Failed leadership, not a failed state

By Raffique Shah
June 01, 2008

Hall of JusticeFor many decades Scandinavian countries-Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland-have ranked highest in the world in economic and social indices. Far from being endowed with an abundance of natural resources, these countries wisely used what little they had (except Norway, which became oil-rich in the 1970s) to develop societies that are at the upper spectrum of global rankings in just about every field. They rank among the top ten countries in income distribution (rich-poor gap), per capita gross national income (GNI), and several other globally accepted indicators of successful countries.

In order to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth, they all have almost punitive taxes imposed on the wealthy and social security systems that guarantee pensioners a better quality of life in their winter years. Their tax systems have caused their only two multi-billionaires among the top 100 in Forbes Rich List-the Ingvar Kamprad and Birget Rausing families-to reside in the tax-haven that is Switzerland. In contrast, India, where an estimated 300 million people live on under US$1 a day, has seven billionaires among the top 100. In poverty-stricken Mexico, Carlos Slim almost booted Bill Gates out of the top position.

I have used the very limited data above to show the stark contrast between “failed states” and successful ones. Scandinavia’s social equity no doubt reflects itself in the countries’ crime statistics that would make a typical Trini “laugh till yuh bell buss”! While most serious crimes (robberies, rapes, murders) are below Europe’s average, a more prevalent felony is bike-theft! Car stealing is virtually unheard of, but car tampering is of some concern. And threats or use of physical violence are attributed to-don’t laugh-women’s assertiveness that is universal in that part of the world.

Interestingly, two Caribbean countries are recorded as having crime rates lower than those cited above-Dominica and Montserrat. There is no doubt, though, that Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Guyana are the crime capitals of the Caribbean. It is not that there aren’t burglaries, robberies and rapes in tourist havens like Barbados, St Lucia, St Maarten and Antigua. It’s just that the media in those countries are conditioned to relegating crime reports to their inner pages, if they carry them at all.

As I wrote last week, there can be no excuse for the government and law enforcement agencies allowing crime to reach the levels it has. In spite of government’s highly-touted 360-degrees radar to help stop boats from South America bringing in guns and drugs, the trade continues unabated. The illicit traders even resort to human cargoes-prostitutes from Colombia. In the Cedros peninsula, people know who the gun runners are. In Laventille, Morvant, Cocorite and Diego Martin, they know who the gang leaders and gangsters are. But what are they to do when they see these murderers consorting with politicians and policemen? Can any citizen rely on reports to the police, knowing that his life could well be in danger because he did his civic duty?

Moreover, the Government’s fast-tracking of Vision 2020, which it believes must be visual (hence the multiple towers all over PoS), many citizens in need of help are left mired in poverty because they can’t be easily seen. And even those most visible, the vagrants, remain eyesores in the rejuvenated capital city and other towns. Hazel Manning’s vow to remove them remains as hollow as similar pronouncements by generations of ministers.

These shortcomings and many more are justification for many to refer to the country as a “failed state”. But again, I register my dissent with this view. When New York and many other cities in the US were riddled with crime, was America declared a “failed state”? That country’s health system is in crisis. Millions cannot access free medical attention, have no access to health care the way we do. And in spite of the crime levels, thousands flock restaurants, bars and clubs nightly. Night concerts are sold out: witness the recent Plymouth Jazz Festival.

Can they enjoy such freedom in Sudan or Haiti or Pakistan? And lest those who believe in the “failed state” mantra think that new-countries-on-the-global-block, like the Emirates, are without crime or traffic problems, they need to think again. Crime is on the rise in all these countries. Road carnage and driving habits are worse than they are here. Accidents are all too frequent, very gruesome. Migrant labourers who build these almost magical city-states live in squalor. The rich-poor gap is much wider than ours.

For all these reasons I am not about to join the conga-line of critics who see us on the brink of disaster. We do not have a “failed state”. What we have are failed and failing leaders. We have citizens who have failed their children, who manufactured criminals in their homes. The nation is riddled with white collar criminals who feel they are several cuts above bandits and murderers.

Look into your mirrors, I say. Government ministers and opposition politicians, businessmen and labourers, policemen and doctors are all part of a “failed society”.

10 thoughts on “Failed leadership, not a failed state”

  1. Exactly right. Raffique Shah is one of the few who understands our problems. The human equation has been left out of the Manning Administration’s planning for Vision 2020.

