The state of rot


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 17 Apr 05


The quartet of comments from people in this country continues this week with the voice of a downtown businessman.


ďIf we were not a jokey country many people would have resigned after the fire in downtown Port-of-Spain that razed the Peopleís Mall to the ground, and destroyed so many others. Starting with the Mayor of Port-of-Spain. Why did he and previous mayors and Town and Country Planning allow a mall of vending booths to develop, that did not meet a single planning requirement, neither structural, health nor fire in the middle of the capital city. Why was this building not inspected?


Most businessmen feel that the fire represents a failure on the part of the Government. The State ought to be held responsible; not just entrepreneurs who have grown businesses, earning an honest living, the people we want to encourage, who have lost every cent theyíve had in the world, but also for businesses lost in Queensway.


If we werenít jokey the Minister of National Security would have also resigned because, according to him, a vital department in the middle of our populated city has been starved of funds to buy basic equipment and thatís not important!


If our fire service cannot put out a fire in a two-storey building in the middle of the city, what is going to happen if there is a fire in the Red House, in the National Library, in the Twin Towers, in broad daylight, midweek, when the place is packed with people? Charred dead people, thatís what!


This is symptomatic of all the rot. Six billion dollars lost in Wasa and we still canít get water flowing in the hydrants in the capital city. If Wasa canít provide water downtown, can you imagine how terrible it is for people everywhere else? If we werenít jokey we would have fired the entire Wasa board.


Nobody is making any hard decisions. Everybody is passing the buck. Everybody is accepting the fat pay cheques from the treasury but nobody is taking responsibility, and nobody is being held responsible. Nobody is working. Thatís why nothing will change.


Apart from the Brian Lara Promenade at one end and the Savannah at the other, Port-of-Spain is the ugliest capital in the West Indies. It is a filthy city piled with garbage. It is delusional grandiose pomposity to want to be the financial headquarters of the region, the seat of the Caribbean Court of Justice and the FTAA. You look up and there is a mess of hideous telephone and electricity wires everywhere. The roads have been so sloppily paved. They are curved and bumpy and pitted with potholes. Heritage buildings are razed without a thought. Nothing is preserved.


We flood every time it rains because the outlet pipes are lower than the sea. We need big pumps. The drainage division knows what to do. The corporation knows what to do. Nothing listed here cannot be solved within six months if people have the will and are held responsible.


Where is the Vendors Association, where is Doma, where are the people who struggle through floods and traffic and garbage to and from work every day? We should all be asking questions.


The sad state of Port-of-Spain is symptomatic of our rot and thatís why, despite the oil money, we donít change.


It is not a political point. It is just laziness on a general scale. You see the same rot in health, in education, in crime. Nobody is being held responsible for all the ill, the illiterate, the criminals. Nobody is doing the plumbing. Meanwhile, beneath our infrastructure is rattling and rusting, burning and falling down around us. It can be fixed in six months. It just needs a will. Port-of-Spain has been under fire, now itís time we give somebody thunder or we will all fall down. Take it from me, a downtown businessman operating here for 30 years.


* Quartet to be continued


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur