Road Map To Recovery Team Needs Rethinking

By A. Hotep
April 17, 2020

Road Map To Recovery Team Needs RethinkingPM Dr Keith Rowley’s “Road Map to Recovery” team is mostly the same tone-deaf people who have us in our financial and social crisis today. There was no inclusion of members of the African community who advocate for addressing our racial and cultural issues which remain at the heart of disunity, insecurity and discriminatory social behaviours in this country. Why was the Opposition leader not invited to be part of this group? I am not aware of members of this team placing environmental concerns at the top of their agenda. Where are those who are concerned about the development of our agriculture and water management sectors? I rather suspect some feminists would also have similar concerns about being omitted.

We have a novel opportunity to reshape this society in such a way as to give meaning to the phrases, “we are all in this together” and “here every creed and race finds an equal place”. But, the opening salvo from the Prime Minister signals his intention to continue prioritising the very same people and policies that help perpetuate the underdevelopment of our people.

If the government fails this time around, then it simply means that it has not learnt many of the valuable lessons this novel coronavirus period affords us. It means that Trinidad and Tobago may need to experience damaging community spread before the government and others grasp that having ghettos, slums and generally poor communities make us all unsafe in this country. We should have learnt this lesson before with our ever-worsening violent crime situation. Having failed, we have another opportunity to look at the economic and social impact of the government’s policies on the entire society.

While the Prime Minister appears to be frustrated at times because certain elements fail to heed the call to self-isolate to avert the community spread of COVID-19, this and past governments have been guilty of pampering the privileged few who flout rules and regulations while disregarding the economic and social challenges that face the poor. I wonder if the police are monitoring the wealthy folks who are down the islands as they too have a penchant for disregarding the interest and concerns of the wider society. All parties in this economic and social divide need to appreciate the effect of their lifestyles and choices on all of us.

Now is an opportunity for the government, having secured the attention and somewhat respect of the population, to encourage widespread discussions towards developing policies that would enable a more equitable society.

If “stick break in dey ears” then, as another old saying goes, “who cyah hear go feel.”

11 thoughts on “Road Map To Recovery Team Needs Rethinking”

  1. I suspect that the PM is focusing on immediate recovery of the economy after the Covid-19 destruction. This team seems quite qualified for that primary purpose.
    Long term topics like the African community’s racial and cultural issues, women’s issues and development of agriculture are legitimate problems for phase two.
    The leader of the Opposition and other government representatives already have an open voice to present contributions.
    Creation of a more equitable society is too important a subject to be lumped in with a committee whose purpose is to create a quick plan for immediate economic recovery.

    1. Man,I find your post to be sensible and very objective.
      Trinidad has deep and troublesome social and economic problems but this team should NOT be charged with addressing issues. Returning to ‘normal’ is NOT and CANNOT be a simple exercise of returning to where we left off. Covid19 has charted a new course in our lives and ‘normalcy’ will not return until we understand the virus and how we should pattern our lives to avoid being victims.

      There is no sure way that we can ‘return to normalcy’ if covid19 persists without a cure. Maybe what will come out of the team’s recommendations is that our patterns of life will continue to be defensive for the foreseeable future.
      Our social and economic issues require a more thorough and academic evaluation before public acceptance.

  2. This crisis also provides us with an opportunity to transform society in ways we have not thought of before.
    We have been talking about environmental concerns, women’s issues, diversification, educational reforms,agriculture, deprived areas, etc for decades.
    The government should use this opportunity to create change in all of these areas after the initial work of the economic recovery team. The population would be more ready to take these issues seriously after experiencing a crisis like this.

    1. Not a bad response, but…

      Governments have been unwilling to upset the status quo so they have not considered alternative models of development that could allow for a more equitable society. Many are now recognising the essential workers besides doctors in the frontline. The nurses and other hospital staff, cleaners, packers in groceries, delivery persons, garbage collectors, gardeners and others are essential workers too, but their compensation package and the respect given to them are woefully lacking. This novel coronavirus pandemic has offered us an excellent opportunity to do everything better, some of which the government is already doing. They can examine what different interest groups have been advocating and then try to get all parties involved in developing this country. We can at least ensure that the people tasked with rebuilding the society reflect the meaning behind “We are all in this together”.