  2. This is certainly a good attempt at starting a good conversation. There are a few noticable things that are left out of the equations however. Western European states especially the successful ones mentioned , did not begin their journey as multi ethnic societies with two major races competing for limited resources. They also have politicians that recognize the need to put national interest first at all times.
    Dominica is an excellent yet ironic example. I wonder if the reason for their success in curbing crimes is the fact they eliminatates the useless army from the country and forced some to become police officers where they can be more productive. We might do well to emulate that Eugina Charles move. Incidentally I wonder what would have been the fate of the young Luitenant Shah in Domonica , Monsterrat or any of the other exoctic well meaning states he mentioned if he had pull that 1970 stunt in one of thoes countries. Both him and Lasalle owes us a lot of grattitude.
    The seed of chaos and crime evolved from that single act of betrayal of sacred and legal trust towards a nation. It was further encouraged when Abu Baka and is animals attacked our police headquartes and parliament and was defended to the hilt by cowardly Human Rights activitis like Mr Marahaj com politician today. Do not fail to include his former friend and nemisis Pandy as he continues to embarass the nations in his continued refusal to support a viable Caribbean court of appeal. Finally a recent ex currupt Chief Justice -need I say more? These are the factors that can ehcourage a failed state development. Leadership has failed I agree but we are all culpable including you who stood at the helm of a newspaper that atttempted to pander to a particular ethnic group through skwed and bias reporting and editorials – in suggesting that they were singled out for years and attacked because of who they are. Responsibility for actions ? Never.

  3. A very well written article! However, as Noray comments, comparison with Western European countries is akin to comparing apple and grapes. Given our history, size (geographic, population), demographics, societal issues and politics, it would be more apt to compare our development to countries like Mauritius, Fiji, Surinaam and Guyana. These countries are also former colonies, with non-uniform (some plural)societies. In comparison, we really don’t look that bad……

    It must be appreciated that everything is relative. Given the complexity of our society and relative pace of development, there are bound to be issues. How our leaders treat with these issues will of course impact development.

    The executive has anounciated its plans to transform T&T into a developed society by 2020. While impetus on infrastructural upgrades has clearly been given frontline priority, it will not amount to much in the long run, unless the underlying safety nets are implemented to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us are taken care of. It is encumbent upon our leaders to ensure that this (via legislation, etc.)happens. I may be wrong, but I feel that this should have been given the priority.

    Trinidad and Tobago is by no means a failed state, but our leaders may need to pause and really take stock of where we are heading. Although extremely challenging, they should also attempt to include greater public participation in the decision making process…

  4. I am passing this piece on to my Muslim women friends in the USA, and the Middle East, to ask of them which Sura approves of this action. I wish he lived in Daudi Arabia, where beheading at the end of a clsed tril is the penalty. My only restraint on this wish is that the girl would probably be killed by her family in those countries, for allowing herself to be raped.

    When does the competition for most degenerate country in the western hemisphere end?

  5. On the List of countries by the FSI ( failed state index) T&T is ranked 116 on a list of 177 countries in the world. On the ALERT list there are 32 countries, most of which are African e.g Sudan , Niger. On the WARNING list from 33 to 129, T&T is number 116, the Bahamas is ranked 129. The MODERATE list from 130 to 162 includes Barbados at 130 to Portugal at 162. The top countries are on the SUSTAINABLE list, 163 to 177, from the Netherlands to Norway.
    The FSI places T&T nowhere near a failed state, but on ALERT.

  6. Carl, those are very interesting statistics. I wonder how the other Caribbean countries feature on them. I am a bit surprised to hear that a relatively prosperous country like the Bahamas has been placed on the warning list. It could possibly be because of the drug transhipment issue. Where can I go to have a look at those lists?

  7. Here is the complete list (2007) A variety of indicators were used to rank all countries.

    [edit] Alert
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    1 (0) Sudan 113.7
    2 (+2) Iraq 111.4
    3 (+4) Somalia 111.1
    4 (+1) Zimbabwe 110.1
    5 (+1) Chad 108.8
    6 (-3) Ivory Coast 107.3
    7 (-5) Democratic Republic of the Congo 105.5
    8 (+2) Afghanistan 102.3
    9 (+2) Guinea 101.3
    10 (+3) Central African Republic 101.0
    11 (-3) Haiti 100.9
    12 (-3) Pakistan 100.1
    13 (+1) North Korea 97.7
    14 (-1) Myanmar 97.0
    15 (+6) Uganda 96.4
    16 (+3) Bangladesh 95.9
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    17 (+5) Nigeria 95.6
    18 (+8) Ethiopia 95.3
    19 (-4) Burundi 95.2
    20 (n/a)[2] East Timor 94.9
    21 Nepal 93.6
    22 Uzbekistan 93.5
    23 Sierra Leone 93.4
    24 Yemen 93.2
    25 Sri Lanka 93.1
    26 Republic of the Congo 93.0
    27 Liberia 92.9
    28 Lebanon 92.4
    29 Malawi 92.2
    30 Solomon Islands 92.0
    31 Kenya 91.3
    32 Niger 91.0

