence and legacy of this success, is in the increased mandate received in the 2020 General Elections. It left us a blueprint to political team work, playing one’s role according to one’s strengths, in light of the collective goal.With respect to Governance, the bar has been reset by Team Unity. Under PM Harris’ leadership we have seen the most open, engaging, accessible and transparent government of our time. From a frequently regular and robust House of Assembly, to the monthly Press Conferences, to the popular Leadership Matters; the people of SKN are continually engaged and informed. To make yourself continually available to be probed by the Opposition, the Press and the everyday citizen and resident, is the definition of accessibility and transparency. That has resulted in a level of trust between the citizenry and the Harris Administration. Evidence of this in the fight against Covid-19 and vaccination. Despite the vigorous local and worldwide “anti-vax” campaigns, and the misinformation; SKN has an over 80% vaccination rate among adults. Bettering even countries that have vaccination mandates. Dr. Harris and his Administration’s superb, consultative and deliberate leadership during the pandemic was seen and felt. The results of which has been commended by PAHO, the WHO and the IMF.Coupled with this openness and transparency, is the Harris’ Team Unity tendency for a consultative and consensus approach. His constant use and admonition of a needed “All-of-Society Approach” has not just been talk. On important matters and issues facing the Nation, input is sought from all of civil society. From experts and academia, to the bureaucrats and technocrats, to the Bar, Chamber, Clergy and the everyday stakeholders. Thus, when a solution is decided, the buy-in is automatic, because all sectors would have been heard, and would have had an input. It has been a welcomed departure from Administrations seemingly believing they have a monopoly of ideas, and becoming “Honourable” makes them an expert in everything. This consultative and mobilizing approach by TU has been so ubiquitous, that PM Harris has been accused of having these institutions “in his pocket’.However, the corollary of this approach has been resounding success in the finances and economics of the Nation. SKN boasts one of, if not the healthiest economies in the Region. It was in a better financial position pre-pandemic; and has fared better economically than most in the fight against Covid-19. When others are laying off, cutting back, or extensively borrowing, (some all three); the Harris Team Unity Administration has increased programs, assistance, stimulus, and capital expenditures. And not just in terms of finances, but in terms of responses. Last to be hit, last to lockdown and shortest lockdown. Fastest arresting and control of waves (outbreaks). The benefits and results of this approach are pellucid. St. Kitts and Nevis is a preeminent model, and leading nation in the Caribbean. This approach to governance, more than any other is hoped to be the longest lasting legacy of Harris’ TU Administration; one the people must demand of successive governments.

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