More CEPEP, URP ‘lochos’

By Raffique Shah
Jun 13, 2015

Raffique ShahAs she enters uncharted territory seeking a second term in office, the Prime Minister exudes a measure of confidence that is at odds with a widely-held perception that her People’s Partnership coalition will lose the general election.

She and her ministers have made it clear that they plan to campaign on performance, which they hope will mute charges of corruption, waste and scandal that were deafening during the past five years.

Maybe they are right: for many nationals of this country, a regular “ten days” might be more than enough to win his support.

And unwittingly, as I shall show, the Government has altered the culture of its core supporters with respect to their work ethic, dragging them into the dependency syndrome, hence broadening the base of non-productive citizens.

Besides hundreds of miles of box drains, tens of thousands of laptop computers, countless hampers and made-in-China, portrait-bearing ceramic mugs and plastic bags distributed during her five years in office, the PM and her ministers have presided over a cultural revolution that is of such significance, its impact will forever change the psyche and lifestyles of Indo-Trinidadians.

And why not? After all, these are the UNC’s core supporters who guarantee the party some fifteen seats that no other party can touch in the foreseeable future.

So, to further seal their support, why not forge a revolution, even if it was not so planned?

Let me cut to the chase, curb your curiosity: have you ever, in the history of the URP and CEPEP programmes, seen so many Indians propping hoes and brooms, leaning on spades, sheltering from the sun, all for $69 a day?

Never—not even under Basdeo Panday’s administration (1995-2000).

Indeed, these make-work programmes were condemned by Indian leaders who saw them as the antithesis to the work ethic and culture of Indian people who always “worked hard for what they have”.

Under PNM rule, the percentage of Indians who were so employed was very low—maybe ten per cent.

Even in predominantly Indian communities, the racial composition of these work gangs was skewed heavily in favour of Afros.

Maybe with justification, the PNM was accused of discriminating against Indians who wanted “ah ten days” from way back when. Whatever the reasons for the change, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Suruj Rambachan and others have fundamentally altered the demographics of URP and CEPEP, and Indians’ attitude to the dependency syndrome, maybe forever.

One consequence of this shift is that it will be almost impossible to resuscitate food production which is heavily dependent on manual labour over long hours.

Little wonder that for all the improved incentives on offer, the Government has failed to stimulate agriculture.

In another fallout from this URP “revolution”, huge numbers of Indians now see food cards and other handouts as an easy means of mitigating their poverty without breaking sweat.

Like their Afro-brethren in urban centres, they shun under-employment in the retail sector or as domestic workers largely because between the make-work programmes and handouts, they no longer need to “slave for eight hours a day”.

In essence, this freeness broadened the base of “lochos” in the society, from urban areas to rural districts.

Even as the Government boasts of full employment, the number of able-bodied people who “larhay” on street corners and near Play Whe shops has multiplied several-fold.

This cultural revolution has impacted the working—and middle class Indians as well. Time was when Government housing communities, be they single units (like Point Lisas Gardens) or huge apartment blocks, were occupied almost exclusively by Afros.

Again, whether that was by PNM’s discrimination-design or because Indians shunned such communities, we may never know.

It is a fact that culturally, Indians would have been uncomfortable living in multi-storied, minimal-privacy apartments. Government’s housing projects have long shifted to single units, town houses and duplexes: almost all such units distributed by the Partership administration were under construction when Patrick Manning lost the 2010 general election.

What was noticeable in the distribution process thus far is the number of Indians who happily accepted keys to live in communities that will be racially mixed. One can only hope that this shift in demographics will yield benefits by way of integration, and that these new housing estates will become havens of harmony, not zones of war.

As someone who stays aloof of the political mud-wrestling, I try to give credit where due and share blows when necessary. What matters to people like me is not who wins or loses an election, but how those in power govern.

In describing the “indianisation” of URP and CEPEP, I showed the unintended consequences of a Government’s bid to redress an imbalance. In contrast, an even distribution of houses holds out hope for harmony.

10 Responses to “More CEPEP, URP ‘lochos’”


  • Shah I agree with most of what you say but I am a root cause specialist. Shah again you tend to look only on one side of the equation. More so, a power source makes the car move. A turbine or motor drives a compressor. An ion exchange water treatment system makes it possible for a boiler to turn water into steam. A transportation system makes it possible for workers to get to work. I can go on and on. But one cannot work without the other. And as you say “Let me cut to the chase…” too, …there is always some key thing that makes another thing happen, much like “action” and “consequence”. You dealt with the consequence of the action. I wish to focus on the action part. As I repeat myself, I say again our government is driven by the G8s and to a lesser extent the wider but more potent world powers. The UN does nothing to protect the third world countries, especially the developing ones. Is Trinidad any different to Nigeria, Angola, Brazil, India, Ghana etc. Our riches are bled from us leaving a few filthy rich that own everything and many poor souls both spiritually and physically. We have technically remained in slavery. It is just …it looks different to the 1500s. But as we say the more things change the more they remain the same. We are merely tolerated by the G8s. They would like us instead to simply disappear. Our oil and gas industry was never ours, not is and will never be ours until it is pure junk or useless. Eric Williams dream of Point Lisas ( to be ours one day ) was instead the dream of Julien’s, Jones’s, Duprey’s, Saith, etc. (THE UNCLE TOMS of the ERA)and the ownership of,of course, the many other foreigner rulers in the game. At most, some of us got a salary until we were no longer of any use to them. Eventually, our poverty struck society was always directed by both England and USA. as designed by them through the years. The drugs are for their use. And it is amazing it still is. We continue to allow them to direct the show here. The SAUDIS said you can come but we must have equal share in OUR WEALTH. Even small little QATAR did the same. One may ask if we really have any bright sparks here. But more so what does GATE really accomplish? We are indeed brainwashed into a dependency syndrome. CEPEP, URP will be extended to include degreed persons looking to survive. Shah I invite you to come to North America where you will see the same thing. It is the serious ills of exploitation,scams (both by the governments here and the PUBLIC) and the Capitalists. That is the design intention by them. They take your migration monies that you must come with and turn you into a pauper living on a minimum wage to do work their people do not want. JOB is by networking or as we say “PULL STRING”. A degree is not essential. You can believe me by listening to Mrs Hilary Clinton. When you reach that point there is no way you can return home for they influence out of control inflation at home there. Shah the cars we pay 200000 to 300000 are considered junk here. Bamboo is yet another CEPEP arrangement with a few coining of course. But God doh sleep. Change will come just as our history books say. ISIS is just the start. But I guess 1914 to 1919 and 1939 to 1945 will just be minor to what will come.

  • Comrade what you’re saying is true,like you I grew up in Freeport. But today Freeport like the rest of T&T is no longer free( if you know what I mean). Unfortunately the whole world is changing for the worse. The world is falling apart. As I stated sometime ago, it’s because of single parenting or no parenting at all!The majority of people today want an easy way, they don,t want to work hard for what they need. I’ll say this, the world has a surplus of fools and lazy people, we don,t need to add one more to the growing number.

  • Actually the only locho we have to worry about is the infamous, delusional Jack Warner who is eagerly demonstrating his paranoia, egomania and delusional, escapist behavior in a feeble attempt to demand respectability. How could a man like this still demand the acceptance of the people of T&T.

  • By Raffique Shah
    October 13, 2013
    Raffique ShahOver the past 40 years, since the first oil boom began in 1973, allegations of corruption against government ministers, other politicians and senior public officials must have exceeded the one-thousand mark. I refer to alleged acts of corruption involving tens of millions of dollars and more, not to petty sums below, say, five million.
    Since each corrupt transaction of this magnitude necessarily involves several persons—politicians, contractors, corporations, bankers, public officers—we could easily say that at least 5,000 persons of high standing in the society were involved.

