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Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.
Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace.

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not represent the opinions or editorial position of I-Witness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

In terms of the politics of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, just about everyone seems to have forgotten that there was a sort of interregnum between the moving aside of James Fitz-Allen Mitchell and the arrival of Ralph Everard Gonsalves at the helm of government in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The man who held total sway during that short, but historically very important period, was Arnhim Ulric Eustace. Up until that ascendancy, his career was star-bright and, as far as we know, spotless. Given the overwhelmingly positive economic and social situation in SVG at that time, the vast majority of people were looking forward to a political, not an economic re-baptism of SVG. After all, this guy had been an extremely successful technocrat, a shining star, who had been pulled out of the technocratic front rooms, professionally pampered, rewarded, and handed a top political career on a golden platter by his political godfather, James Fitz-Allen Mitchell. Very few people would have expected that, a few short months after his anointment to the pinnacle, he and his experienced crew would have been ignominiously shunted aside as a result of the antics and poisonous actions of one man, Ralph Everard Gonsalves who, until then, had been viewed as an untrustworthy, ideologically tainted, rabble-rouser.

During his short reign as Prime Minister, Arnhim Eustace would have become very familiar with the outstanding economic and political issues facing the then NDP administration. The Gonsalves-led cry of corruption had become the political staple during the last two years of the Mitchell regime and Ottley Hall was clearly the penultimate boondoggle of the Mitchell regime. As Prime Minister, Mr Eustace was duty bound to deal with that issue. According to the subsequent, still unfinished inquiry, it would seem that no other minister in the government knew much about the ins and outs of Ottley Hall. They all seemed to have operated on the assumption that James Mitchell, the man at the top, who had led them, many years earlier, out of the political wilderness and onto the political centre stage, was completely capable of handling the complex details of a possibly extremely remunerative new industry for the forward looking country. As Prime Minister, Mr. Eustace would have become far more knowledgeable on the unknown details surrounding Ottley Hall, far more than he would have known as a finance official.

The hallmark of this man’s life, to that date and since then, hints at an admirable technocratic quality – uprightness and honesty in his approach to everything, no matter the consequence. Given that characteristic, and armed with uncomfortable new classified information as Prime Minister, he would have experienced an extreme moral and psychological repulsion toward his political benefactor. Many individuals have since characterized his behaviour towards Mitchell, possibly inaccurately, as ingratitude on his part. But, not many people have taken into consideration that, if there were unseemly details and, if Mr. Eustace had gotten any hint of underhanded dealings between Mr. Mitchell and Aldo Rollo or, later, between Mitchell and Gonsalves during the now infamous “walk on the beach”, this moralistic technocrat, this then political novice, would have descended into a righteous rage. From his perspective and based on his since articulated approach to matters of government and corruption, he would have instinctively dealt with such matters with righteous anger. The golden platter which had been handed to him by Mitchell would have seemed very tainted indeed; it would have lost its appeal and lustre. His high and enraged sense of morality, when combined with his lack of political leadership experience in the tempestuous, almost unmanageable, world of SVG politics, might have melded together and morphed into what turned out to be an albatross around his righteous neck.

As a result of his good intentions, in a few short months the NDP party that James Mitchell had built was torn apart. One of his first decisions, for example, the one having to do with the temporary payment of salaries to “two prime ministers”, resulted in a major split in his cabinet; four cabinet ministers, still very much attached to Mitchell, who opposed the decision were quietly ostracised as Mr. Eustace began to take command. In effect, this attempt at establishing himself as the “big fish in a small pond”, the hallmark characteristic of every political leader in SVG since Ebenezer Theodore Joshua, backfired and the wholehearted, united front which the NDP should have presented during the avoidable and ill-conceived 2000/2001election never materialised. The result — Ralph Gonsalves, a man who should never have been elected to any political office in SVG, ran away with the ill-gained political spoil.

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The lesson! Politics everywhere is a funny, funny, dirty thing and the too “good” guy will always finish last. No one would have suspected that, in changing from the role of technocrat to politician, Arnhim Ulric Eustace might have become a prime example of “The Peter Principle” at work. As posited by Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in the 1969 book entitled The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong, the principle has been ably stated as follows: “in an organisational structure, the assessment of the potential of an employee for a promotion is often based on their performance in the current job which results eventually in their being promoted to their highest level of competence and potentially then to a role in which they are not competent, referred to as their “level of incompetence”. There is no doubt in my mind that, when Mr. Mitchell decided to clear the way for Arnhim Eustace to succeed him, he made the decision that Mr. Eustace, based on his professional, economic background and outstanding contributions to his government, was the most qualified and best candidate for the job. But, did Mr. Mitchell take into consideration the political world and culture of SVG? Did he, in his backroom manoeuvres to make Mr. Eustace Prime Minister, underestimate Mr. Eustace’s level of political incompetence?

The upcoming election in SVG signals the fourth time that Mr. Eustace would be facing the political astuteness of Ralph Gonsalves. Based on the previous three elections, it is fairly obvious that Mr. Eustace did not develop the political acumen or attain the ability needed to defeat the political juggernaut that is the Gonsalves ULP. True, with each subsequent election the results show clearly that Mr. Eustace and the NDP have shown positive signs of gain in the right direction. True, given the economic, social, and political miasma that is SVG today, the possibility of an NDP victory in the upcoming election looks very good. But, is this the result of a default in leadership because there is no other real alternative to Ralph Gonsalves and his ULP? True, in terms of his predictions, Mr. Eustace has demonstrated his mastery of the economic difficulties facing SVG. This he presents mostly from a technocrat’s perspective. But, predictions are only one side of the coin and a technocratic approach to confronting a political debacle is not a winning political stratagem. The more pressing need is for him to somehow translate and articulate the technocratic knowledge into a simpler language that the common man can relate to and understand. That language must signal the way, in the minds of the long-suffering masses, a massive, toward albeit a painful, national economic turn around.

