Burden of corruption

Br Raffique Shah
August 29, 2017

Raffique ShahIt’s not that we have achieved nothing in 55 years as an independent nation. It’s more that successive governments that have held power during that time have squandered bountiful resources and wasted opportunities that, in the span of half-a-century, could have transformed Trinidad and Tobago into the paradise it had the potential to be. That we are today on the brink of becoming a failed state rather than being a beacon of success is an indictment against every prime minister who held office.

There is much that we can be thankful for, of course. Prime among them for me is that this multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural cauldron has not imploded into bitter communal strife. That is not for want of trying: the “dividers” on different sides of the race-fences have worked hard to stir discontent, to fan the flames of racism.

But since independence in 1962, when the racial polarisation, which could be measured roughly by voting patterns, saw approximately 90 percent of electors vote by race, we have come a long way. Today, at least 30 percent of electors have risen above tribal instincts, voting not based on race, but on perception of performance and governance. It is this ever-expanding minority, which, in another 20 years, could become a majority, that decides which party forms the government and which is booted out of office.

Not that they get it right every time, what with the limited choices they have. But there is hope that this non-blinkered base of Trinis, when they understand the power they wield, would create their own instruments that would render the race-fed political parties relics of an era best forgotten.

We cannot write off other achievements to accidents of geography, geology or history. For example, we have seen education expand to the extent that the ratio of students attaining tertiary level certification is among the upper percentile globally. True, we may have misgivings about the quality of the tuition they receive, and the huge sums of taxpayers’ dollars expended on programmes that bear little relevance to the requirements of the country.

As someone who exited the secondary school system in 1962 with a Cambridge School Certificate, unable to afford higher education, I’m happy for the tens of thousands who enjoy almost limitless free education. I wish, though, their tutors would ensure they graduate with good command of the English language, basic mathematics such that they don’t need calculators for simple mental exercises, and knowledge of their history, lest they mature as digital zombies, their past and future anchored not in their brains, but in hand-held devices…just saying.

Our health system, utilities and infrastructures all have their deficiencies. Like so many other basic things that huge sums of money have been expended on, they should at least be world class in their delivery of critical services. To the extent they are not, we need to look at wastage (by providers and consumers), corruption (top to bottom) and minimal productivity.

People of my generation and older are notorious for harking back to the “good old days”, mostly meaning the pre-independence, colonial era, or put more bluntly, when the Whites governed the country. True, many systems worked well, and “Massa” wielded a mean hand when it came to punctuality and productivity.

But vast areas in both islands, especially the rural districts not serviced by rail, were left in primitive conditions—poor or no roads, limited pipe-borne water, no sanitation services, latrine pits were luxuries, as were concrete/wooden houses (“ajoupas” with dirt walls and straw roofs abounded), inadequate primary schools, fewer secondary schools, dog wages for workers, large numbers of unemployed.

The colonial era, at least the little I remember of it, was no paradise. But then, “Massa” did not have to run for election, he ruled by fiat. When the crown colony system gave way to self-government, and in 1962, independence, the competing politicians had to win the majority of constituencies, better still the majority vote. The easiest way to do that was to resort to the lowest common denominator—race.

And to make promises they knew they could hardly honour. In between elections, the governing party would dole out largesse, create jobs that weren’t necessary, and otherwise pamper the electorate. The goal was always reelection in five years’ time. Thus, in my view, were the seeds of low productivity or no productivity, sown.

Oh, Dr Eric Williams had many grandiose development plans: he expanded the education system, diversified into the downstream energy sector, extended the highways network (Hochoy and C-R Highways), conceptualised the Mount Hope medical complex, and more,, much more.

But in order to successfully retain power for 25 years, he had to sacrifice some things. I contend that discipline and production were the prime casualties of his success, and they haunt us 55 years into independence.

And by turning a blind eye to corruption (John O’Halloran was executor to Williams’s will), he bequeathed the nation a burden we seem fated to bear forever, matters not which party is in power.

12 Responses to “Burden of corruption”


  • At the dawn of England giving Trinidad independence 55yrs ago, the Twin island state was already hijacked by the multinational companies such as Tate and Lyle, Dunlop tires,Shell oil, BP oil, Texaco oil,Alcoa, and the USA military base on the northwestern coast, Trinidad may have benefited somewhat with underpaid workers having employment, the truth of the matter is that the PNM gov’t at that time, never held the reins of the economy. 55yrs today,the oil industry is still controlled by the very multinational of the early post independence era. I must admit ,that there have been visual changes and a lot have been achieve materially, but the independence we continue to celebrate is a fallacy.The Trini to the bone citizens, would rather die in inner city New York, contributing nothing to the islands betterment, because they have had no direct relation but their nabble strings being planted.The twin island state is corrupt with every nook and cranny, singing the same song day in and out, no charges laid, no one jailed, high ranking officials with multiple passports, hoping to bail out when the going gets hot, black police officers who act as DONS, carrying out assassinations to preserve their tuft and that of the percenters,while the youths, leaders of tomorrow,are turned into petty deviants.The religious institutions, the supposed voice of morality is an abject failure, bacchanalia and canalism is the cornerstone of what passes for culture, as we approach the anniversary, the party has already started, plenty rum to drink, some prefer grey goose and coconut water, those not able to afford, will act as barbarians taking and killing at will, this is what we have as independence.

    • To add to your assessment which I cannot quarrel with …. is that both Rowley and Kamla and their party clans WILL BURN IN HELL. As with the former PM who was told…you foolish man they will suffer before they pass. To Rowley throat cancer will overcome you as YOU ARE A FATARSE LIAR as they say to whom much is given much will be desired. To Kamla the fat big arse lady your turn will come for suffering. Hope you can take your T&T house built on the backs of our tax paying public dollars with you. And to Moonilal and Ramgoatam your sufferings are booked. God doh sleep and according to the lady this IS JUDGEMENT YEAR.

  • That’s the same old excuse of the failed Trinidadian. Blame other people for our failures.
    Tate and Lyle and the other oil companies were kicked out of Trinidad a long time ago by a great leader and great trade unions. The people who took over became the new local expatriates occupying the houses and adopting the perks and benefits of those foreigners but not with the equivalent productivity and expertise of those foreigners. They did not know how to run these companies successfully. (Corruption and low productivity). Check the state of Caroni and Petrotrin. In addition, these industries need huge capital which is not available in Trinidad. The local business people will only invest in businesses where they can buy something for $1.00 and sell it for $10.00. Work for 2 hours a day and get paid for 8 hours.
    Every Trinidadian has to take the blame for the bad state of affairs of the country today.

    • Observer ,YOU D MAN….unlike most bloggers you have it down “cork”. You tell it as it is. Keep trying, maybe Trinidadians should look at Jackson’s “Mirror”.The answers lie within.

    • You can take your cheapARSE assessment and blow with the winds of IRMA. A notable French Creole employee of TATE AND LYE in the then days disclosed that her son an engineering student at the cheapARSE University in Canada – Mc Master will be President of FedCHEM (YARA) and so he was and is ….thanks to Sidney Knox who I exposed for over invoicing FEDCHEM for nitrogen gas/liquid sales they never received from IGL (where he killed a man running ole run down compressor equipment for years). Thats just drop in the bucket YOU DO NOT KNOW – ASRSEHOLE. I was discriminated by them and the famous 1% power mongers for years in T&T. BORSE SLAVERY NEVER ENDED HERE IN T&T. IT IS JUST REPACKAGED. THE MORE THINGS CHANGE THE MORE THEY REMAIN THE SAME. USA WILL CONTINUE TO SUFFER FROM DESASTERS THEY CREATE VIA GLOBAL WARMING. THERE WILL BE KATRINA, SANDY, HARVEY and NOW IRMA and many more to come. CAPITALISM IS JUST AS BAD ISISitis.

    • TATE AND LYE took and took and lied in the process.

