Voting for Eat ah food and race

 

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Category: Trinidad Politics 16 Aug 15
 

Three weeks before a general election in T&T and apart from generalised platitudinous manifestos that can be written by a secondary school student from both parties, we seem to have all shut our eyes, tight. Unlike proper functioning Westminster-style democracies, the leaders of the two parties have yet to have a public-televised debate on television.

Am I missing something or are we frozen? Has the leader of either major contesting party used any of these facts as a premise to take us forward?

1—Crime

• T&T continues to rank in the top ten for homicides per capita around the world. This is according to the United Nations Information Service with data compiled by the OAS.

• A majority of the murders are committed by young men who obtain guns by illicit means. Who is supplying the guns?

• We remain a transshipment point for the drug trade. In this tiny oil-rich island why have we made no inroads into drug trafficking?

• The recent jailbreaks show the protective services remain riddled with corruption. As a nation we are not surprised because we haven’t been able to tell police from thief for a long time, maybe since the attempted coup of 1990. We get bluster from the top. Who will take this bull by the horns?

2—Corruption

• The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index showed that on a scale of zero to 100 (with 100 being a corruption-free society and zero a corrupt society), T&T scored 38 points. We know that the alleged corruption— millions of taxpayers dollars missing from the Life Sport Programme, resulting in the resignation of the sports minister, is not an aberration but a symptom of everyday governance.

What came of that? Nothing. We just happened to catch that one. Millions have gone down the drain on ‘projects’ in front of our credulous eyes. There is so much we don’t know! Smart men get away. That debacle showed us yet again that there are few or no systems for accountability for taxpayers money. The rail idea from both parties is perceived as another way for politicians to line their pockets especially as the problem can be solved easily by creating more parking and a more-effective bus service.

Foreign investment

In 2012, a US Department of State wrote: “Foreign investors have complained about a lack of transparency and delays in the investment approval process. Complaints focus on a perceived lack of delineation of authority for final investment approvals among the various ministries and agencies that may be involved in a project.

Some projects have been delayed for several years and some prospective investors have abandoned Trinidad and Tobago as a result.” What about the ones who do invest here, do we need to scrutinise them?

Health

Who can be more vulnerable than the sick, the poor, and the ones in the lowest rungs of the social order who also happen to be the least educated? They have no voice. The scurrying of cockroaches and an occasional rat in our public hospitals make no noise. The fact that NGOs like Vitas House cannot access vital drugs for cancer patients from the Health Minister, and that there are VIP wings simply for government officials to have pompous meetings is just another symptom of a system that needs streamlining transparency.

I don’t know where the oil money is going but its not going into equipment, training nurses and attendants, paying doctors properly, or creating an accountable system. We have among the highest rates of cancer, hypertension, heart disease and hypertension in the world with no preventative health care plan in place.

Education

There is too much emphasis on hot air like laptops and tablets, which are meaningless to children without teachers. The fact is that over 400,000 of us are functionally illiterate. The functionally illiterate came out of a primary and secondary school system that is desperately short on qualified teachers. Is there a teachers training programme? Why do dozens of schools lack permanent principals? The lack of a decent education impacts on EVERYTHING.

It leads to the cycle we live in—delinquency amongst the youth, poverty, illness and crime. It deprives our country of human resources and sustainable development. Teachers should be paid as much or more than doctors. We don’t need more schools. We need quality teaching.

Dependency programmes

The lack of education means the Government has created a dependent, ill-equipped population which will quickly slide into anarchy and more crime once the money dries up—and it will— once the oil price has plummeted.

The make-work programmes cut into a significant slice of the GDP. They are chaotic and in the hands of gangs. It gobbles a huge unmet demand for employment in tourism, in construction, in almost every industry in T&T. If this fund is formalised into an unemployment benefit, it will allow people to apply for jobs and train to work. We need to take care of our vulnerable, but transparently.

Oil price

The oil price has fallen from about US$100 US dollars a barrel to about US$48 dollars a barrel. Gas prices have also fallen. The drop in income affects our ability to keep paying for the makework programmes and if left unmanaged, could plunge us into economic crisis.

Can we ditch the blandishments and demand a serious campaign? Or are we going to vote for “eat ah food” and race?

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur