Wednesday 21st May, 2008

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PNM collapsing from the inside

The PNM Government is imploding from the inside. Has anyone noticed? Because money is flowing like a dose of salts and the cost of living is escalating, many are not noticing this occlusion. Others refuse to believe what is happening and yet others are too ashamed. You see it on the sullen faces everyday—at City Gate, in the malls, in the streets, in offices, everywhere.

Five months after being re-elected to government with a comfortable majority, the Prime Minister has ambled his way along.

Unable to convince the experienced members of his Cabinet and relying on the support of political greenhorns, the Prime Minister attempted to buy a hugely expensive private jet with public money. Public pressure was too much and forced the Government to call off the deal, giving the flimsy excuse that Bombardier, the aircraft company, did not want to sign an anti-corruption clause.

Then as consumer pressure was mounting, the Central Bank Governor warned that unless something is done, we are going to be swimming in double-digit inflation.

Crime became a back-burner issue as the price of food went through the roof and the Minister of Consumer Affairs gave the nation a poorly crafted script on television. The pressure started to build even more as significant publics voiced their objections to the minister’s comments.

Then three days later when things could not have gotten worse, the Prime Minister fired the Trade Minister on the basis of third-party hearsay. Immediately following Dr Rowley’s dismissal, the country became vociferous and called for a commission of enquiry to be comprised of people of unquestioned integrity from outside the Parliament.

The Government spent a full three weeks in overdrive doing damage control on the Udecott affair when suddenly there was a breach in the security of the CAPE examinations. Whilst this was being dealt with by the Minister of Education, the same Udecott gave a press conference with its board of directors doing some public relations—at least until Independent Senator Michael Annisette spoke.

Two days later police were in full force at Spring Village as though the country’s national security was being threatened by aliens from outer space.

What are we the public to make of all of this: from the display of state power in the execution of state projects (without environmental approval), to arresting civilians who are not threatening the security of anyone? And the rains have not started as yet.

The Prime Minister at a breakfast meeting said that plenipotentiary power is necessary, especially in the execution of state projects. His reasoning is that the Public Service was designed for administration and not execution. The inference here is that innovation, best practice, Kaizen, TQM, Six Sigma etc are not important, or rather incidental. What the Prime Minister seems to have forgotten is that power is fire, and you do not give a baby a hammer as a toy.

What the Prime Minister failed to do during 1991-1995, he is now trying to achieve in a roundabout fashion. The Government has killed the service commissions by arbitrarily employing on-the-job trainees and allowing them to oversee functions of the Public Service. This is the Julien doctrine at work. Anyone who has gained a little experience on the fast food counters can now be a supernumerary in the Government of T&T. Recruitment is by vaps, and who knows who. Anyone can do anything.

Many years ago in the Plipdeco News, one of this country’s fine minds opined that industrialisation was the key to development. Yet when one looks at countries like Ireland and New Zealand that have built their economies on agriculture and service industries and still maintain pristine natural beauty, one wonders about the wisdom of these fine minds. We have always been importing butter and cheese. We do not have a fully fledged dairy industry.

During the 1980s we had a state company called the T&T Electronics Company. Two and a half decades later and we are in the age of the second and third generation electronic technological development. We are in the Information Age. Where is that company today? One of the ideas of a fine mind.

Basdeo Panday was reckless after being re-elected in 2000 and his government fell within that first year of being re-elected. Corruption was the issue. Is Prime Minister Manning heading down that road?

Ronald Bhola

Via e-mail

Tall buildings more important?

The Prime Minister has said that becoming “developed” necessitated a state company to have plenipotentiary powers and hence the reason Udecott was formed. It was charged with the responsibility of building the waterfront, among other projects.

He then proceeded to say this project was started the same time construction of the Belmont Police Station was begun. Udecott was not responsible for constructing the station. It was subjected to the usual procedures to be followed for construction of state projects.

Our PM then went on to boast that the waterfront was almost complete while the police station’s completion was nowhere in sight.

The fact that the Prime Minster can boast that the waterfront project would finish before the station is a clear indication of the Government’s priorities.

The PM’s version of development is not about building police stations, schools, hospitals or other institutions that contribute to the quality of citizens’ life. It is based solely on high-rise buildings such as the waterfront project.

Somehow, in this man’s vision, it is more important to have high-rise buildings than police stations even though crime has reached crisis proportions in this country.

If in fact the Prime Minister finds Udecott so efficient, and that is the rationale behind awarding it so many contracts, then why hasn’t he given it the responsibility to construct the Belmont Police Station?

Satesh Persaud


UHF radios a must in disaster

I would like to comment on M Hotin’s letter regarding disasters (May 16). He is perfectly correct but one thing he omitted to mention which is absolutely fundamental in all disasters is communications.

If a severe hurricane hits our islands it must be assumed that all existing methods of communication will cease to exist. It has to be assumed that all power lines will be inoperative. All overhead cables will be blown down together with radio masts. Thus cell phones will not work.

The only sure means of communication will be by hand-held UHF radios. The range of these is limited but they will be the best we have, or should have. I wonder how many such radios are held by the armed forces, ambulance services etc or are available to these services at the moment. It will be too late to issue them after the disaster has struck.

Also, where are the places of shelter and are they adequately equipped? Why are there no signs to guide people to them? We cannot wait for the emergency before putting them up.

It seems that many dollars have been allocated to the emergency organisation but so far the planning seems to have been limited to ads telling us the obvious—that we should have emergency stocks of food and water.

I suppose if an emergency does occur we will spend all our time blaming everyone else for our lack of organisation.

Hugh Putt

Via e-mail

Better a victim than a criminal

No doubt my nephew would eventually just be another statistic. On Friday last he was a man who was shot in his head while trying to help a friend in St Ann’s, and for the while good people, particularly those close to him, would bemoan the crime situation, and thoughts of hangings and other forms of retribution would regain prominence in frightened and indignant souls.

It is funny, but he left Trinidad to get away from crime while mutual friends are always concerned about me driving my maxi at nights in some of the more dangerous places on the island. And I have had my experiences with bandits. I have been robbed, I have been threatened with death, I have spoken to bandits, and in my way have studied them.

I feel sorry for bandits. They are a kind of people who, when given a really precious, expensive gift, promptly throw it away.

A few days ago we had a man who appreciated another person, a friend, to such an extent that he was willing to risk his life for that precious gift.

Then we had another man who seems incapable of appreciating anything of real value, save his skewed self-image—his “rank.” When I think of situations like these I always conclude that it is better to be the victim of crime than its perpetrator.

This brings me to the point of this letter—that the underlying factors fuelling criminality are firstly an inability to appreciate what is good. It is an inability to value those things which bring real joy and fulfilment.

Secondly and related to the first is the development of a skewed self-perception.

To repeat the often stated obvious, we need to address values and education not only in schools but in homes, in cultural expressions, in churches, on the roads, everywhere. We need to help our youth develop a healthy sense of self. We need to encourage them to challenge the definitions which maleficent elements try to impose on them.

We need to help them understand themselves. We need to encourage them to define themselves in the light of their human dignity, not in the darkness of one who hides from the sight of society, scheming and hiding their true selves as if infected with an incurable plague. We need to love them that much.

Lawrence Fortuné

El Dorado

Great care at thoracic ward

Recently I was admitted to the Mount Hope hospital where I spent two weeks. During my stay I received excellent treatment from the doctors, nurses and attendants in the thoracic surgical ward.

Special thanks to Drs Sylvester, Kampta and Wilson. They were all very kind, thoughtful and attentive to me. Their patience and commitment to duty contributed a great deal in making my stay at the hospital comfortable and pleasant.

God bless you all.

Cuthbert M Jolly




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