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
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
I have been told by independent
senators that high-ranking MPs have, in the past, refused to attend or
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
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
Because Barbados has consistently
spent more on education, and, as a result, is miles ahead on UN’s
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
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.