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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 02 Jun 02

Professor Ruth Grant of the Department of Political Science of Duke University said at the recent Dr Eric Williams Memorial Lecture: “When partisan loyalty replaces political judgment, elections no longer serve as a means of judging the performance of particular political leaders in office.”


To us, it is everyday depressing reality. So we go down, inert, cynical, weighed down by this 18/18 straitjacket, knowing another election with a similar result may drown us altogether.


Reenter Wendell Mottley: A Yale and Cambridge graduate, former world class athlete, a Finance Minister who, under the NAR, bit the bullet, (demonstrating a capacity for risk-taking) by successfully floating our dollar, and upon leaving politics made the easy transition as a high-profile investment banker in the US.


Once again, he’s bitten the bullet, by launching a political party, The Citizens Alliance which he says is to be community-based rather than ‘top-heavy’. One may argue he’s being strategically ambitious, testing the arena, since apart from himself there are no other candidates, (although 200 people are being trained to work in communities) and he plans to put up a full slate of candidates for the next election.


He admits in this interview “there is a lot of ripe fruit about”, doesn’t deny that he could be positioning himself as king maker. But beneath that ambition, one can’t help but believe him when he says he’s “a sucker for service, and for challenge”.


The Citizens Alliance personified by Wendell Mottley is a fledgling entity, waiting to take root. Can it? Can Mottley survive in this murky cavern inhabited by our politicians - this turgid lions den, where elders encourage sycophancy, where deals are shady, where stale ideas are passed around like cud from mouth to mouth, where those fattened by preying upon the spoils of the land, roam in a gluttonous stupor?


Will they pounce on this new arrival because he will threaten them for being urbane, too educated, with too many ideas, much too much energy? Will his brand of passionate intelligence be snuffed out by the mediocre? They may not rattle sabres at him. They will simply turn their backs on him summed up in that chilling phrase of ours when anyone attempts to push boundaries, “Who he feel he is?”


I asked him that myself recently, and this is Mottley in his own words:

“You know the saying, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation’. In the last six to seven years I have travelled widely throughout Latin America, Asia and Africa and I have seen what ethnic warring does between tribes, religions, races. The opportunities presented by the 18/18 situation were missed. Once you slip off that track, cross the Rubicon, you never recover. We’ve seen it in Guyana. We are dangerously near the precipice.

“Our country is experiencing economic crimping as a result of political uncertainties. People are holding back investments, construction is suffering, retail sales are suffering, unemployment may be inching back.

“Official statistics imply that some 80,000 of our able people are unemployed. The real figures is something like 300,000 because the half-assed jobs in which workers can’t plan a career, which are not purposeful, which are uncertain, poorly paid, don’t count.

“Our long-term prospects are bright because of current investments in oil and gas. The question is, will these resources heighten income inequality so the rich and well-connected will fashion soup ladles to dip up more than their fair share, and the poor and young will stand hungry with a fork in their hands?

“I am not underplaying our relative financial stability but I passionately believe this country needs a driving, new economy, that does a China with 8 or 9 per cent growth rather than 3 or 4 per cent. I am absolutely determined that we get out there and successfully market 3 or 4 services linked to world standards, which will sweep our young people up to meaningful careers, such as the creation of a tertiary education hub.

“My work as an investment banker alerted me to the possibility of success in countries such as Costa Rica and the enormous abyss of failed countries with no return. We need our industries to interlink to America and Europe, sustain growth and prevent regression. Look at Barbados, with its tiny population. Their tourist industry and high level of service reach into every cranny of their country, because nobody is going to buy a $15 million house there and die of a lack of a $10 injection at a medical institution. On the other hand, look at Guyana’s rapid downward spiral. We need to learn from that.

“One of the requirements of a successful society, especially small island economies, is openness. The size of the population of movers and shakers here quickly reverts to comfort levels - with the big fish in a small pond mentality - so there isn’t the jostle of shoulders, or competition to drive change or significant growth.

“I was warned when I decided to remove foreign exchange controls to do it piecemeal. I decided to move it clean and cause a turbulence and self-generating drive. It worked.

“Civilisations only lurch forward when people are ready for change.”


You have to admire Mottley, if only because it takes grit to plunge into this den.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur