Friday 12th May, 2006

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Impaired Vision 2020

THE Government boasts of transforming T&T into a developed country by 2020. Until recently, the population was constantly reminded of this vision through ministerial speeches, media blitzes, talk shows etc.

Now I must plead ignorance as to the contents of this plan as I have not examined its details. However, as an economist I can tell you that any development strategy worth its weight in salt will commit much of its efforts on strengthening the private sector and focusing heavily on the ways in-which the State—through its institutional framework—can facilitate growth of this sector. I am assuming then that Vision 2020 fulfils such a mandate.

However, there are certain things that lead me to question the validity of such an assumption. Here I will deal with only one of the many issues.

All will agree that Trinidad can now boast of having a “world class” international airport. This partly fulfils the conditions necessary to making this country the transshipment hub of the Caribbean and South America, a policy objective constantly articulated by this and past administrations.

It is in this context that the Piarco International Airport was expanded to what it is today. The State can now argue that it has put in the transportation infrastructure to encourage the hub concept.

It would appear that this is as far as the Government can take this vision as it seems in no hurry to support the kinds of private-sector investments that surround such facilities worldwide. By this I refer to hotels, motels, restaurants etc.

It is now years after the completion of the airport, yet the Town and County unit of the State is not granting any building approvals for the area around the airport.

In effect, while the domestic business sector has invested in the surrounding lands, ready and able to fulfil its mandate as the engine that generates sustainable growth (new business entities, employment, housing etc), the State through its bureaucracy has put a spoke in its wheel.

The planning officers at Town and Country tell investors of the long list of pending applications, and the fact that this area is under governmental review (ongoing since 1996), and must take into consideration further airport expansion.

Really? What bureaucratic nonsense. When will we need an extended airport? Are we anywhere near full utilisation with the existing facility? Are we even at 50 per cent?

I am sure the answer is a resounding no. The follow-up report being why ever did we need such a large facility in the first place, with the follow-up discussion on maintenance costs, over time etc (already the female washroom on the ground floor has deteriorated to an embarrassing level).

This situation alone brings home the lack of co-ordination and real commitment evident in the macromanagement of this country. Let me explain.

On the one hand, we have a Minister of Tourism vocalising rhetoric that encourages the private sector to construct new hotels. He spends a lot of time in the international arena marketing T&T as an ideal destination.

In support of this general positioning, we have a Minister of Sports busy preparing for Cricket World Cup next year. It is no secret that the existing infrastructure cannot satisfy accommodation needs for this event. Already during peak demand periods, eg Carnival, there is a shortage of hotel rooms.

On the other hand, the apparatus of the Planning Ministry seems to be operating in contradiction to this articulated development drive, even as the Tourism Development Company offers incentive structures to hotel developers.

What is the sense of tax and other incentives if one cannot get building approvals? If the situation were less serious, it would be laughable. If the private sector originated its management systems in like manner, it would bankrupt itself out of existence.

The difference I guess is that the private investor can literally lose his shirt while mismanagement at the state level has no similar penalty. Spending of state funds happens without any accountability to the people whose resources are being expended.

So you see, Vision 2020 is mostly talk and we all know talk is cheap. So, for all its talk of developed-country status by 2020, the focus is only on mega buildings (further exacerbating traffic congestion in the nation’s capital), million-dollar sporting complexes with no long-term plan re: maintenance costs, super highways and energy-related industrial development.

In my view, the Government needs to start walking the 2020 talk by refocusing on its role as facilitator, and so co-ordinate its efforts that the private sector can find it easier to allocate its resources to generating sustainable employment opportunities in sectors other than those linked to oil and gas and the likes of URP and Cepep. Only then can we look with anticipation to the year 2020.

Indera Sagewan-Alli

A reader of Aranguez

In defence of Benny Hinn

The Benny Hinn crusade is back and his detractors have emerged from the woodwork, including Sat Maharaj, for whom I have a great deal of respect, as I have for Hinduism which predates Christianity and equates (time-wise) with Judaism.

But if his “research” on Hinn is limited to HBO and CNN’s sensational documentaries (since retracted) and his “dime-a-dozen” DVD, he should seek the truth from other “channels.”

The problem with defending Hinn and Christianity in general is the lack of awareness by some of the “big picture”—the heating up of the spiritual war in the heavenlies between good (God) and evil (devil), between Christ and the anti-Christ, angels vs demons, Darwinism vs intelligent design, believers vs atheists and agnostics, the DaVinci Code vs the Omega Code, and the Da Vinci deception.

The emergence of the likes of Harry Potter (witchcraft repackaged) influencing millions, and the increasing lack of moral absolutes of good and bad in this 11th hour of man’s end-times, betrays general myopia.

In short, everything good epitomises God and everything bad reflects the work of the devil across the board. Today we all have to decide whose side we are on.

Benny Hinn’s casting out of demons—the Bible’s message from Genesis to Revelations—is not unique in time and place to our speck of dust, T&T. The mission of Christ on Earth was not only to resist evil at all levels and to redeem us from sin, but to demonstrate that we too can emulate his good works—man’s divinity—the heart of Hinn’s and the TBN crusades.

The so-called demons Hinn casts out are the demons of everything negative—demons of sickness, of cancer, of Aids, of poverty.

When men accuse him of orchestrating mass healings not in pursuit of the Almighty, but in pursuit of the almighty dollar, they become self-appointed advocates of the devil.

Sat is a good man with noble intentions which are being sullied with unscientific “proof” to detract from a subject (Christianity) of which he seems to know very little. How could Hinn be accused of breaking the law? By assuming that he is an imposter doing it for the money? Give me a break!

Hinn’s crusades are not funded by the millions he prays with and heals. Participants are not charged one cent. Indeed, it is very impractical to pass the hat around to thousands attending the Queen’s Park Savannah crusade where the admission is free, and to heal in collusion with those who themselves admit they are healed.

Consider the implications in countries like India where he administers to four million people in five days.

On the contrary, he pays for everything up front, funded by partners of Benny Hinn worldwide—corporations, millions of people big and small, with the help of the regional Pentecostal/ Evangelical churches—which understand their role in the big picture and are at the vanguard of the battle for mankind, more so than many who consider themselves “holier than thou.”

Hinn is associated with the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the world’s largest Christian TV network led by Paul and Jan Crouch, who have spent billions of dollars in satellite dishes in over 105 countries.

Their pastors and partners are involved in massively spreading the gospel, feeding the poor and healing the sick worldwide. They were at the forefront after the Louisiana and Asia tsunami and other disasters, even before the governments and NGOs arrived.

They know that demonic activity is being accelerated universally, manifested by the unprecedented number and severity of man-made and natural disasters—hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, the Iraqi terrorist acts, Iran’s threat of nuclear war—and at home murders, kidnappings and terrorist acts.

These are not acts of God but acts of the devil, and are part of the 300 prophesies of the Old and New Testaments which are spot on target, 95 per cent of which have already been fulfilled.

Those who are condoning evil and attacking good one way or the other—governments or individuals—are themselves guilty of being the devil’s advocates and should wake up and smell the chaos, and hopefully the scales will fall from their eyes.

T&T has everything to gain and nothing to lose by Benny Hinn’s crusade coming to T&T. Give him a break, Sat!


A reader of Westmoorings

Grand plans for Chacon Street

WE have read with concern a letter from L Maloney of D’Abadie titled “Do something about filthy city” (May 10).

The writer makes a legitimate complaint regarding Chacon Street.

We are well aware of the difficult circumstances on Chacon Street between Queen Street and Independence Square north. For a long time we have been attempting to engage the authorities regarding Chacon Street.

With the assistance of the mayor of Port-of-Spain, Chacon Street has recently been repaved and its sidewalks upgraded.

We have also made repeated representation to T&TEC regarding the installation of additional street lights because darkness on Chacon Street is one of the main reasons why our unfortunate homeless settle there.

Plans have also been recently finalised for a large, modern, upscale development on this section of Chacon Street, which will include parking, entertainment, restaurant facilities, and sport and recreational facilities.

We have also, with the full backing of the business people on Chacon Street and with the agreement of the then chief traffic engineer, attempted to convert that section of Chacon Street from south-bound to north-bound on a three-month trial basis.

This change in traffic direction was intended to relieve congestion on Independence Square north caused by the Salvatori Building demolition and also to bring much needed traffic to the street.

This proposal has been mysteriously turned down on repeated occasions by the traffic branch of the police service, which has not given any reason as to its objections.

Perhaps by this letter the ACP Traffic or the Commissioner of Police will finally attempt to join us in our efforts in this regard.

Finally, we wish to assure the writer that Chacon Street and all other city streets are thoroughly washed twice a week at 4 am in a programme which was initiated by the then Mayor John Rahael and paid for by some of the downtown merchant community.

While we continue to grapple with the challenges facing us, we wish to assure the writer and the public at large that the temporary difficult conditions on Chacon Street are not representative of the entire city and that Chacon Street could soon become one of the most popular of downtown streets.

Downtown Owners & Merchants Association


Diego hillside being ravaged

I write to share my thoughts on the environmental catastrophe that is taking place at the HDC’s Victoria Keys construction site in Diego Martin.

The initial idea to ravish a virgin parcel of pristine hillside is obscene in its core concept and flawed in its economic, social and environmental fundamentals. Disregarding all primary environmental practices, the destruction, degradation and depletion of the natural formation of the hillside continue apace, in spite of the hue and protest of the owners and beneficiaries of the space.

Where is the environmental impact study that should accompany this development?

How would this development, coupled with the myriad of other developments that are now under construction along the western peninsular, affect the area socially?

What is the effect on the road network and other services within the immediate environs?

What cultures would be imported into the community by the occupiers of these proposed units when they are completed and the negative or positive impact of such?

The current housing blitz continues apace with a few making all the decisions for the population. Power and money replace democracy and consultation, while the electorate is made to feel emasculated and manipulated with each passing day and with every decision that is made.

Could someone in power account for the cost of demolishing the hillside and how would that factor into the final cost of the proposed units? Or are these units being subsidised to their future owners upon completion and allocation?

As a nation, we continue to create these overlords who ride into positions of power on the backs of political parties and the electorate. They are answerable to no one other than the clique which created them to represent their twisted ideologies and flawed developmental concepts.

However, we the people must let the perpetrators of democratic disobedience understand that true power resonates with the populace.

Garvin Scott

Diego Martin

Security failed to protect teens

An investigation has been launched to determine how a photograph of the 13-year-old jointly accused of little Sean Luke’s murder got on the Internet.

The law is clear that images of accused people below 16 years of age cannot be publicised and so the hunt is on for the culprit.

The authorities of this land never cease to amaze me with faux pas after faux pas. Let me try to assist this hapless investigation by pointing out a few obvious facts.

We live in the computer age and the technology is probably the most dynamic that mankind has ever known. Consequently, digital cameras and cellphones with cameras are quite prosaic in T&T.

A 10-year-old child can take your photograph in public without you or people around you knowing. The picture may be then easily uploaded to a computer from where it can be promulgated via e-mail, Web site or any one of a myriad of programs/software used for communication.

The photograph of the teenager in question has been bouncing around on e-mails for about three weeks now. At this point I am certain that most citizens have seen the face of the accused.

So it does not take a computer nerd, a rocket scientist or a professional investigator to decipher how the picture got to be where it is.

Ultimately, the fault lies with the security protocol that took the accused youths to and from the Couva courthouse, as they focused on the media. Clearly, reporters are not the only ones with cameras.

Dexter Rigsby

Mt Lambert

Better ways to use funds

To the people at the Consumer Affairs Division who saw it fit to create that six-page supplement in the newspaper, you could have just printed the last page in a handout and forgotten about the rest.

You would have spent less money and been more relevant to most of us who have to face rising prices daily.

Maybe you could even have taken the money that it cost to print that supplement and sent it to some homes to help feed people there. That would have been value for money.

W Paul


An insult to true jazz greats

IN A report on what was advertised as The Plymouth Jazz Festival, one of our dailies stated that a local performer’s contribution “ranged from soca to reggae to even hip hop” (jazz festival?).

I am not one who bets but I am prepared to wager a minute sum that very few who appeared on stage in Plymouth, if asked, would know who Ella Fitzgerald, one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, was.

It would not surprise me if the others, when asked, would say that she was related to the Kennedys.

Fitzgerald was most times referred to by the likes of Sinatra, Basie and Ellington as “Lady Ella,” as was Sarah Vaughn, another jazz luminary, known as “The Divine Sarah.” Never were they ever introduced as divas, an accolade now loosely handed out to many who dwell in close harmony with mediocrity.

What took place in Tobago was nothing short of an insult to the true great jazz artistes of an era past. Hip-hop, reggae, soca. Jazz Festival indeed!

Everard Leon

Petit Valley

Rid WI team of Bennett, Best

What an insult to persist with this obvious “not-up-to-the-task” player that Bennett King is using to mask his own incapability as a coach. Tino Best is simply a joke on the international cricket stage.

For those of you who have short memories, this is the same man who ran up to bowl at the Queen’s Park Oval a couple of years ago. This is the same man who I personally witnessed at Lord’s in 2004 fall to the challenge by the English players to “leggo a big vup” (which he did) when he should have tried to stay at the wicket to allow Chanderpaul to score his second century of the match.

Need I say more? It’s time to get rid of Best and Bennett. Oh, and did someone mention that Best couldn’t make the Barbados team only recently?

P King

Port of Spain