Crime Pays

By Raffique Shah
November 20, 2011

Raffique ShahTHERE has always been a “disconnect” between what Governments (note plural) say and what they do. The People’s Partnership’s first major policy document since coming to office 18 months ago, the Medium-Term Policy Framework (MTPF), is a comprehensive statement on where Trinidad and Tobago is today, its strengths, weaknesses and potential, and where the Partnership Government wants to take it in three years.

The first pillar of the MTPF speaks of “People Centred Development (being) at the heart of Government’s development strategy, around which other Pillars coalesce.”

Later, discussing new directions for the economy, the document says: “We clearly lag behind in terms of the robustness of the economy, competitiveness, productivity and innovation.”

It notes, too, “In addition, there has been little or no attempt in the past to develop a comprehensive workforce development strategy. This has resulted in a capacity problem where 20 per cent of the workforce is classified as unskilled.”

Those who drafted the MTPF, like their predecessors who put together Patrick Manning’s “Vision 2020″, recognised some common problems we need to address before we can even think about achieving developed country status.

These include abysmally low productivity, across the board, from senior management to daily-paid workers. We also have a pathetically poor work ethic. And we can add to our woes an absence of civic-mindedness, and a propensity for wanton lawlessness.

One would assume that having recognised these core problems facing us as we strive to take a place among advanced societies, that we would use every opportunity to rectify our deficiencies. Criminals appeared to be about to seize control of our lives, so how did Government respond? It declared a State of Emergency, imposed a curfew, and locked up more than 6,000 persons in a three-month period. Not bad.

Today, however, in an about-face that reeks of political expediency, the same Government has allocated $300 million to employ people to clean and beautify their own backyards! What you and I see as our domestic and civic responsibilities—keeping our surroundings clean—others are being paid to do it.

Something is very wrong here. I have no problem with the State deciding to share some of the country’s wealth among the neediest in society. We who have jobs must recognise the plight of those who do not, or others, who, because of age or infirmity, cannot work. As a people, we have always extended the milk of human kindness to those in need.

But it is nonsense for the Prime Minister to “hoff” $300 million of taxpayers’ money and allocate it to people who would watch their close-to-free apartments deteriorate, then pick my pocket to pay them for cleaning their mess.

Many of us grew up in homes where, from the time we could use the latrines (more recently, toilets), our parents assigned us clean-up chores. Boys would sweep yards, feed and care for the fowls and goats. Girls would clean rooms, wash dishes, help around the homes.

Mark you, we would perform many of these tasks before going off to school in our one outfit with cheap “watchekongs” on our feet—boys and girls. Others we did after school hours. Our fathers, assisted by their boys, would keep the roadside drains and kerbs clean, using hoes, spades and cutlasses.

In communities, there were undeclared competitions among residents to see whose premises looked best. There was pride in keeping one’s surroundings clean. No one asked to be paid to perform what they saw as their civic duties.

This “Colour me Orange” is a shameful waste of taxpayers’ dollars that could have been applied towards boosting productivity in the country. Government could have broken free from similar programmes of the past by adopting innovative approaches to social mitigation.

Indeed, it would have been better if Government had identified the neediest cases across the country, not just in HDC housing blocks, and given those people grants. That way the programme would not have triggered the tensions we have seen thus far…or the threats of “bloodshed” that may yet turn orange into red.

But no; Government had to pander to the very communities it had declared “crime hot spots” months ago. Some of those I saw queuing up for “wuk” were bedecked in jewelry, and wore brand-name sneakers I will not buy because they are too expensive. I’m sure many also sport the newest smartphones that they feed daily with pre-paid cards. And most must have music wherever they go…iPods, iPads, whatever.

As some of my columnist-colleagues noted of this handouts programme, it’s a case of feeding the beast that will turn around and bite politicians and law-abiding citizens alike. This feeding-frenzy takes place even as many unfortunate souls across the country live in dire circumstances, in two-by-two shacks with no chance of ever seeing inside an HDC apartment.

The worst aspect of the programme is its negative impact on productivity and the work ethic, which, as I noted earlier, the Government has vowed to improve. This country has been saddled for decades with different incarnations of the non-productive, “lahaying” URP. Then Manning added CEPEP, which, conceptually, was better than the URP. That soon degenerated into contracts-for-the-financiers and party hacks, a more lucrative URP.

Now, the Government has taken another step backward with “agent orange”. This flies in the face of all the sound policies outlined in the MTPF. It has turned hope into despair. Worst of all, it sends a loud, clear message to young people who are seeking to map out their careers: crime pays.

11 Responses to “Crime Pays”


  • I don’t have any problems with the government spending some money to help poor people out of crime. It is better for the nation. The PNM problem was not URP, CEPEP and other programs it was it’s lack of willingness to get rid of the criminal elements, so they became part of the hiring and employment process. The result was criminals now with money and the freedom to buy weapons. The money injected into this program goes back into the economy, because these people are not going to save it anyways.

    As the government works through with it’s agent orange program they should require all of those employed to attend a one day seminar to learn about the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Gandhi when he returned to India got rid of his British suit and wore a dhoti he made himself. Then he bought a goat and drank the goat milk to sustain himself. The point is that at one point in his life “brand name” products was the go, until he realise that the money was going to a foreign power and used to keep Indians in bondage. Similarly these people in Nelson street who are only happy with “brand name” products must “re-educated” to buy local and support the local economy. As for Martin Luther King the lesson from him would be to “judge not a man by the color of skin but by the content of his character”. PNM kept these people in psychological bondage through it naked racist programs. The prinicples of Eric branding Indians as “recalcintrant” must be erased from the mind of the next generation and they must be seen as equal partners.

    The psychological reconditioning of the criminal elements must be a priority before they fall prey to the gangs, guns and fast life mentality. Remember crime is a physical, spiritual, economic and psychological battle. All areas of criminality must be attacked relentlessly.

    • This is the most racist crap response I have ever read by someone who purports to have some kind of education or commonsense. Sometimes it is better to say nothing and be thought of as smart than render a whole lot of garbage filled with seemingly phrases that may seem intelligent. I wanted to make sense of his “Indian”, “Eric Williams”, “PNM”, “UNC”, “Martin Luther King”, “Ghandi”, “psycological reconditioning”,
      “equality”, “color of skin” crap that he seems to put into sentences and stir it up to show that he understands history and that he is on top of world and local affairs that his mind appears to be one so totally consumed by race, the thought of race and the advancement of the use of race by the now Indian majority that he is totally confused on how to put everything into perspective. We see this all around us. The lead article is a brilliantly, well-thought and balanced piece of work by Mr. Shah, who may I add is colour-blind in is approach to journalism. He tries to be OBJECTIVE and offer us as consumers of the written-word some kind of objective point of view by which we can independently accept, reject of enhance and then share with the rest of the society. But here comes Mamoo, who with his “knowledge” of world affairs, personalities and social objectives giving his political crap and it stinks in terms of trying to gather some kind of decent appraisal in which to comment on! Before going to talk about Martin Luther King and Ghandi why did’nt he comment on the impending impasse the old relic of racial hatred Sat Maharaj is causing? Here is a man who says nothing of the outstanding
      education most of todays’ Indians received from Christian institutions such as Presentation, Naparima, Benedicts, St Joseph Convent, Fatima, Bishop Antsey, QRC, CRC. Yes, many of your Indians leaders and professionals benefitted from the christian-mindedness of people who follow the teachings of Christ who does not see color or race in reaching out to people but here you have this relic who have gained notoriety from having one of his disciple governing the reins of power in the country who sees nothing when he goes
      on his racial rampage. YOU SEE NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! The only evil you see is PNM. I am fed up of that kind of crap being fed to us in the name of equality even if you have a right to state your views just like anyone else. But
      I also have a right to let you know that you are polluting the pages of Mr. Shah’s almost flaw-less and fairminded takes on where we are in this country today.

