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Our State of Collapse

By Stephen Kangal
January 31, 2006

Let me begin by invoking my own mantra that captures the essence of what I am about to write:

What Nature Has Provided To T&T Abundantly
The PNM has Mismanaged Recklessly
Because it has no Clear Vision to Chart Our Future
Only to Hand out our Patrimony to the East -West Corridor

Let me encapsulate the alternative philosophy or Formula for Getting The Politics Right. It is that:

In T&T:
  • We assert that a Responsible Government Practicing ethical governance with Enlightened Leadership;
  • and effective public sector management
  • In Co-operation with a Genuine caring society
  • with citizens practicing good citizenship
  • Guarantees the achievement of a quality of life in T&T second to none in the world.
This is the structured way forward for charting our political future together. We must not play for the cameras although this message will obtain currency if the cameras were to disseminate it to the wider community.

Getting the politics right is issues and integrity-based politics pioneered by visionary, enlightened and consensus-building leadership of the New Politics. That is the approach that will and must render personality-based and tribalism-determined politics obsolete in T&T. We must unite on issues and a programme of action- not exclusively around personalities who may have squandered our co-operation.

The Contradiction of Poverty in Prosperity

We must ask ourselves the question:

Where are we today in Trinidad and Tobago?

Is there anything for anyone to celebrate about when life and limb is in danger- when 35% are merely surviving in the poverty trap? What is working in the public sector in delivering timely services?

Can there any reason for T&T having so much (per capita income of $60,000.00) and yet having so many (30%) living in the poverty trap? That is the question that we must put to the Manning Administration and to ourselves.

Listen to Mr. Manning in his Xmas Message:
"...There is too much lawlessness and recklessness. There is still too much poverty and homelessness and lack of care..."

Does this happen by chance? Is this an admission of failure? Is this abdication of responsibility for effective governance? Is it not similar to Government's position on the crime debate?

Can there be any valid reason to celebrate except to divert attention from the major and pressing problems of the society?

Are we pursuing a programme of profligate expenditures without development or one that results in equity and justice or is it one that results in poverty in prosperity?

Can you ever come around to accepting that the scourge of Poverty in Plenty is an expression of enlightened Leadership or a caring government?

Poverty in Plenty

Any dispassionate observer or visitor who is aware of the volume and economic value of the physical and human endowments bequeathed to T&T by Mother Nature must conclude that only political mismanagement resulting from a lack of a clear holistic and inclusive developmental vision ( celebrating 50 years of PNM misrule) could have brought this plural society to this parlous state of poverty in plenty.

The divine assembled all of us here together from distant countries with our varied skills, strengths, innate abilities, ancestral memory and cultural wealth. He located us in a safe geographical zone insulated from natural disasters except from flooding. Even that is the result of the negligence of the State. This land that is the Caribbean Canaan yields forth bountifully but for whom? Yet there is pervasive poverty in our plenty.

Such is the extent of our physical and human good fortunes that we can boast that God has to be a Trinbagonian since calling him in T&T is always a local call.

We cannot and must not today allow any PNM government on the basis of creeping Prime Ministerial dictatorship and ego trips to repeat the same mistakes of the mid-70's and early 80's with the mismanagement of our patrimony. We had to bite the bullet then. The people must now intervene using the ubiquitous media/elections/ and other conventional means to stop this slide into wild and unsustainable spending of the ballooning public purse. That would leave us poorer and worse off.

We must demand good, effective and caring governance that holistically addresses our myriad social and economic challenges geared to deliver equity and justice to all of the people all the time really leaving no one behind.

What God has provided the PNM has disposed of recklessly Within the last 50 years of utter mismanagement.

We must not be diverted from the ineptitude of a PNM Government by its cohesiveness, organisational strength and longevity.
We must judge them by their lack of performance that allows us to slide into chaos and a siege mentality.
We must reject governance based on Electorally-based Short term Political Gains.