In short, can Mr. Eustace move from his technocratic level of competence to one of political competence and superiority? Does he have the ability to become a national, economic, social, and political trend-setting leader? Just as important, has Mr. Eustace learned the most important lesson of all — personal righteousness and political sensibility do not mix! Given his still very righteous bent, if he takes control of the inherently divisive reins of power, will he be able to hold together, as a unit, his mostly disparate group of inexperienced, self-centred politicians, all holding conflicting agendas? Will he be able to shape them into a united political, policy motivated, team in the way that Sir James Mitchell did when he first came to power? And, will he, within five years, be able to hand over leadership to a possibly, more capable, political successor?

Anatol Scott

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

10 replies on “Arnhim Eustace and ‘The Peter Principle’”

  1. Tell us Mr EUSTACE how you intents to fix the economy? You wants to be our next prime minister right? What’s your plan for JOB creation, In the Agricultural sector, Tourism, Construction, Infrastructure, and the Health sector? How you intents to fight CRIME?

  2. It is a true certainty that when Arnhim “useless” Eustace is writing his autobiography he needs to look no further for a ghost writer than Anotol Scott.

    Could someone out there tell me what record of being an Economist Mr Eustace have.

  3. The last line of the paragraph before the ending paragraph should read: “That language must signal the way forward, in the minds of the long-suffering masses, toward a massive, albeit a painful, national economic turn around.

  4. Mr. Anatol Scott has nicely summed it up for us…”In short, can Mr. Eustace move from his technocratic level of competence to one of political competence and superiority? Does he have the ability to become a national, economic, social, and political trend-setting leader? He clearly does not have those abilities to lead St. Vincent. The man is filled with malice and hatred and political venom. He hates all those who support the ULP. That means he hates about 49% of Vincentians. James Mitchell was a statesman, so is Ralph Gonsalves. This man is a political nobody. He can’t even act the part. What a shame!

  5. Sometimes I have to laugh. The PM has been in office for about 14 years now, saying that the Economy is great and that Eustace is doom and gloom and not a soul says anything to him. Even with all the proof infront of our very eyes, the man say that his government reduced poverty and this is with a welfare list growing leaps and bounds every year, 7 is more than 10 and all kinds of other nonsense. I mean it’s like Vincentians have lost all semblance of common sense. How is Eustace going to fix an economy that is great? The PM is saying that the economy is great and that the IMF praised us, did anyone asked him about that stupid comment he made?. Some of you all really need licks you know, you all are acting like you are children. The fact is the country is in the gutter all way you can think about. Many people in SVG could do a much better job than Ralph Gonsalves as PM, he wasn’t born a Prime Minister he was elected.

    He didn’t have all those “international connections” before he was PM, he was a nobody and when he leaves office he will go back to being a nobody. You all are taking this hero worshipping nonsense too far. What has Dr Ralph Gonsalves done in SVG to deserve another term? The only thing we can say is our future “might” be better, could you imagine that? 14 years in office and people are still talking about future. I mean the man says that he is the only man in SVG who can be prime minister and you all cheered him on, I mean what kind of nonsense is that? You mean to tell me Obama can be President in a country like America but no other person in SVG could be Prime Minister? You all make me sick to my stomach. You have children going to school and who have left school already and Vincentians don’t even have love for themselves or their children enough to imagine them as Prime Minister of our country? There are a few people in SVG who are more capable than Dr Ralph to be PM.SVG has hit a brand new low, someone telling you that he is the better than you is one thing, but to believe it is something else. You all stop there with your self hate you will never go anywhere.

  6. Ok Randy you are on the right track. However ask Ralph the same questions. What will he be differently to get SVG out of this mess? Why is half of the country with him and the other half is against him? What will he do to address this un-united island and bring all SVG together? Last but not least, when will the airport be finished – no lies now?

  7. Anotol Scott you really sound like an educated fool. Tell us what makes you think the Ralph Gonsalves should have never be prime minister of Svg. Let’s face it, running a country means making tough decisions and who other makes tough decision than Ralph Gonsalves. For your information the NDP can never win election in SVG with Eustace as it’s leader so if you think so start think again

  8. james the lion monroe says:

    That’s a good question randy but you’re sending the mail to the wrong address. This is a question you should be asking our current pm and his party. High crime, corruption, a messed up infrastruction etc, don’t wait for the govt to change, to ask this question. Thank you

  9. Randy, you are asking the right questions of the wrong person; it is not Mr. Eustace who should be answering your questions but Ralph Gonsalves, who has been PM now for 13 years. Are you afraid to ask Gonsalves about job creation, agriculture, crime, infrastructure, health care and the MCMH, tourism, and moral decay in SVG? What has he been doing all that time? Victimizing public servants and ordinary folks, abusing the office of Prime Minister, mismanaging the economy, killing agriculture, health and tourism. Do you Randy actually live in SVG or are you writing your piece from the comfort of your foreign home? And judging from your piece it is clear tat you do not live here.

  10. Mr Eustace was there before Ralph . He was there on a golden throne handed down to him by Sir James. He got booted out of office. He picked on anything without facts and lay it out for novices to blast it off in Nice Radio. That is not the way to go. He needs new strategies and most importantly he needs to show us what his alternatives are. Well I hope he guides his troops but I surely not see him winning the next ellections. It will be 9-6 or 10 – 5 in Cavour of ULP

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