      • kian,you are so correct,some people are so narrow minded..

      • Kian, Trinidad problem is two fold (1) Too many people spending their money on expensive foreign items so that they can keep up with the Jones. Even the people applying for work in the agent orange program wearing all kind of brand name products. This indicates a psychological slavery to foreign products. If you could afford it fine but youths turn to thieving to have those products. Most of the crimes committed are committed to sustain an unstainable lifestyle. The Gandhi model of contentment is instructive for all. I live by that model, it does not mean I am a cheap skate but I will buy a product if it fits and look good. The foreign import food bill is over $4 billion, along with other foreign imports, producing local items has been abandoned which is not healthy for the economy.

        (2)The second problem is racism which was started by the PNM during the 1950s. Eric was anti-Indian/Hindu, he did not have Hindus in his cabinet. Muslim and Presbyterians yes. But name me one Hindu in his cabinet. A few years ago Minister Hinds used the word “recalcintrant” in one of his public defecations, so those ideas have not died, it lives within the bowels of PNM ideology. Martin Luther King struggle for equality was one of my models that inspired me and brought a tear to my eyes everytime I see and hear that speech.
        http://archives.cbc.ca/society/racism/clips/5166/
        That MUST be change Kian. It is a moral imperative to teach people how to live in harmony.

  • Gosh Mamoo, you really have to cool it. You are getting carried away by something. “Eric was anti-Indian/Hindu, he did not have Hindus in his cabinet. Muslim and Presbyterians yes.” How could Eric be “anti-Indian” and still have Muslim and Presbyterians in his cabinet, who I take it are ‘Indians’ also? Since when did ‘Hindu’ become a race? How many Hindus joined the PNM back then or even now? Should we not look at the Hindus as being racist for not joining a party led by an ‘African?’
    I have always heard about this ommission of ‘Hindus’ from the government since I was a young man, and it puzzled me then as it puzzles me now. In my youthful ignorance I always asked the question, do Hindus make the best politicians?

  • “Racism which was started by the PNM during the 1950s. Eric was anti-Indian/Hindu, he did not have Hindus in his cabinet. Muslim and Presbyterians yes. But name me one Hindu in his cabinet. A few years ago Minister Hinds used the word “recalcintrant” in one of his public defecations, so those ideas have not died.”
    Mamboo ,folks like you always make me laugh , as I am reminded of ‘one oh dem sexually insatiable Tom cat,’ that lurks , and cries excitedly, long into the night, when I was a bare feet kid. For the naive , and uninitiated ,the screams by the animal ,might be misinterpreted to be pain , when indeed it is pleasure.
    You guys just enjoy complaining unnecessarily , unless white folks ,are the dominant majority .
    So pray explain to me , as to how this works , as I am a bit dense. As you claimed , the PNM under Eric , Manning ,and George Chambers, only loved Muslims ,and Presbyterians , but hated all / poor suffering Hindus, yes?
    If so , who did they show that love to instead , as it definitely ,was not to Afrikan folks, there sole support base- as claimed?
    What about, ‘Ah we ,Tobago boy ,ANR ,’ and his NAR cabinet, when he was in charge likewise? WeLL, sorry, as perhaps 30 out of his 36 member cabinet, were equally distributed between Hindus and Muslims ,not so ? ‘Oh what a mighty web we weave…..’
    Luv humanity buddy , and while at it ,remember that 90 % of AFRIKAN folks are suffering because they were ignored , as their leaders did the limbo dance to appease everyone else to maintain their power grip.
    The major problem you folks would always have however, is this- a lack of sense of empathy , and or ,solidarity with others , unless certain of the direct returns that can accrue.
    If you in all your powerful economic ,and political splendor today , do not care about ‘the other ,’ but only your own , then no one else would,like wise care about your and your plight.
    As we know at least 75 % of Indians , just like their desperate Afrikan counterparts , are living in abject poverty across our country , and need help ,due to neglect, but finger pointing ain’t de solution.
    Keep de faith!