      I also shared a bit more in a reply below.

  3. TTPS closes Jimmy Aboud for public health breach, Griffith explains why no arrests made

    Lasana Liburd Friday 17 April 2020

    Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith confirmed closure of ‘a certain clothing store on Queen Street, Port-of-Spain’ today due to breach of public health ordinance regulations.

    Griffith, in the TTPS release, did not specify the name of the business place. However, he referenced a Trinidad Newsday story that referred to the Jimmy Aboud store, which is managed by Downtown Owners Merchant Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud.

    Violation of the Public Health (2019 Novel Coronavirus 2019-Cov) Regulations carries the penalty, on conviction, of a fine of TT$5,000 and six months imprisonment. But the TTPS has generally taken a moderate approach on the matter and arrests have been infrequent.

    Griffith confirmed that no arrests were made over the Aboud breach.

  4. One must not put too much faith in what this administration is doing. As we all know this government has been an economic disaster. And they have virtually sink the economy. There is nothing of repute that they have done to make things better.
    (1) The sea bridge has been a disaster and virtually killed Tobago economy.
    (2) The economy crashed in 2017..
    (3) Destroy the oil industry.
    (4) Deficit at $120 billion, $40 million central bank overdraft.
    (5) Borrowing and borrowing and borrowing for the last 4 years. That means the economy flat lined.
    (6) Tax, tax and tax and more tax.

  5. TMan, I am disagreeing with you; here’s why:

    Although the article quoted below addresses politics in the US, many of the points raised apply to Trinidad and Tobago. Rob Urie in his article “Never Let a Good Waste Go to Crisis” wrote:

    True to crisis form, current political framing places short term measures to stabilize ‘the economy’ against its eventual restoration. Reforms, if there are to be any, are a luxury that ‘we’ can’t afford until after restoration has been completed. And once restoration has been completed, why take a risk on changes that ‘we’ can’t afford?

    The lack of urgent consideration for the social issues that I previously mentioned is the reason we have a narrow view of economic development. This narrow view only gives long-term economic comforts to a few. Upholding the status quo is exactly what has us in the mess we are in today as it pertains to criminality, lack of savings, lack of creativity and lack of foresight for long-term investments. Also side-lined are the development of sustainable agriculture and water management, and respect for the environment. Therefore, “The Road Map To Recovery” should be “The Road Map to Developing a Just and Equitable Society”. This process should start with widespread discussions involving all interest groups. We can use this time to embark on this exercise before naming key persons to lead this initiative. If the government’s main consultants in the journey ahead are the very persons who were never interested in solving the social and economic issues of the entire society, then the opportunity for meaningful change that this crisis presents would be wasted. In other words, if the government’s agenda is to prioritise the narrow interest of the business elites, then the exercise for true reform would remain an uphill battle.

    Why should the groups that have been ignored, marginalised, discriminated against, and left out of the decision-making process be saddled with paying off this country’s debts?

  6. As long as governments and societies believe that the wealthy, free enterprise class is the main generator of employment, revenue and wealth, change will never occur.
    Most elected officials belong to that class. Those from the working class who rise to power quickly become dependent on the generators of wealth. Rowley is a classic example of that phenomenon. He is not the courageous leader who will make the structural changes needed to facilitate equality and deliverance. The politicians in T&T are imitators of mostly American ideas, ideals and philosophies.

  7. Who are the frontline, essential workers in T&T during this crisis?
    This crisis shows us that these nurses, aides, janitors, truck drivers, ambulance workers,police, firefighters,food service provides, grocery store workers, etc. are now considered essential.They make valuable contributions in time of crisis. Their value is now front and centre.
    Make the changes necessary to provide them with a decent living wage.

