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Governments and public relations

Governments in free societies operate under the banner of democracy, or at least they should, since democracy is still hailed as a system that in its true form provides the people with a voice on matters that concern their welfare, especially when it comes to major projects.

The most tricky business for any government outside of dictatorial regimes is to perform with such transparency that even during difficult times, the relationship with the people will be such that there would be more understanding over issues that often create a wedge between those in authority and the very people who elected them.

It is generally accepted that no government can please everyone all the time when it involves matters that trigger strong views for or against a proposed initiative. It is always healthy in a free society to hear different viewpoints to maintain an open approach, especially when some people, rightly or wrongly, feel left out of the process.

Even if a particular government proposal has merit for development that would benefit all, unless that proposal, no matter how complicated, is explained in a clear, down-to-earth presentation, the door for doubt over transparency starts to open — and no government wants to be in that position. However, around the world and, of course, here in Bermuda over the years, there have been many occasions when governments have struggled to stay afloat in an undertow of conflicting views over how a particular issue was handled.

It boils down to how well the government public relations machine is running, regarding keeping people properly informed, which can be a deciding factor in gaining or losing support when that support becomes crucial. That in itself is a daunting task because, while a government has to weigh carefully when and how to release relevant information to the public on sensitive issues, it should never be seen as not being fully transparent in the eyes of the public; not an easy path for any government.

There could very well be confidentiality protocol in various business transactions that put governments in that shady spot, where people begin to wonder whether they are getting the full picture of what is involved in an initiative. Governments need to go beyond polished press releases to explain why and how things are being done to have that connection with the people required to build confidence.

In the political setting, the party in opposition often goes after a government blunder with the fury of a shark sensing blood in the water. That is a tough part of the democratic process and all governments can keep ahead of such an encounter by not leaving any stone unturned in their contact with the people and their concerns on any issue.

Most people want progress, even during tough times, but we are living in challenging times, with pros and cons over just about every issue.

In our small society, the people must feel a part of solving problems — and there are many. While the Government is not in the miracle business, and problems are not solved overnight, the people expect nothing short of the highest standards of transparency, whether it is over a proposed new airport, crime or the condition of our school buildings.

When people are fully informed on crucial issues of the day, the door of co-operation and understanding opens to allow a better atmosphere for solving problems collectively. There will always be differences of opinion, but that should never hinder progress, which is what most Bermudians want.

Democratic process: in the political setting, the party in opposition often goes after a government blunder with the fury of a shark sensing blood in the water

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Published May 28, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated May 28, 2016 at 3:27 am)

Governments and public relations

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