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
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
• 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?
• 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
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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