    [edit] Warning
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    33 Colombia 89.7
    34 Burkina Faso 89.7
    35 Cameroon 89.4
    36 Egypt 89.2
    37 Rwanda 89.2
    38 Guinea-Bissau 88.6
    39 Tajikistan 88.7
    40 Syria 88.6
    41 Equatorial Guinea 88.2
    42 Kyrgyzstan 88.2
    43 Turkmenistan 87.5
    44 Laos 87.2
    45 Mauritania 86.7
    46 Togo 86.6
    47 Bhutan 86.4
    48 Cambodia 85.7
    48 Moldova 85.7
    50 Eritrea 85.5
    51 Belarus 85.2
    52 Papua New Guinea 85.1
    53 Angola 84.9
    54 Bosnia and Herzegovina 84.5
    55 Indonesia 84.4
    56 Philippines 83.2
    57 Iran 82.8
    58 Georgia 82.3
    59 Bolivia 82.0
    60 Guatemala 81.4
    61 Swaziland 81.3
    62 Lesotho 81.2
    62 Russia 81.2
    62 Azerbaijan 81.2
    62 People’s Republic of China 81.2
    66 Cape Verde 81.1
    66 Maldives 81.1
    66 Serbia 81.1
    69 Dominican Republic 80.6
    69 Zambia 80.6
    71 Djibouti 80.3
    72 Nicaragua 80.0
    73 Ecuador 79.9
    74 Venezuela 79.8
    75 Israel 79.6
    76 Tanzania 79.3
    77 Sao Tome and Principe 78.6
    78 Cuba 78.6
    79 Vietnam 77.8
    79 Comoros 77.8
    81 Mozambique 76.9
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    82 Jordan 76.6
    83 Madagascar 76.5
    83 Saudi Arabia 76.5
    85 Peru 76.4
    86 The Gambia 76.0
    86 Morocco 76.0
    86 Thailand 76.0
    89 Algeria 75.9
    90 Fiji 75.7
    91 Mali 75.5
    92 El Salvador 74.9
    93 Turkey 74.9
    94 Honduras 74.8
    95 Republic of Macedonia 74.1
    96 Suriname 73.9
    97 Samoa 73.8
    98 Federated States of Micronesia 73.5
    99 Gabon 73.3
    99 Guyana 73.3
    101 Paraguay 72.9
    102 Mexico 72.6
    103 Kazakhstan 72.3
    104 Benin 72.0
    105 Grenada 71.6
    106 Ukraine 71.4
    107 Seychelles 71.3
    107 Namibia 71.3
    109 Brunei 71.2
    110 India 70.8
    111 Albania 70.5
    112 Armenia 70.3
    113 Cyprus 70.2
    114 Belize 69.8
    115 Libya 69.3
    116 Trinidad and Tobago 67.6
    117 Senegal 66.9
    117 Brazil 66.9
    119 Botswana 66.4
    120 Malaysia 65.9
    121 Antigua and Barbuda 65.7
    122 Tunisia 65.6
    123 Jamaica 65.1
    124 Kuwait 62.1
    125 Ghana 61.9
    126 Romania 60.9
    127 Croatia 60.5
    128 Bulgaria 60.3
    129 Bahamas 60.1

    [edit] Moderate
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    130 Barbados 59.9
    131 Panama 59.4
    132 Mongolia 58.4
    133 South Africa 57.4
    134 Bahrain 57.0
    135 Latvia 56.7
    136 Montenegro 55.6
    137 Qatar 53.6
    138 United Arab Emirates 51.6
    139 Hungary 51.2
    140 Costa Rica 50.5
    140 Estonia 50.5
    142 Slovakia 49.3
    143 Lithuania 49.0
    144 Malta 48.5
    145 Poland 47.6
    146 Oman 45.5
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    147 Greece 43.5
    148 Mauritius 42.7
    149 Czech Republic 42.1
    150 Argentina 41.4
    151 Uruguay 40.9
    152 South Korea 39.7
    153 Spain 39.2
    154 Germany 38.4
    155 Slovenia 37.5
    156 Italy 37.1
    157 United Kingdom 34.1
    157 France 34.1
    159 Chile 33.8
    160 United States 33.6
    161 Singapore 33.0
    162 Portugal 32.4

    [edit] Sustainable
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    163 Netherlands 28.6
    164 Japan 28.5
    165 Luxembourg 28.1
    166 Austria 26.0
    167 Belgium 25.5
    168 Canada 25.1
    169 Australia 23.2
    170 Denmark 22.2
    Rank Country FSI 2007
    171 Iceland 21.1
    172 New Zealand 20.5
    173 Switzerland 20.2
    174 Ireland 19.5
    175 Sweden 19.3
    176 Finland 18.5
    177 Norway 17.1

    [edit] References

  8. OOps. My comment for this piece is out of place. It was meant to go along with the piece about the rapist clutching The Koran.Sorry reaaders.

    We have not failed as a country, but failed to protect our children from exploitation.

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