Double up on doubles’ price

By Raffique Shah
Sunday, December 7th 2008

DoublesI can’t claim to have known anything about Consumer Affairs Minister Peter Taylor until two weeks when he singled out “doubles” as a target for price reduction. That statement signalled to me that the minister was doubly ignorant about his portfolio, maybe even wholly unsuited for the job. Indeed, Prime Minister Patrick Manning, who will read this column from a hospital bed in Havana, may want to consider doubling up on ministers in this ministry by naming a Junior Minister of Doubles.

Really, the things some of these new Cabinet ministers say and do, or what they do not say or do, have caused me to lose faith in the youth of the nation. Just so Minister Taylor knows I’m not singling him out on the doubles issue, let it be known I’m sorely disappointed in the young people who entered politics during the last general elections. I was among those who applauded the three main parties for giving young people a chance to agitate and to serve.

In 1970, I was barely 24 when I led a mutiny in the army. I was not only passionate about my Regiment and my country, but I was prepared to put my life on line for what I believed in. I paid a high price for my youthful exuberance, but I never complained. Since those heady days of Black Power, when the main players, military and civilian, were all under 30, I have felt strongly about giving youth a chance. But who among those sitting in Parliament can claim to have championed deserving causes? Which one has exuded the passion of youth in confronting their geriatric misleaders when the latter mess on their wilting tails?

That they remain mortified by these old geezers who insist on imposing their will on their parties, and by extension on the populace, is a sad indictment against today’s young people. They need to have the courage of conviction to confront them, not suck up to them, especially when you know they are committing sins against the nation, against their people. But enough pontification: I think I am preaching to the deaf-and dumb.

You would think, though, that once an MP or a senator has taken up a ministerial portfolio, he or she would work overtime on mastering all aspects of his responsibilities. In Taylor’s case, as the minister in charge of consumer affairs, he would look at all aspects of what people consume. Sticking with foods, that basic requirement for human existence, Taylor would have been helpless as prices of staples and non-staples shot through the roof. With some sobriety returning to the global markets, he has the opportunity to steer consumers in the right direction.

Had Taylor done his homework, he would have learned that what is important is not so much food security as nutrition security. In other words, you can satisfy people’s daily 2,000-calories requirements with junk foods and achieve nothing-except a mass of unhealthy young people who would inevitably impose a very costly strain on our already burdened health system. I know it’s not easy to wean young people away from junk like chicken and chips, pizza, soft drinks and doubles.

At least the Consumer Affairs ministry should be counselling people, educating them about the consequences of bad eating and drinking habits. When I occasionally dabbled in doubles, I was amazed at the queues I would encounter at dusty roadside stalls, the kinds of people who licked their hands as the “sap” from the filling that contained little channa and much sauce. The “barra” that is the main component of doubles is today made of white flour mixed with a touch of saffron powder. Gone are the days when real dhal and mucho channa made this a somewhat nutritional meal.

Those who insist on eating doubles are eating crap-quite literally, at times. Ditto for pavement-pies, pastries and so much of what pass for snacks or meals nowadays. I’m not suggesting one should not give in to the occasional craving for these delicacies. But to consider them genuine meals is to court multiple health problems, as we are witnessing today. Check on the large numbers of relatively young people contracting diabetes, heart conditions and now obesity.

Instead of calling on vendors of these “foods” to lower their prices, Minister Taylor should ask them to double-up. Cabinet should impose a substantial health-tax on junk foods to cater for having to hospitalise and treat those who willingly eat into life-threatening diseases. I know thousands out there, those who swear by doubles and chicken and chips, would want to kill me for making these suggestions. I am not easily intimidated.

Government has failed in instituting a good-nutrition programme that should start at the primary schools level. Children should be taught that legumes, local root crops and tubers, vegetables and fruits are infinitely better for them than junk foods. It’s not too late to start, using the Schools Nutrition Programme as a platform for promoting healthy eating habits. If we succeed by only 50 per cent, think of the long-term savings in future health costs.

5 thoughts on “Double up on doubles’ price”

  1. well it seems you never had a doubles from debe south trinidad
    you can stop chicken and chips but you can’t stop a hot doubles ona sunday morning.

  2. This is indeed one of the most important issues of our nation. The prevalence of poor nutrition is a major threat to our nation’s future. Childhood obesity is on the rise and recent WHO figures suggest that as much as 35% of today’s Trini children can suffer from preventable diabetes before adulthood.

  3. Well, I am surprieed at the poor nutritional advice in this article. Has anyone researched the data on chick peas to see that its food value, trace minerals and vitamins are in excess of tubers?. I agree with Trini from New York, we like our Sunday morning doubles and here in the UK, we strive to make the blessed breakfast..

  4. Doubles are the fastest of fast foods, are available everywhere, and as a meal are supposed to be nutritionally sound. Those are what made the delicacy almost addictive in T&T. When the Minister voiced his piece on the doubles issue, he was railing against the greed of the vendors, who, when flour price went up, were quick to increase the cost of their product, yet when there was a decrease in cost were adamant to maintain their increased price. I have no problem with the vendors, one way or the other since I no longer purchase or consume any commercial doubles.A long time ago while liming at a friend’s house, I saw the conditions under which doubles were prepared and stored and I knew that that had I continued in my craving for the taste I would have been a candidate for leptospirosis.If one is conscious of one’s health, then fast food, including doubles, would not be a first choice and no one would have to try to defend the population fron the unscrupulous practices of vendors of doubles and other commodities. I saw where some opposition MPs were beating up on the Minister for his ‘doubles’ statement since they found it proper for the “vendors to make some money” since they have to get up at 4.00 in the morning to start working. Is this justification? Doesn’t the taki-driver get up as early? Then the raise in taxi fare is justifiable. What about doctors lawyers, nurses, policemen? Shouldn’t they be able to enjoy more money too? I think it was Dr. Moonilal’s point that waking early deserved increase price of product. I think that there is a sting in the tail for the vendors though because in these times of reduced cash-flow and belt tightening, the TAX people will be taking a closer look at all the self employeds. Dr. Moonilal said the doubles vendors have to get up early to start preparation in order to get their product out to market and to eke out a living. Imagine his choice of words ” eke out a living”. Doubles vendors are among the highest paid people in T&T. I have a neighbour who insists that he must sell 300 doubles per day! And he sells now at $3.50! What is the cost of the flour, saffron powder, oil, channa,salt, pepper per day? Cost of his wife’s labour? His labour cost? Deducted from his sales of $1,050.00 per day for six days per week. Eke out a living you say?
    Very soon the doubles vendors would have to bring their prices back to $1.50 – $2.00 or will have to eat the surplus.

  5. trini in new york well do people in t&t know what a doulbes man or woman has to go through before they sell one doubles well i’ll tell you if cooking from home they two ketchen one for home use and one for the [job only]it has to have tiles on walls & floors a sink with pipeborn watersupply and is inspected by the health department before a health badge is isseud to that vendor and random inspection is done after as seen fit by a health inspector.IF someone see’s a vendor oparateing in a unsanatary condition it should be reported.AS far as the price of a doubles has anyone look at the price of flour,channa,dhal,oil,pepper,or gas now compare to let say five years ago when a doubles was $2.00 or so?HOW much is a bake and shark or a cup of corn soup,a roast corn,a cup of souce,or a box of KFC five years ago?DON’T go after the doubles alone all vendors price of food has gone up within the years gone by.WHO do i blame ? The goverment for the high cost of living in T&T,and not investing in food resource the country.LIKE I SAY DON’T BLAME THE DOUBLESMAN FOR THE COST OF A DOUBLES! One other thing which oneof the above mention fastfood is the healhtest?

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