NGO Blimps swindling $


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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 08 Jan 06


The eulogy for the demise of an obscenely expensive blimp, now limp on the ground. It had a short, unremarkable career in the air, failed to stop a single crime, prevent an arms or drug shipment, detect a single kidnapper or murderer, and justify its pointless existence in the air.


With another on the way to repeat the failure of its predecessor, something strange happened to me. I began seeing blimps all around me. They were not always in that ghostly, spacey form of the blimp we saw floating aimlessly in the skies, but took the shape of groups of humans. I was afraid. You should be, too. Before you think me mad, let me explain.


The unique thing about Trinidad is our mobility. How we can be sitting chatting with a couple in a palatial home one day, breaking bread with a family living in government housing the next, and hanging out buying doubles, hearing the stories from boys on the street the third? That allows us a perspective from the sky of Blimp groups on the ground.


Like this one. Consider the openly ostentatious people. When you talk to this group, you often find that the whole point of their lives is not the pursuit of pleasure or comfort but of self-importance, of a sense of self, of identity.


In their homes you see marble toilets but no book unless it’s a manual. You see imported rugs, gilded furniture but little evidence of travel. You hear a lot of talk of their own harsh, poor childhoods, their struggle to “make it” but now they openly, sadistically flaunt their wealth to over 400,000 people in this country who live below the poverty line, on less than $2 a day, people who choose between Crix and sardines.


Now that’s a Blimp. Full of hot air, full of its own self- importance, but irrelevant, even damaging, in a developing country that requires a huge degree of awareness of the widening gap between the rich and poor.


And this Blimp: gangs of young men who, in the absence of real education (denied to them by another Blimp, a government that splurges on sports stadiums rather than teaching colleges and, as a result, sends forth 10,000 illiterate youth into our already dangerous streets every year), are, upon being handed guns and drugs, immediately puffed out into Blimps.


These Blimps, filled with nothing but hot air (no thought, no ambition, no education, no curiosity, no invention, no humanity, a legacy of gimme-gimme, bling bling) are frequently burst as they kill one another for money.


The Power Blimps: We rarely meet the manufacturers of Blimps, politicians, big businessmen, but hear their verbiage, empty promises—free tertiary education (yet to materialise), health care (where’s the HIV/Aids hospital?), decent terms for employees (who’s checking in our lawless state?). Poke them. Nothing there. Only hot air.


There is another Blimp, better camouflaged than the rest. It’s the NGO Blimp. We’ve lost count of how many Non-Governmental Organisations we have in this country. But look closely and see how “aid” that is that is regularly granted from international organisations for “projects” on poverty, literacy, the homeless, is redirected into the pockets of those running them, swindled under “administration costs” in these organisations.


There are many decent NGOs but there is still too much hot air in the NGO Blimps, which can easily be punctured by an independent audit.


These Blimps would have collapsed if it weren’t for ordinary citizens who keep this country going—non-Blimps who stand for something, who understand the context in which we live, a developing country with 40 per cent living under the poverty line, 30 per cent functionally literate, among the highest incidence of HIV/Aids after Sub-Saharan Africa, and among the lowest expenditure on health and education in the region.


The foot soldiers: mothers who guide, fathers who stick around, teachers who passionately teach, professionals committed to above-board excellence, police we can trust, watch dogs, journalists, politicians, citizens who monitor the use of government resources, whistleblowers on wheeling dealing boys’ clubs. Those are our tools.


Down with Blimps!


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur