Killing the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
September 03, 2018

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAesop, an enslaved man from Ethiopia, once told a fable, “The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.” It goes like this:

“A man and his wife owned a very special goose. Every day the goose would lay a golden egg, which made the couple very rich.

“‘Just think,’ said the man’s wife, ‘If we could have all the golden eggs that are inside the goose, we could be richer much faster.'”

“‘You’re right,’ said her husband, ‘We wouldn’t have to wait for the goose to lay her egg every day.'”

“So, the couple killed the goose and cut her open, only to find that she was just like every other goose. She had no golden eggs inside of her at all, and they had no more golden eggs.”

Anyone who examines the PetroTrin debacle cannot but empathize with a PetroTrin worker who, seeing her dreams crushed to the ground, exclaimed: “I was looking at a bright future. Now every thing has gone dark” (Express, August 30).

After the announcement of PetroTrin’s closure, the Joint Trade Union Movement called upon its members to engage “in a day of rest and reflection” on the PNM’s third anniversary in Government.

Shiraz Khan, the president of the Sheep and Goat Farmers Association, declared: “We are not going to take that damn stupidness from you, [Keith] Rowley.…The farmer’ union stands…against your nasty actions against the ordinary people of this country.”

Not wanting to repeat the mistake George Chambers made with Texaco in 1985 (New York Times, April 15, 1985), Dr. Rowley decided to close down the refinery operations of PetroTrin. His action will lead to PNM’s defeat in 2020. In anticipation of this outcome, he announced that he does not care if he loses that election.

Dr. Rowley is not the only person to blame for this impasse. Malcolm Jones must also assume part of the blame. I look at the union workers who intend to “rest and reflect” (that is, bank workers, nurses, teachers, and oil field workers, to which I add physicians and other professionals) and wonder if they can say truthfully that they do a conscientious day’s work for a day’s pay.

Ewart Williams, governor of the Central Bank (2002-2012), reduced the bank’s staff to approximately 550 people during his tenure. Following Williams’ departure, the bank’s staff was increased by 250 permanent positions.

When the UNC demitted office in 2015, it left a bill of $5 billion in wage arrears for the present government to pay. It also settled with PSA for a 14 percent increase over three years and other unions except OWTU. I wonder if Dr. Roodlal Moonilal considered those actions “callous, cold, heartless and wicked moves.” (Express, August 31)

When Watson Duke and others demand “more money,” I often wonder where this money is supposed to come from. Is there some financial spigot that yields an unending flow of dollars to which the government can turn?

In 1956 I contracted osteomyelitis in my left leg while I was playing soccer. I was placed in the Port of Spain General Hospital to die. There were two orthopedic surgeons in the island: Dr. Watson, an Australian, and Dr. Roberson, a Trinidadian, who worked at Port of Spain and San Fernando General hospitals respectively.

Dr. Watson treated my leg for six months until I was able to walk again. Every day he pushed his long Australian nose into my open wound to see if it was being affected with gangrene.

This treatment did not cost my mother a cent although she experienced difficulty in raising the six cents to visit me once a week.

Today, the government pays physicians (we call them consultants) lots of money to take care of citizens. A person is feeling ill. He goes to the hospital. Rather than treat him for his illness the physician refers him to his private practice where he makes additional money. Many physicians do this.

The sanctity of the public’s interest or the sacredness of the Hippocratic Oath (to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability) never occurs to our physicians. Making as much money as possible becomes the sine qua non of their existence.

Early last year my friend Jerome Lewis took me to buy a flat screen TV from an establishment in Princess Town. I paid the storeowner about $5,000 (TT) for the television. About thirteen months after the purchase, the TV went black. The storeowner claimed that the warranty had expired a month before the TV stop working.

I am told the TV was repaired. It will cost me another $1,000 to get it back.

As workers rest and reflect, presumably on the society, it might be nice of them to reflect on the part they play (and have played) in throwing this land into an era of darkness.

There is a connection between freedom and slavery. It is called individual responsibility.

Each citizen must take responsibility for his or her actions. On this Independence weekend it is wise to ask: Who killed (or are killing) the goose that laid the golden eggs?

Or, to put it another way, is our gimme, gimme attitude killing our nation?

[Next week I will conclude my articles on V. S. Naipaul.]

6 Responses to “Killing the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs”


  • Individual responsibility transcends right across the strata of society. Does the gimme, gimme attitude of the working class outweighs the corruptive practices of corporate leadership in most public sector companies? re-Caroni (1975) Ltd. No need to elaborate here as the parasitic oligarchy died with the company.

  • “When the UNC demitted office in 2015, it left a bill of $5 billion in wage arrears for the present government to pay.”
    The problem with Petrotrin runs far deeper than wages. It started in 2002 under a PNM regime. With $3 1/4 in debt that escalated to $12 1/2 billion in 2010. Three failed projects under Malcolm Jones, and the PNM energy minister of the time.

    To further compound the problem of reckless and needless debt, two euro bonds on the international capital markets, one for US$750 million in 2007 and the other for US$850 million in 2009 were issued. All under the watchful eyes of the PNM.

    One can expect more taxes and job loss as the government scrambles to find the money to repay those billion dollar bonds. WASA, T&TEC, CEPEP will face the restructuring hand of the Rowley administration. A hand that is slowly strangling the economy. The last time Petrotrin made a nice profit was in 2012 under the UNC. They made $1.8 billion in pretax profit.

    Meanwhile Petrotrin refinery is up for sale, maybe the Guyanese could buy it and use some of it to build their own refinery. Or Petrojami could buy it and enhance their operation.

    • Mammo wrote: A hand that is slowly strangling the economy. The last time Petrotrin made a nice profit was in 2012 under the UNC. They made $1.8 billion in pretax profit.

      So are you saying that after 2012 Petrotrin was no longer profitable? So the decline began with the UNC?

      Anyway, I think the days for pointing fingers and extra chatter is over..

      Friday will be the beginning of the end of OLD Trinidad.. Brazil in all its festive mode (like Trinbago) took to the streets.. Trinidad and Tobago has had enough..

  • Our bodies are half- atrophied, alive only to the things of death, and dead to the things of life.The killing of the golden goose, will bring Social destruction to the communities who relate directly to the PNM’ latest dictate. Mr Rowley have taken the position of a SELL OUT, a mis-educated house Slave, masquerading as the Prime Minister of T&T. Not one of his cabinet colleagues, can relate directly with the oil industry, and Mr Rowley, seems to have caved in to the FRENCH CREOLES. This very group, the nemesis of the early PNM, today, are the major power brokers. Trinidad, seems not to have critical thinking nationals, No Gov’t should have the right to make transformational policies without the people having an input, it may be a number of individual workers, when the domestic # is added, destabilization is the word i’m commanded to use. Politics is the competition of ideas, presently, Mr Rowley is polarizing the fundamental principles of the Trinidad Oil Industry. The people most affected, are mostly PNM supporters, not much need to be said, but one thing i must say, Mr Rowley is lost between GEOLOGY and SOCIAL construct. Kamla tend to be saying all the wrong things, when we delve closely, She as the former Woman Prime Minister, must carry some of the National blame, her lack of knowing, is very good when the Treasury is ladened, not taking a Governmental decision to pay the OIL Workers,and leaving it for the newly elected PNM Gov’t to handle, shows a level of political callousness and backwardness, only KAMLA can deliver. Lets make one thing clear, KAMLA won’t be able to capitalize on Mr Rowley’ grave POLITICAL mistake, the reasons will come as things continue to entangle. Ms Kamla should know that the Oil discovered in Guyana, doesn’t belong to the Republic, Guyana have no idea of what’s happening with EXON Mobil’ vast offshore oil find, all you know, with Venezuela presently in turmoil, stealing the oil is very viable, DYNADRILLING makes it more possible. Mr Rowley, might be in for a rude political awakening, his signed Gas deal may unravel for all the right/wrong reasons, if Mr Moduro’ regime should fall, the incoming Gov’t will not be compelled to respect any contract, the price of Venezuela’ Gas, will escalate putting Trinidad’ unenlightened Petrotrin political charade in utter darkness.You always have to earn every thing you love, a continuation of that LOVE, take a little twitching here and there, but never destroy. “THE WORDS OF GOD ARE SPOKEN BY THE ENERGIES OF NATURE, AND ARE NOT WRITTEN ON THE SURFACES OF THINGS, THE SURFACES ARE SCRIBBLED OVER WITH THE FALSE APPEARANCES THAT MEN/WOMEN PROJECT FROM THEIR UNKNOWING MINDS”. I pray and hope that Mr Rowley is a man of integrity, you see, men of integrity are not saints, they are the ones who have learnt from their mistakes, i pray that Mr Rowley’ head is in the right place. GOD MAY HAVE BEEN SPEAKING THROUGH THE EARTH QUAKE, CONTINUOUS AFTERSHOCKS, FLOODS and senseless KILLINGS…….

    • Let’s deal with the facts Bobby Cooper. It was a PNM government that sold Caroni and put 9,000 on the bread line. Petrotrin expected a hefty pre-tax loss (unaudited) in 2016 of almost TT$2 billion. By way of comparison, Petrotrin’s expected loss in 2016 is more than the combined sum of Caroni’s entire operating losses for the last five years of the sugar company’s operations.

      Yet the PNM shut down Caroni instead of diversify and when the UNC diversified under Caroni green and sold pepper abroad making a small profit they fired the 70 odd workers and stop the project. They were not understanding the value of foreign exchange and growing Caroni Green to supply international markets. But that is the way the PNM think, shutting down Marper Farms in Chaguaramas. They are a shut down and sell off party.

      It comes as no surprise that an oil producing nation cannot find new fields and increase production under this pnm regime. All Rowley have to do is drill deeper instead of the 1 mile dept to 5 mile dept. He being a rock head (geologist) should know that. The problem in this nation is not Kamla as your rancour suggest Bobby, it is the brainless PNM.

  • The above statements of party hacks shows how lacking of knowledge the people of Trinidad are about the problems at Petrotrin. The UNC did not fix anything. They made the situation worse with their policies and practices. It is amazing how the UNC party has all the answers to the problems of Petrotrin and the country as awhole. It is alleged that certain senior politicians in the UNC are on the top 3 richest people in Trinidad. As Jack Warner said they did not have a dollar in their fob when they came to office.

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