Sunday 26th June, 2005

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Flour price just one factor in bread cost

It is time for our leaders to approach our societal challenges responsibly, realistically and holistically.

I heard on the news the loud call from one of the Labour Day platforms for bakers to reduce the cost of bread since flour prices were recently lowered.

Great call once all the factors remain constant!

Although it is true that the price of flour has been lowered, have any of the other associated bakery expenses and costs been reduced? Are bakeries using only flour in bread now? No water? No yeast? No margarine?

Do the trade union leaders appreciate that when they clamour for increased wages and the raising of the minimum wage that these directly affect the cost of all products and services—including the accumulated cost of the baking ingredients? And then direct labour is only one aspect of making bread.

What about all the bakery workers? What are they going to do when the country boycotts the bakeries and are forced to shut down? After severance pay is spent, what? URP? Cepep?

I know of one particular bakery employing 70 workers and at least 200 small wholesale customers depending on their goods, each with two workers (another 400 employees). In all, 1,100 employees!

Bakeries, compared to retail customers, do benefit relatively from better prices but just as prices are rising in the groceries and markets, so too have the wholesale and bulk prices.

Bakeries no longer make their bread in stone ovens. Electricity, kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) are used to power the ovens.

Dough is not left to rise under a damp cloth on a kitchen counter. Electricity runs the bread plants and proofing rooms to prepare the dough for baking.

Bread deliveries are no longer made on bicycles—diesel and gasoline are used to power the fleets of bread vans. Need I go on?

Instead, lead the call for economical utilities and gas production deals which will benefit the citizens!

Lead the call for improved legislation for a banking system and financiers that really help the citizens. Lead the call for fairer import duties. Lead the call for improving the standards in our education system.

Lead the call for the Government to stop wasting taxpayers’ money, labour and management alike. Lead the call for demands to rectify the public health service.

Then, and then only might we see a general improvement in the cost and quality of living in T&T.

Nathalie Phillips

via e-mail

A fool and his money...

I REMEMBER back in the middle-to-late 1970s when, with the advent of high oil prices, people were warning the Government they were squandering money on unnecessary projects.

They were also warning that the country would pay a high price for the waste and mismanagement which became the order of the day.

These people were called prophets of doom and gloom. But alas, their predictions came to pass and the country suffered for well over 12 years with high unemployment, negative growth and huge deficits.

During this dark period, there was an attempted coup d’état; cuts in government and private sector employees’ salaries; retrenchment in both the public and private sectors; business failures and receiverships; neglect of the education and health sectors; creation of a vagrant population; increase in drug abuse and drug trafficking; creation of an underclass of people who are illiterate today; and, least we forget, creation of a generation of male under-achievers, who have become the criminals of today.

I cannot begin to tell you how much my stomach turns I hear about this $850 million sports complex. I love cricket but we do not need this complex to play a couple of practice matches. We can easily spend $15 million to $20 million and upgrade one of the under-utilised facilities we recently built.

The message coming out of the Government is that this complex will help reduce crime. Do we have to wait until this complex is completed to reduce crime? I thought the Prime Minister said crime was “temporary.”

Mr Prime Minister, I am appealing to you to please put a halt to this complex. It is unnecessary.You and your government, along with the rest of the country, will pay a heavy price for this and all the other wasteful projects initiated by your government.

Spend the money on crime prevention, schools, hospitals, roads, highways and other tangible projects that will benefit present and future generations.

Don’t go down in history as a spendthrift, who threw away the country’s wealth and squandered the opportunity to truly develop our nation.

Remember, a fool and his money are soon parted.


[email protected]

Fire protection for PM’s ‘skyscrapers’

I RECENTLY read comments made by PM Patrick Manning about the Government’s intention to erect “skyscraper” buildings in downtown Port-of-Spain. I guess this is part of the Government’s Vision 2020 plan.

I am wondering if Mr Manning and his administration have given any thought to fixing or replacing the city’s broken-down and inadequate fire-fighting equipment, inoperable fire hydrants and water-pumping mains before embarking on this most ambitious programme to change the capital city’s skyline.

Given the catastrophic results of the downtown Port-of-Spain fire last April, I think it is wise for the Government to keep the horse in front of the cart by taking care of these infrastructure issues before looking to build more monuments to itself.

Without the improvements, workers in those buildings will be at severe risk for fires, even as they enjoy working there.

Kelvin C James, Sr

via e-mail

Cane cutters’ dance distorts reality

While the stage presentation of an artiste can often be a slight variation of reality, it should not be allowed to deliberately distort reality to the extent of being propagandistic and misleading in its message.

The cane cutters’ dance, as published in full colour on the front page of the Guardian of Tuesday, June 21, attempts to glamourise the drudgery and back-breaking servitude of cane cutting. Cane cutters in true life cannot afford to wear protective boots, yellow boiler suits, gloves and dainty hats.

The patrons at the Larry Gomes Stadium, especially the young, would have left with a most erroneous but a glamorous, distorted image of the poor and destitute cane cutter.

Unlike the cocoa dancers, cane cutters were never known ever to dance on the job owing to the sheer state of physical exhaustion they suffered from their tasks. Their clothing was always black from the ash and soot of the burnt canes and they were often bare-footed.

I find the cane cutter dance choreographed and presented by people who never set feet in a cane field a deliberate and regrettable distortion of a cruel and inhumane aspect of the sugar industry and indentureship.



State-sponsored abstinence abuse

WHAT do child abuse and an abstinence-only club have in common? A blatant disregard for human rights. Let me explain.

The purpose of education is to provide information. Withholding and/or distorting information is not education.

The present administration’s solutions to meet the challenges of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are based on the same unenlightened thinking as their “final solution” for occupants of Death Row.

The hanging solution is to take an “I’m being strong” stance to appeal to the popular baying for blood.

The abstinence solution is “I’m being righteous” to appeal to the religious fundamentalists.

In both cases, they are desperate reactions and an admission of failure to do what should have been in place over the last 49 years. Is this leadership?

No one can argue that abstinence is a solution as part of a programme. But an incomplete programme is tantamount to signing a death warrant. Abstinence only assumes that a pledger is going to keep the pledge. It also assumes that the pledge was made freely in the first place, without parental and institutional pressure.

Finally, once the pledge is broken, as it will be, is the pledger armed with information on alternative methods to protect themselves in the course of their sexual activity?

In their zeal, the present administration has mandated an authority to conduct abstinence-only clubs in schools. By their own admission, this authority is not mandated to disseminate information normally associated with sex education—ie the correct use of condoms, for one.

Which brings the question, if you are handling education responsibly, who is handling the missing information?

Are there not other organisations with a wealth and history of research, internationally funded before Bush, which are more than capable of conducting sex education programmes?

Here comes the good bit: In order for a programme to be effective, it must be monitored. There are no mechanisms in place to do that here. Even so, the local authority would be aware of the statistics of the American programme, from whence they get their inspiration, and its 88 per cent failure rate amongst pledgers.

Oh, and guess what, these unfortunate “victims” find themselves with no information for protection in their new-found sexual activity.

Now the punch line: In their zeal for populist approval, the authorities have blatantly disregarded the right of young people to information, free of political and religious interference, and have put them clearly in harm’s way. At first, I thought this was child abuse but on reflection, the phrase “criminal negligence” comes to mind.

Shane Collens


Keep it real, spend our $850m wisely

AS I mentioned before, and feel compelled to repeat, sport is a great way to encourage youth and help develop life and social skills, among other things. But our current social issues need a strong community response and as such, $850 million can be used to manage and maintain the 700-plus community-based recreation grounds and sporting facilities.

This would lead to a substantial increase in community-based support workers, ie, health, social, et al, being hired and placed in all communities to be easily accessed by individuals.

They can offer counselling support and referrals to other existing programmes that can assist in developing the self-esteem, marketability, recreational needs and other skills of our citizenry.

A “world class” sporting facility at Tarouba will not be effective use of $850 million at this point in time for its stated uses, since the various stadia, civic centres, Jean Pierre Complex, youth facilities and other recreational facilities have not delivered on their intended uses over the decades, so what will make this one “special?”

Let’s keep it real, honourable ministers, and spend our money wisely.

Gregory Sloane-Seale

[email protected]

WASA’s pseudo road repairs fooling no one

For the life of me, I cannot understand why WASA is allowed to destroy the nation’s roadways by digging gigantic holes and then doing a pseudo-repair job by filling the hole either with gravel, which is quickly scattered across the roadway causing a hazard, or with some god-forsaken, thick, yellow dirt which turns to mud as soon as it rains, splashing all over your car.

Is it because WASA is a government agency that they seem to have been granted immunity to laws against destruction of public property?

Is the Government trying to fool the population by hiring one set of workers to build and fix roads and another set to destroy these same roads, hence creating perpetual employment?

Ministers, fix this situation!

Kelvin Vine

via e-mail

Smelter plant is politics, not logic

ASIDE from all the expressed reasons for not having an aluminum smelter in T&T, environmental hazard, disrupting whole villages, misuse of agricultural land—I ask why?

Surely it is not that we need to find use for our gas. We can export all we can find or for heaven’s sake leave it in the ground as an investment. It is not going to create much employment. Besides we are critically short of skilled labour, as it is.

But more importantly, we do not have the raw material, bauxite.

This must be a political decision surely, not a logical one.

Richard Jeary



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