    And if we accept that corruption did not begin with the flow of oil dollars, that it occurred from as far back as when Albert Gomes and politicians of that era had some access to the public purse, that stealing became an art in the sticky hands of John O’Halloran, Boysie Prevatt and men of their ilk, then we can assume that another 2,000 or so high officials ought to have faced the courts of the country.
    To date, however, only a handful of “big boys” have faced corruption charges, and not one has been found guilty and jailed for stealing from the public purse.
    What this tells us is that we journalists and other media practitioners who have been largely responsible for exposing alleged acts of corruption have been wrong. We have been “seeing things” where they did not exist, chasing apparitions, wrongfully and recklessly accusing honest politicians and public officials of dishonesty, of stealing, when all along they have been men and women of unimpeachable rectitude. Well, it’s either that—in which case generations of journalists owe these people and the public thousands of apologies—or there is in place a code of protection that straddles investigators and dispensers of justice, that ensures that elite white collar criminals get away with murder, almost literally.
    In fact, there is an uncanny connection between corruption, perceived or real, and murder. The investigations patterns are similar. The police or Integrity Commission or other agencies are always “hot on the trail” of perpetrators. When, after months, we hear nothing further, someone says the case is not “cold”. Then an individual is gunned down and we are told that he was a suspect in five, ten murders. Cases closed.
    Arrests rates are close to zero. Of the 400 or so murders committed a year, how many arrests are made? And of those, how many reach the trial stage? Of this miniscule number, how many convictions are secured? So whether or not we implement the death penalty, which remains law, it makes no difference. Murderers know they will hardly be caught, far less hanged.
    The same holds true for corrupt officials. The only cases of note that have been prosecuted over the past 20 years are those involving persons accused of corrupt acts in the Piarco Airport scandal. And you and I know that these men will sooner die of natural causes than face the finality of their trials in courtrooms. Indeed, one might ask why should they pay a price for anything while hundreds like them are seen at social events rubbing shoulders with the very people who accused them of corruption?
    If I may use the reverse scenario, the Patrick Manning administration faced numerous allegations of corruption. From the temple of the Prophetess to the water taxis that never sailed, from billion-dollar projects that ran wildly beyond estimates to siphoning funds off state enterprises, the Manning regime was alleged to have broken corruption records.
    Yet, three years after the electorate voted the PNM out of office based largely on perceptions of corruption and wastage, not one of Manning’s merry men (or women) has been charged with anything! The few court actions pursued by crusading Attorney General Anand Ramlogan are by civil, not criminal, actions. They target a handful of former directors and senior managers of state enterprises. And, by the law of averages, not only will they take decades to come to closure, if ever, but they are likely to fizz out like the proverbial you-know-what. So, can we conclude that the Manning regime was not corrupt, that all such allegations were spurious, malicious?
    Similarly, the current People’s Partnership Government has faced innumerable allegations of unethical conduct and downright banditry. Hundreds of millions of dollars are said to have been pocketed by ministers, their families and friends, and party financiers. Could it be that all these allegations, all the investigative reports that appear in the print media with documentation to support them, are hoaxes? Is it that journalists and media houses have hidden agendas, ulterior motives?
    Or could it be that this is a society in which the public code of conduct is premised on institutionalised deception that allows the high and mighty to get away with corruption, even murder, while the poor and powerless suffer the consequences of revenue stolen?
    I don’t know. I am confused. You tell me.

    • Yet we now wish to crucify one man – JAW.

    • I’ll tell you intricate, you do know and you are not confused, you stated it well in your last paragraph.

      I trust that other readers responding to this blog, will appreciate your fair mindedness and unbiased analysis of this whole episode.

  • “And unwittingly, as I shall show, the Government has altered the culture of its core supporters with respect to their work ethic, dragging them into the dependency syndrome, hence broadening the base of non-productive citizens.”

    These programs are design to help the poor who would otherwise not have money to buy food or other life necessities. The whole idea of a “dependency syndrome” is a false construct. It must be noted that the money these people received is immediately “plowed” back into the economy. The rich do not spend, they are hoarders by nature. They park their money in American, Cayman and other international banks.
    When the poor spend the groceries, drug stores, taxis, rum shop,
    book stores all benefit. The small business struggling by the side of the road benefits. What the rich do is go to the foreign big chain and buy in bulk. I have been to those big chain on a Friday and it is loaded up with rich Trinis buying up anything in sight. That money that they spend does not benefit the local economy, it benefit the foreign economy. Foreign exchange is forever in high demand. The small groceries cannot afford the high price foreign stuff so they buy local items growing the economy.

    Employment regardless of where it is and what it is restores dignity to the poor. They are able to look after their families and live a productive life. I am at a lost as to why people scuff at these programs. Everyone cannot be rich and have high paying jobs, so let us give some respect to the poor…

  • I recently visited Montreal.and during my visit I could not find a “Box Drain” It seem that Trinidad , have invented another FIRST ! Having already establish the Steel pan

    • James, box drains were widespread in the 18th century, the romans had some of the most sophisticated drainage systems that are still used today. No, we did not create the box drain, they are sold in many hardware stores in the united states and can be readily installed.

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