  8. Mr. Hotep, to start your comments about the “Road map to recovery” by stating that “PM Dr Keith Rowley’s “Road Map to Recovery” team is mostly the same tone-deaf people who have us in our financial and social crisis today” is to start with a biased, partisan set of assumptions that effectively precludes any real discourse on a very important matter. I disagree with your assumptions, I think Dr. Rowley has managed quite well the financial crisis that he inherited from the previous administration and his handling of the covid 19 crisis has been as good as any in the world. Our health professionals in Trinidad have proven to be knowledgeable, competent and among the best in the world.

    One would think that in looking at what is happening in America, and particularly in New York where many of our Trinidadians brethren reside (look at Queens and Brooklyn), where the highest number of deaths have been recorded and comparing it to what has happened in Trinidad and Tobago, it would have been obvious that things are a hell of a lot worse in New York, in America, the so called wealthiest country in the world. Minorities, blacks and Hispanics, bear the brunt of the fatalities. Among the causes are that blacks and Hispanics in America, have a greater incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes and other illnesses that predispose covid 19 patients to morbidity. And the reason for this is that blacks and Hispanics in America cannot afford health care because health care in America is not free. You have to pay for it, you need health insurance. Health care in Trinidad and Tobago is free, as much as we criticize it, it’s free. Anybody, no matter how poor they are, can go to the public hospitals and get free health care, no matter how much we criticize it. You can even get free medication through CDAP. You can’t get that in America. Education in Trinidad is free, even tertiary education is subsidized. Not in America, not in most of the world. We have work programs like URP, CEPEP, food cards, social assistance, and a goodly pension for seniors. When compared to most countries in the world, Trinidad and Tobago is as socialist as you can get, in a neoliberal world order.

    Everybody wants a just and equitable society, or everybody says that’s what they want. The question is – how do you create or achieve that just society? Some say you create wealth and the wealth trickles down, all boats are lifted. Others say you have to redistribute the wealth, you tax the rich and you need democratic socialism. To achieve a just society you have to have an economic theory that explains how you plan to do so. There aren’t millions of theories floating around, there are a few. In fact there are three relevant ones I can think of: 1) trickle down, free market economics; 2) socialism or democratic socialism; and 3) a pragmatic, non-ideological approach where what works is applied. So it’s not the people you put, it’s the policies they adopt. And I think most people would support a pragmatic approach.

    It is a crisis we are dealing with. People’s jobs, their livelihood, businesses that employ people, families needing to survive this crisis and find some sort of normalcy, this is what is at stake. The world is in an unprecedented state of affairs, the world economy has been shut down for almost two months. We can’t fool around and play games about what personalities should be there. This recovery has to be about the people not the leaders. This is not about pandering to the sensitivities of the leaders of various interests groups. This is about the people, it is about recovery, it is a crisis, people have been without jobs, without livelihood for months. We need to be effective; we can’t sit around for days arguing about our various particular interests. Whoever is there on this recovery mission needs to put the people’s interest above their particular interests. Sure we can sit and argue for days about who should be on the committee and I am sure good arguments can be made for many who are not on the committee. But I think we should focus on one thing, this recovery is about the people not the leaders.

    1. I understand what you are saying, but I disagree with many of your points. For one thing, I do not believe that this government managed the economy well; however, there is not where I want to go now.

      Many of the players on this team, save one or two persons, are the same people that they have turned to for advice on how to manage Trinidad and Tobago’s economy. Based on personal experience, I know that one person on this team stole from taxpayers. I wrote about how that was being done years ago. Anyhow, exposing this again is for another time and place. Since Independence, the population has been sold that it needs these big businessmen for the economy to prosper more than they do ordinary workers. And, governments have always inadvertently placed the interests of the business elite above that of the wider public.

      Regardless of how annoying or disingenuous the government believes the opposition is, they should have invited them to participate. They should have also brought in other interest groups, including feminist and youth groups to attempt to work out a solid economic plan to build this country. Imagine, not even NJAC was considered! Once civil society feels alienated from this process, then getting all hands-on deck is severely strained from the get-go. “We are all in this together” should not mean that all groups should simply line up and go along with whatever the PNM does. We, including ordinary people, are being called upon to get us out of this depression, and so more voices should be represented on this team. The Prime Minister could have started this process a whole lot better.

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