|The Courier N░ 127 May - June 1991- Dossier 'New' ACP Export Products - Country Reports Cape Verde - Namibia (EC Courier, 1991, 104 p.)|
|Cape verde: A mudanša - change|
Leaders must not behave like rich men
At the end of last year, Carlos Alberto Wahnon de Carvalho Veiga, a 41-year old lawyer virtually unknown outside Cape Verde, suddenly made history by leading his party, the MPD (Movement for Democracy), in the first political switch to occur at an election in Africa.
Veiga is an eloquent speaker who inspires his listeners with words that are right on target. Even now, people all over the islands are delightedly dotting their conversation with some of the more caustic remarks of the election campaign - at which time he was still head of the countrys biggest legal office. But as a serious Head of State he its aware of what he has to do to make a success of the change. He does some direct talking in this interview with The Courier, which he gave in admirable French.
· The country you have just begun to lead had the reputation of being managed properly. Is this borne out by what you have found?
- No, we dont think it was managed properly. We think there was a lot of wastage and no coherent development plan. There were plenty of projects, of course, and some of them work and some of them dont, but they add up to nothing very coherent. So, generally speaking, we believe that things could be better. There teas been no corruption, that we recognise. Our predecessors worked and they wanted the best for Cape Verde, but we feel that things could be even better.
· The extent of your election victory the peoples great expectations mean you have to go for rapid results if you are to satisfy them. Can you manage this?
- We think that winning creates an obligation to work hard and do better than before. Some results can be obtained rapidly. It isnt easy and we have told the people that there will be problems and hat they have to understand them. There are some problems we will not be able to solve over the next five years, but we are going to do what we can to improve the various situations here in Cape Verde as much as we can.
· Which are the sectors in which you expect to get fairly rapid results?
- In the administration, for example. You can get rapid results when you decentralise power. And you can do so on the legal front too.
· Do you want to improve the administration?
- Yes, we do. We want to ensure that it is no longer a dead weight and that it facilitates things which are good for the
· What are the reasons for this decentralisation you just mentioned?
- These are islands, with different possibilities and what are sometimes different problems. And they have their own cultural features too. We have to make the most of this if we are to solve some of the problems facing our people. We think that they were dissatisfied with the former government because the majority of them have not had the benefit of development. There are daily problems that have to be solved fast and we think this is something that can be done in the municipalities if they are given the power to do so, i.e. resources that are currently concentrated here in the ministries in Praia.
· But on some islands, that may amount to giving the power to the opposition, if it has a majority.
- I dont know that it will, but if it does, never mind. We think the most important thing is to solve the peoples problems. But I am convinced that this decentralisation will be of benefit to the government and the party in power at the municipal elections.
· You said just now that the previous rme had no coherent view of development in Cape Verde. That means that you are going to suggest one, doesnt it? Along what lines?
- We have to start with the very real fact that many of our islands have assets, Cape Verdes development has to be founded on the development of the regions and integration has to be achieved in very specific areas, in fishing and tourism and industry. Nationally speaking, these three sectors, plus agriculture, are what we should be focusing on, I believe.
· Those were also the previous governments priorities, werent they...?
- Indeed they were. They were its priorities, but it never did more than announce them. It never put them into practice. A lot of tourist initiatives were blocked all those years, for example. We have to open up and that is why we maintain that the administration has to be improved fast so there is no hanging about and the Minister doesnt have to wait for months to decide whether a project should go on or not. Decisions have to be faster. People have to be given more initiative. That is what is missing here.
· You are probably going for greater liberalisation on the economic front, arent you? Does that mean that the State is going to get out of production?
- Not necessarily. The economy needs less of the State in it and it needs a better State. We have a host of public firms for the time being and we are going to decide which ones are being run properly and not dead weights as far as the economy is concerned.
· Which are they?
- The TAVC, Cape Verdes Air Transport Company, for example, is doing very badly and CABENAVE, the shipyard, isnt doing so well either.
· Are they going to be privatised?
- Not necessarily. We shall be looking into them. Some of them will have to be privatised, I agree, but others, the maritime transport companies among them are practically bankrupt. The lessons are there to be learned.
· Some issues, agrarian reform, for example, and the abortion law, came up again during the election campaign. How are you going to handle them?
- We shall do as we promised. We shall go to the country on abortion; organise a referendum if we have to. The essential thing as far as agrarian reform is concerned, as we see it at the moment, is to focus on three sectors - agricultural credit facilities, technical support for people wanting to work on the land and rural extension work. None of these has been dealt with for years or, if they have, not properly. And nothing has been done about agricultural credit at all. So that is the most important thing at the moment, we think Not taking land from Peter to give to Paul That causes far more problems than it solves.
· That has already happened?
- Whats done is done, but we will not go on with this policy.
· Inter-island communictions are very complicated You just brought up the problems that the maritime company and the TACV are having. Are aircraft the best way of providing regular links between the islands?
- It has to be discussed. Some people prefer boats, but you have to look at the problem as a whole Boats are perhaps best for freight, but Im not so sure about passengers. We could also perhaps look at other ideas, Catamarans, for example. At all events, this is a sector which has to be tackled globally. TACV cannot cope all on its own
· What role do you see for the Cape Verdeans who live abroad?
- Economically and technically, a very important one. We think there are technical skills and capital which could do a lot more for Cape Verde if the people who have them were better informed. People invest here in Cape Verde in cars and houses If there had been a tighter link with emigration, these investments would have been channelled into productive sectors. But there was no confidence between the government and the emigrants, although this is something which could change very quickly. There could be rapid answers to some of our emigrants problems, to the customs difficulties and the maritime transport difficulties. The situation between the customs and the emigrants, who are often, heavily taxed, is cause for particular concern
· Was it lo give confidence to your emigrants that you included some in the government?
- Yes indeed. There is a lot of emigration to Portugal and some of the present ministers live there, although they havent always been emigrants. The most important thing on this front is to create a Secretary of State for Emigration at the Foreign Ministry This is an extremely important post
· Some emigrants I think, were involved in your or President Mascarenhas election campaign to the extent of financing posters...
- Yes, in the United States, but it didnt amount to much.
· Will your government have new priorities for the countrys external relations?
- The former governments external policy was right, generally speaking, although we think that some things call for greater emphasis To our mind, human rights, for example, should be more to the fore and our external policy should have stronger economic connotations. The external policy has to become a major part of the economic policy. And more attention has to be paid to our emigrants.
· So the host countries where the emigrants live will he privileged partners?
- Yes indeed, privileged partners as far as our emigrants are concerned. But we must also pay a great deal of attention to African integration. We shall be focusing on our relations with the African countries, particularly in the organisations we belong to, in ECOWAS, for example, and in the group of five Portuguese speaking nations, and we shall be focusing on our relations with countries closer to home, with Senegal and Gambia, in our sub-region. All this is of great importance to us.
· Since you won the elections, there have been complaints about playing a waiting game. Are your new policies going to be made public soon?
- This government is a government of management and we already have contacts. In any case, my partys programme is very clear on external policy. As I said, it has been on the programme for a very long while.
· I was referring particularly to the economic content of your programme. That is the most important thing, after all...
- Our programme has been properly developed, especially as far as the economic sectors are concerned and we are hoping to present it to the government within a fortnight of our appointment. Once we have a constitutional government, things will be easier.
· You, like many of the ministers, are going to lose moneys by joining the government, as your legal office was a very prosperous one, wasnt it...?
- The office was not doing badly, but my present job is an exciting one. Everyone has to make sacrifices. There were years of waste, particularly when it came to official cars. That is something you have to be careful about here in Cape Verde. The country is a very poor one and you have to be careful not to have a rich mans policy.
· Is this something you are going to be very careful about?
- Yes indeed.
· Its easy to say now you are only starting your term of office...
- There wont be any problems. Before, we were there with the people. That is the difference.
· Can your opponents say they fought for independence?
- They werent on the inside, close to the people. We were. Whatever a governments policy, it doesnt have a chance here in Cape Verde if it isnt close to the people.
· But the population did nothing all those years. It didnt revolt...
- But when it had the opportunity to say what it thought, it said no. If we want to work for this people and not have to run the risk of a no, then we have to be careful.
· Werent the elections more of a vote against the PAICV than a positive vote for the MPD?
- They might have been. It was saying no to a certain kind of development project and to the focusing of power and projects on certain islands, for example.
· But with competition from other parties, you could well find yourself in a less comfortable position...
- We know we could. We dont want to be another single party. We know that governing will be more difficult.
· But you are going to have sympathy from abroad because of your democratic transition. .
- We hope we are. The indications we have from abroad are good and we are going to make the most of this and work harder.
· Work is a word you use a great deal...
- Without work, you dont get anything done. The Cape Verdean people already work hard and they can make great sacrifices if they know the government is backing them. Their history has been a perpetual struggle for survival, although they have never lost their ability to sing and enjoy life.
Interview by A.T.