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Category: Trinidad Society 18 May 08


We’ve talked about it; feared it; and hoped the day wouldn’t come. But it has. Trinidad and Tobago is now officially branded an “almost” failed state.

The chilling item tucked into a single column in last Monday’s papers was headlined “Study shows T&T almost a failed state.”

It cites the Failed States Index 2007 compiled by the Fund for Peace, an NGO that surveyed 177 countries. T&T is one of 96 countries “in danger of becoming a failed state.”

Failed states are defined as “countries that can no longer perform basic functions such as education, security, or governance, usually due to fractious violence or extreme poverty.”

What? The richest islands in the Caribbean? Dripping in oil? Failing? From what? Not poverty.

Then it must have to do with security (a collapsed rule of law), education (40 per cent are functionally illiterate) and governance (what governance?).

We know the haemorrhaging of the Treasury will not stop until the last drop. The joint select committee is a joke.

I have been told by independent senators that high-ranking MPs have, in the past, refused to attend or answer questions.

We know there will be no independent commission of enquiry into Udecott, a state body spending billions—up to 20 per cent of our GDP. No wonder T&T has been free-falling in the transparency index (83rd in the world), wedged between war-ravaged countries like Serbia and Bosnia. (Barbados is respectably high, with the first world countries.)

Isn’t there a sense of déjà vu here? Didn’t this happen with the airport? Wasn’t the whistle blown by an insider?

Security: We don’t need to go to government Web sites worldwide that warn their citizens of the high crime here. We know. Children know.

An average 13-year-old comes home from school with a question on a Friday evening: “Mummy, my teacher from primary school was kidnapped. Will she be okay?”

The anxiety continued until her teacher was released.

The following Monday, the child says: “My best friend’s grandparents were held up. All their money was stolen. The bandits were armed.” More anxiety; worry for her own grandparents.

On Tuesday: “My best friend’s brother, the one who drops me to school every day, was shot dead by bandits who stole his car. He didn’t resist when he was held up. He did as he was told. The bandit who was holding the gun near his head got nervous and shot him.” Ten classmates, some barely 13, went to the funeral. A nation of children growing up scarred by brutality.

If lack of security defines a failed state, we are there.

Education: If a failed education system is another criterion for a failed state, we are there, too. The one pertinent question asked by one commentator, regarding the leak of the Cape examination papers, allegations of selling and buying the paper, and its subsequent cancellation was “why only Trinidad and Tobago?” Why not Barbados?

Because Barbados has consistently spent more on education, and, as a result, is miles ahead on UN’s development index.

Why T&T? The leak landed on fertile ground, in a lawless country where the only rule is “If I can get away with it I will do it.”

Educators are now openly questioning the entire system: the lack of transparency over all scholarships, the integrity of previous Cape exams, the ruthlessly corrupt individuals in our education system.

Now that we have nearly collapsed, it may be necessary to restore the Cambridge exams, and beg Barbados to come in for a few months to run this country to bring us back from the brink.


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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur