The refinery discussion highlights the limitations of our democratic system

I’ve written extensively about the deficiencies in our Western-style democratic system (1) (2) which has undergone little reform since trias politica, and the American Revolution of the 18th century. This system mainly calls for elections, multi-party systems, and the separation of political powers. However, it’s built to (practically) only consider the present over the future making it inadequate to develop a satisfactory approach to dealing with future citizens. 


This couldn’t be more obvious than the discussions regarding our refinery versus concerns about the future of fossil fuels and the environment. Yesterday an older gentleman who’s in the petrol business told me: we should sacrifice the environment for 10 more years to make sure the refinery reopens. Like him, many argue that Curaçao’s largest pollution source contributes little to the global climate problem. True. Like many also, we fail to realize that as a small island it will not take much for our lives to dramatically change due to climate. 


Don’t get me wrong. Compared to other forms of government, democracy is still the best way to hold rulers accountable. But, the fact that our decision-makers consider the present, neglecting long-term environmental concerns, and issues such as genetic manipulation, changes in agriculture & livestock, and population decrease, compromises the choices of future citizens.  


The future of those too young to vote or who are not yet born has never been on the agenda of those in power today. We could say: “when those (future) kids are grown up, they can get elected and change things”. The problem is that the effects of the decisions today may be irreversible and the damage has already been done. 


There are no simple solutions, but we could stop magnifying our own needs compared to those of future citizens. We need new institutions, and devices such as independent long-term planning bureaux, and think tanks. Also, democracy must be more inclusive. Foreigners with permanent residence in Curaçao must be able to vote. They’re bound by our laws but don’t have a say. This is unfair. We could also think of lowering the voting age to 16 years. 



Alex David Rosaria (53) is a freelance consultant active in Asia & Pacific. He is a former Member of Parliament, Minister of Economic Affairs, State Secretary of Finance and UN Implementation Officer in Africa and Central America. He’s from Curaçao and has a MBA from the University of Iowa. (USA). 

Related News