dilemma for T&T
the recent and continuing internal foolishness
being played out in public and the tensions existing within
the UNC result in diminished support when the next national
election is called?
Those who believe this and that the PNM will as a result be
an easy winner better not rush to judgment.
History has shown that voters in T&T are still influenced,
not by real issues, but by ethnic preference, sentiment and
emotion. Those who now criticise Mr Panday will not shift
their allegiance from the UNC to the PNM.
His method of getting rid of those who disagree with him may
appear politically misguided but it has worked in the past.
In any case where would they go? The PNM will not accept UNC
The two political parties stem from two distinct political
cultures and history while general elections are usually contests
between leaders and a plebiscite on the behaviour of the incumbent.
Unpopular governments get thrown out of office without much
concern as to what will succeed them. Further, a return to
office without an effective majority is cold comfort.
The PNM must be applauded for its positive record of sharing
through social policies: the $1.6 billion in tax cuts, $5.8
billion for affordable housing, increases in pensions and
healthcare, a high level of improvement in employment and
educational opportunities. All of which should have resulted
in a very high level of government popularity. But it has
not turned out that way. Why?
Well for one thing the extraordinary pace of development which
is causing severe indigestion by attempting to go too fast
in a small country with a culture which at the moment cannot
fit into such heady ambitions. The focus of intention apparently
is to use the energy windfall to produce a showcase country.
While the Government alone cannot be fully blamed, an examination
of the present situation reveals a less-than-positive result.
The two political wooden legs are we need no transparency
Udecot and the too little too late Central Bank.
These two wild bulls, perhaps forgetting that bust
essentially follows boom and that recession is
the flip side of inflation, have been counterproductively
running roughshod over the cost of living of the people and
the economy of T&T. Creating massive shortages, missed
deadlines, cost overruns, overheating, inflation, liquidity
and business instability.
The excess liquidity is being poured down the throats of a
credit-gullible population by bankers, opportunists, loan
purveyors and advertising agencies.
The mirage of good intentions was to produce full employment
and a better standard of living for all. But while it is correct
to state that more people are in employment and a reasonable
percentage in better jobs, there are still too many of these
same employed people catching hell to make ends meet or living
from pay cheque to pay cheque.
It certainly must be obvious that rising inflation and an
inadequate and crumbling infrastructure are much greater dangers
to a population than crime. Of course not all of the countrys
woes have been the fault of its government.
Every effort made to neutralise bad news is destroyed by the
repercussion of an indisciplined population that is too demanding
and full of bad habits. However, it is always the government
in power which must take the rap for the condition of the
society, whether caused or encouraged by public attitude and
At the centre of which is a highly uncomfortable and fearful
environment with noise pollution and floods which the Government,
whatever its efforts, seem incapable to arrest.
Added to this is the low standard of government institutions,
disappointing level of national productivity and a judiciary
in which most citizens continue to lose trust and confidence.
Only the very wealthy, the main and final beneficiaries of
government spending, can easily afford the runaway costs in
housing and other basic standards of living.
Even the credit that must go to the Government for decreased
taxes and social subsidies have been heavily eroded by the
Tower of Babel syndrome. Further, crime and drugs generally
take firmer root in unfair societies. Especially in do-as-you-like
societies with an overexaggerated sense of rights.
The country can of course boast that there are far more obscenely
rich people than ever before, all paid for from the peoples
patrimony derived from oil and gas income and whose wealth
flows outside faster than it comes out of the ground.
Not from any new private initiatives by the rich or increased
conversion of oil and gas income to sustainable alternatives,
but instead to a huge increase in rampant commercialism, heavy
consumption and waste.
This lopsided form of development, as it has done everywhere
else and which the country has experienced in the past, ends
in only one way: a highly dissatisfied population. Demoralised
citizens do not turn out to vote and as my mother use to say,
you never miss the water till the well runs dry.
Mr Manning and his cabinet better take heed of this old adage
and seek to cool it. Or after having achieved
what I listed earlier in this article, the UNCs troubles
will not lessen the Governments political burdens.
But the real truth lies in the fact that the first principle
of democracy is to empower the people. Elections and democracy
are not one and the same thing.
The tragedy of T&T is that two much of the countrys
power, wealth, management and future is centralised in the
hands of a very few. Lack of improvement in this regard generally
results in mismanagement, low popularity and a consistent
annoyance with government. Simply add the fact that too large
a majority of the people of T&T are politically stupid
and you get the picture.
The problems of T&T go much deeper than either the Government,
Mr Manning or Mr Panday. It stems from the culture and psycho-ethical
nature of the society itself. No government can really change
that. Only the people can.
Governments will come and governments will go. But it is the
people who will remain. One can therefore understand the countrys