We have a unique and promising opportunity as a nation, provided by this our second and more substantial windfall and bonanza to transform, re-chart and build a secure and just future. What has been in our way is the fixation of parties to stay in power and governance (electoral security considerations); to squander these resources geared for short-term political gains ( $ 60bn in the first bonanza (10 years) and $90bn in the first 3 years of the second bonanza).

Can we be satisfied as a progressive and literate society with such "squandermania" and mismanagement of our resources and the strategic political opportunity now available to us to fix ourselves first?

Our Diversity is a Significant Component of our Economic Asset Base

Our diversity is a huge economic asset but ethno-nationalistic based, narrow policies and programmes have transformed it into one of divisiveness. We can feed ourselves (food security) with 77,000 additional acres of land from Caroni but that is politically incorrect for the PNM. The motor car (3 persons per car) has broken down the traditional barriers between town and country but urban renewal takes precedence over rural development. South of the Caroni River is a different country- "country people". Look at the indifferent response to the flooding menace.

We must build a new, issues-based platform- a new transformed political vehicle to make solutions happen. That vehicle must be participatory and all-inclusive- a grand coalition of interests and aspirations of all our peoples unshackled by narrow parochial interests.

We must harnesses all the talents of our diverse people to achieve nation building beneficial to all via a process of balanced development, decentralisation, internal cohesiveness and real sustainable value-added growth.

We must appreciate and regard our internal ethno-diversity of the population as a prime strategic asset to equip us meet the myriad economic challenges as we treat with the emerging cosmopolitan globalised village.

The Boom-Bust Construction Initiatives

I am convinced that the current ego- determined, "skyscraper" politics and "drunken sailor" economics or our myopic building- boom all centralised in POS is geared to create artificial shortages in the construction industry to provide a basis for importing workers from Caricom. They will remain here when the boom- bust takes place.

So far near to 700 foreign Caricom nationals have been issued with residential skills certificates to live here permanently including accessing new subsidised, cheap HDC housing concealed and hidden from us in lush and ecologically sensitive Tucker Valley.

So that while there are labour shortages in this boom- bust construction cycle, CEPEP and URP are siphoning the Treasury to the tune of $1.5 bn and exacerbating the labour shortage in Agriculture and Construction. Seven hundred and more voter padders from the Caribbean are being brought in immediately enjoying instant residence/voting status to shift the balance. This is on top of the redistribution of voters from Laventille and Beetham to the key marginals via HDC no-deposit housing.

Government Competing with the Private Sector to Create Artificial Labour Shortages to increase costs of Erecting Plants and Commercial Buildings

The PNM is in competition with the private sector in general and the agricultural sub-sector in particular by depriving them of workers to generate sustainable incomes and wealth. This happened in the first (1974-82) oil bonanza when cocoa/coffee/sugar/bananas estates declined in production. These are the same Special make-work Programmes that have institutionalised the wave of criminality that has deprived us our freedoms and the safety and security of our families and property.

The Integrity of the Electoral Process

You will recall that the criminal elements decided the results of the last elections in inter alia, three key marginals. This week's allegations relating to three serving PNM politicians who plotted and planted bombs/ cocaine in Sadiq Baksh's water tank confirm the dangerous and insidious practice of criminality in politics. The integrity of the Westminster electoral process is in doubt. We have virtually returned to the days of the Shoup Voting Machines.

Democracy in T&T has been hijacked by brutish beasts in human form, conspirators and men that have lost their reason and judgement. T&T is fast becoming a dangerous place even for politicians to live in. The ruling party is in cahoot with the criminal elements. That explains why a kid glove strategy is being used to deal with the rising wave of criminality. Being part of the crime problem pre-empts one from being the solution.

The integrity of these mega- buildings could be in serious doubt having regard to the shortage of labour and civil engineering contractors. NH can walk out the Scarborough Hospital and still retain Government contracts.

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