  • “The worst aspect of the programme is its negative impact on productivity and the work ethic, which, as I noted earlier, the Government has vowed to improve..”

    Work was design by God to keep man out of trouble. A working man is a man who will stay out of trouble. A man who is idling and wasting time will not amount to anything positive in this world. Hard work has always been a part of my family tradition. I realise the difficulty of hard work at an early age and buried my head in books so that I would not have to work with my hands that much but more with my brains.

    Labouring work should start at 5:00 a.m. and end by 11:00 a.m. because of the incredibly hot conditions. Six hours of hard work is enough for the day. Unless you are inside or in a place where you are not totally exposed to the Sun. T&T is only 11 degrees North of the Equator. URP, CEPEP etc was viewed as unproductive work because the people starting when the Sun hot already. You are not going to get people to work hard in the hot Sun, it is that simple.

  • “Work was design by God to keep man out of trouble. A working man is a man who will stay out of trouble.” Ok , cuz mamboo, after all your typical , ‘every thing we PP bunch do ,is great , ‘Group Think,’ mumbo jumbo, what now?
    Is there a serious job agenda, by her Majesty , Queen K ,your leader, since it would seem to many objective thinkers , that tribalism forces advisers ,caused her to dismiss every job opportunity policy put in place, by her predecessors, and all inter governmental shindig , would benefit only ardent fans from within de enclave, and worst yet , would never put a dent on our unemployment rates, since all the prospective workers ,would come from China.
    Now mamboo, here in contrast , is the type of discourse, we can take, if you and similar others , are really serious, about advancing your country , as opposed to narrow fixation, on tribal causes.
    I know how someone like your self would finish this narrative, ladened with the distorted stories, you heard from your great grand papa, who from then to now , preferred to blame Afrikan victims , as opposed to White, evil, conniving Massa.
    http://www.jstor.org/pss/4192690
    Fast forward to 2011, and the question remains, which is ,have we made strides? When I became a short pants agent of the Protective Service, in Blue,in 1981 for example, Randolph Borrough ,replaced the last Euro vestige ,in the Police Service ,Tony May .
    In 2011, her Majesty – your leader- replaced a local under some opaque guise, to push another Euro vestige of condescending racial domination , and exploitation in Canadian born Commissioner Gibbs.Any objective study would show that our overall security levels ,remains no different, from that of which it was beforeMay 2 thousand whatever change allegedly occurred. Go figure!
    One step forward for women , or certain religious causes , but how many backward?

    • “Now mamboo, here in contrast , is the type of discourse, we can take, if you and similar others , are really serious, about advancing your country , as opposed to narrow fixation, on tribal causes.”

      It is easy to pick on the poor and oppressed. I was deeply disappointed by your leader Mr Neal when the announcement was made to create 20,000 jobs in mainly PNM areas. You would think he would have had high praise for the government knowing his constituents would have something on their table for Christmas. Instead in true tribal fashion he said this will cause gang warfare. So taking care of starving Africans will cause gang warfare???? By admission he was putting the poor in his constituency at naught, saying in effect they don’t deserve or need these jobs.
      Those are the same people who would come out in their numbers and vote for him. The psychological abuse of the PNMites on those who they support is frightening as is evident by your blog. They could do no wrong. Can you explain that to me Mr. Neal.

  • As usual good article Mr Shah, people you need to deal with the issues and stop with this racism crap. I read this article over and over and nowhere this goodly gentle man mention race. the message is plain and simple in order to rehab these youths you have to have constructive programs the solution is not handouts.

  • T&T is rich so why act poor?

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