Tuesday 22nd February, 2005

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Service must be throughout term

The good news is that PNM representatives, at the level of both central and local government, have been told to focus on service to the community.

Speaking after a PNM General Council meeting in San Fernando on Sunday, party chairman Franklin Khan told reporters that the party was about to launch a “blitz of service to the national population.”

“Councillors and MPs will have to re-energise themselves,” said Mr Khan. “They have to hit the road and be more visible and focus particularly (on the) service of people and service of their community.”

The bad news is that this is because the party has been placed on an election footing.

In other words, the coming blitz is part of the usual frenzy of activity that precedes an election, when government representatives rush to provide all sorts of services to their constituents in the hope of garnering votes.

Citizens can expect to see improvements in the condition of streetlights, the collection of garbage, and perhaps the water supply, as is usual before elections. No doubt, too, the road-paving equipment is being wheeled out and dusted off all across the country. Mr Khan, who is the Minister of Works, will no doubt be in the thick of things, and will supervise such enterprises as the widening of roads and the repair of landslides.

Mr Khan did not comment on whether the move meant a snap election was imminent, even though local government elections are not due until next year and the general election is constitutionally due in 2007.

Instead he suggested that the election alert was necessary not because an election was in the offing, but because that was the only way to galvanise the party.

“In an ideal world,” he admitted, “we should probably have five years of continuous activity and that...should bear no relevance to election dates.

“For that reason, we are putting the party in an election frame of mind.”

Hopefully, the population will benefit from this curious logic, which, in fairness to Mr Khan and his party, is not peculiar to the PNM, road-paving syndrome being only too familiar from previous regimes.

Mr Khan’s confession also revealed another failing of both this and previous administrations when he said the PNM was going to focus on “the basic community needs” of the populace. Too many of those basic needs—roads, lights, water among them— are still not being met, despite the customary pre-election drives and the campaign promises from all sides.

It is not at all certain, either, that it is a good thing that the provision of these basic amenities is continuing to be linked with an election campaign by any political party. Meeting the basic needs of the people should be a given for any party that comes into office, and should not be seen as the special gift of one side or the other, or as being dependent on the political allegiance of the beneficiaries.

As Mr Khan came close to admitting, providing service to the people should be the watchword of government representatives at all times, not only when the party is put on an election footing.

That would have to be the case if the population made it clear that the usual pre-election scramble will not work as a political strategy. Naturally, voters will welcome the attempt to provide them with basic services, but they should also make it clear that this is the kind of performance that they expect throughout the government’s—any government’s—term, and that they will not accept anything less.

©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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