  • Seems like we have seen this playbook before. An Indian in public life is charged with with corruption or murder or misdemeanor or misbehavior in public office and all hell brakes loose. IT IS OPPRESSION OF THE INDIANS. IN THE NINETIES IT WAS INDIANS SEEKING ASYLUM IN CANADA BECAUSE THEIR WOMEN WERE RAPED BY AFRICANS. AN INDIAN WOMAN WAS RAPED BY AN INDIAN WEARING AN A RASTA WIG AND OH GOD THE AFRICANS ARE RAPIST. Co-incidentaly, this is the same charged that was brought up in the parliament of Trinidad and Tobago by Kamla Persad Bissessar, against the then Opposition Leader, Dr. Keith Rowley.

    Once the red flag of race is cast before our eyes by the media, there will always be a plethora of name calling and insinuations of strife, caused by the African towards the Indian. When will this nonsense STOP????????

    Chief among the Indian protesters at this time, is none other than Moonilal. A member of parliament, an official of the Government of this country, a purportedly very wealthy man. During the last election, Jack Warner referred to people like him, as not being able to buy two doubles before going government, but is suspected of owning about five castles in the south. The stated wealth is of course rumors and there is no way to substantiate them, but there is a saying “where there is smoke, there is fire” and it should be left to the auditors to substantiate these claims. There are also pending charges for corruption. So there is a stake in in crying foul and using racial discrimination against the government to foster his defense.

    This week, we celebrated our fifty fifth anniversary of independence and we had not one word of encouragement affirmation from the UNC Opposition. But there is plenty of talk about race but nothing to encourage the population to live in harmony here onwards. There is one charge that always unites Indian people and that is the charge of race. Even with their proven wealth and aspirations in this country, they still fall prey to accuse the African man of being racial. It is not difficult to determine the race of these bloggers because it is what they open their comments with and close them with -RACE!!!!

    What a country!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Mr Kian, are you sure this comment fits this Article.????

  • jonjo, you are observant. Actually, it was meant for a post under another heading and I did not become cognizant of it until I submitted it.

  • I am really saddened by the nature of the murder of Mrs. Broadbridge. Of course, one does not have to know her or be acquainted with her, to feel the pain her family is going through. CRIME is our nation’s most enduring and perplexing problems. Billions have been spent on “fighting” crime and to this day there is no letting up. I hate when I hear the arguments put forward when people discuss the topic, because they pull the wool over our eyes when they suggest that politics or politicians is the answer to that issue.

    Crime is a societal problem that brings with it matters of family, societal relations, emotional stability, poverty, lack of opportunities, lack of education, exposure to pornography, availability of guns and ammunition, piracy, mental illness, loss of hope and a host of other conditions that go against the accepted social norms. So, when a politician comes forward and says he or she can fix it, without addressing the aforementioned issues, we know they are only “spinning top in mud” as the old time saying goes.

    Crime has always been with us, but the nature of the deviousness with which it is committed, tells us that mere talk CANNOT fix it. I have been advocating for a long time now that there is a serious need for societal studies to be done to analyze this phenomenon. There needs to be a starting point that REALLY addresses this problem and the less the politician says the better for a more informed approach to the problem.

  • I keep remembering the biblical story about Daniel and the lion’s den. And it keeps coming back to me that we all are in the lion’s den. Daniel prayed so much for God to prevent him from going into the den. When he did go because he worshiped God instead of the ruling King he must have felt betrayed by God. I did over the years as I came to know “earth” is that den. The lions are the evils in this massive den. And the story remains the same. Daniel freaked out among the lions in the den. But god raised him up telling him that his faith saved him. We too are faced daily with this same test of faith and like Daniel prayer will strength our faith and we will be saved. As the gross injustice we face continues to bare down on us we must keep praying and avoiding vengeance. It is hard as temptation nearly always get the better of us as we fall short. But we must endure as Daniel did. The lions are everywhere like Irma. Man is behind all the evil as he seeks self all the time. Rowley and Imbert will pass on just as Kamla and Moonilal…..these lions will suffer over time as a former PM that just could keep his thing in his pants and felt he and God was at the same level. God doh like ugly as they say.

Comments are currently closed.