Preparing the Way for Kamla – Pt 4

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
June 25, 2018


Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeSixteen years hence, Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) will celebrate its two hundredth anniversary since slavery ended formally. As I open my eyes, I am not sure I can see as clearly as the Minister of Finance how the African population will be positioned within the society in 2034.

Last Sunday I argued that by 2030, the Indian population will grow to between 588,000 and 776,000 people or 41 percent of the population; Africans will grow to between 525,000 and 615,000 people but remain about 36 percent of the population; and the mixed population will grow to between 339,000 and 417,000 people or 22 percent. In short, the African population will have dropped from 73 percent in 1803 to 36 percent in 2034.

There is nothing good or bad about the falling percentage of Africans in the population. What is important are the implications of this falling percentage and how Africans will, as a group, stack up economically with the other ethnic groups.

D’Vera Cohn and Andrea Caumont of Pew Research Center observed: “It is important to study the forces that are driving population change, and measure how these changes have an impact on people’s lives” (March 31, 2016). We know that identities, particularly in a cosmopolitan society such as ours, will not remain static, millennials will behave differently than earlier generations, and the growth of women in the labor force and in leadership roles may change the outcome of things.

The New York Times, in a front-page story entitled “Fewer Births than Deaths Among Whites in Majority of U. S. States” blazoned: “Deaths now outnumber births among white people in more than half the states in the country, demographers have found, signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population.”

It continued: “[This] change has broad implications for identity and for the country’s political and economic life, transforming a mostly white baby boomer society into a multiethnic and racial patchwork.…’People say demographics is destiny and there’ll be more people of color—all this is true. But they also say that the U.S. is going to become more progressive, and we don’t know that” (NYT, June 20).

This is true also for T&T. We cannot be sure T&T will be a better place for Africans in 2034. Presently most of the top businesses in the country are in the hands of the Syrian/Lebanese group or the one-percenters. Their holdings include: Ansa Mcal; West Mall/Dairy Milk, Elleslie Plaza; Amalgamated Security; Blue Waters, Gulf City Malls; Francis Fashions; Prestige Holdings consisting of KFC, Starbucks, Ruby Tuesday; Pizzaboys Group; Starlite Pharmacy; and N. H. Construction.

Last year Mario Sabga-Aboud, chairman of the Global Brands Group of Companies and leader of this monopoly, declared, “While people of Syrian [Lebanese] descent represented one per cent of the population they were the ‘most powerful’ [group in the island] (Guardian, June 2, 2018). This business class exhibits much selfishness. They live in enclaves, marry one another; patronize one another’s businesses to the exclusion of others, and generally socialize together. They give back little to the community when compared with how much Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zucherberg give to their community.

Last month, Gerald Aboud, a younger member of this Syrian/Lebanese onslaught against the majority population, declared that Indian Arrival Day and Corpus Christi were “two stupid holidays” the country did not need. He claims he was appalled by “the lack of productivity and challenges faced by most businesses due to the sheer number of public holidays we have in Trinidad and Tobago” (Express, June 2).

George Aboud, in defending his son’s racist comment, said: “My son is 45 and was born here. My father came to Trinidad in 1905. I’m 70 and have never gone back over. Trinidad is our home. We put everything into Trinidad. Many critics of my son pay no taxes but live off the Treasury” (Newsday, June 2).

While George Aboud may have put everything he owns into T&T, it was the black and Indian workers who set the table and laid the economic banquet he and his sons (and all of the Syrians/Lebanese) enjoy in T&T today. In July 1933, Usine Ste Madeleine “achieved the greatest output ever delivered by a sugar factory in the British Empire” and in1936, Trinidad “was the largest producer of oil in the British Empire” (Stephen Stuempfle, Port of Spain).

When the Abouds talk about the laziness and lack of productivity of the majority population, they should go back into our history books and learn who built the T&T that allows them to luxuriate in its present-day wealth.

The Syrians/Lebanese came in 1905. Africans have been here since 1517. Today, Africans are not part of the top echelon of economic power in the island, which has little correlation with the hard work we have put into building T&T. Given the present economic trajectory, one can predict with scientific certainty that nothing will change by 2034 unless the government places the economic equity of all peoples at the top of its political agenda.

In other words, are we, as a society, prepared to do anything about the growing disparity in wealth amongst the various ethnic groups? Or, will anything come of asking this question?

7 thoughts on “Preparing the Way for Kamla – Pt 4”

  1. In other words, are we, as a society, prepared to do anything about the growing disparity in wealth amongst the various ethnic groups? Or, will anything come of asking this question?(CUDJOE)

    The question that should be asked is, are we, as Africans, prepared to do anything to increase our wealth in a society in which we are ranked as the lowest income earners?

    Dr Cudjoe’s question implies that the society should collectively endeavor to improve the wealth of Africans. In free enterprise societies entrepreneurship and individual initiative are available vehicles to all. Governments are able to create a climate conducive to encouraging and supporting these traits. Individuals must take advantage of these opportunities.

    The one percenters should be congratulated for their industriousness and success at creating employment in T&T considering the relatively short time that they have been in T&T.

    Are we going to be envious of the one percenters and the entrepreneurs or are we going to ask ourselves, why did we not have the skills and initiative to be as successful as they are, considering that they came to T&T with nothing.

    1. I think what we need is a predominantly African Government that controls the East-West Corridor, puts more resources in Carnival, Best Village, Laventille and Free National Housing. Then the African Population will rise.

  2. Sad as it may be that the blacks and other groups have not progressed as the Syrians etc,however, based on the statistics as predicted by the Research they seem to aspire to keep that status quo, since all they are doing is killing each other for no apparent reason.why should this be? With the unemployment rate as it stands, I’m surprised that the condition has’nt worsened , to the point of including those graduates from the university. Our situation would make a drastic change if only those responsible would be held and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
    We should and could be successful , but we need to want it bad enough in spite of…

  3. This article impinges strongly on culture and discipline. One cannot deny that the ‘one percenters’ control the national purse in the form of conglomerates. At the same time, one cannot deny that the Africans largely control the political power and the spending from the public purse. I always wondered if reparations were made payable mainly to the African community how would the average African invest this? If a taxi driver by the name of Bolan Amar can make a bold move to handle the likes of Neal and Massy then this means that this is fair game on an equal playing field.
    At the grass roots level both the Indian and African communities live amongst one another quite peacefully in T&T compared to neighbouring Guyana, however when election time comes upon us we see a different picture of motivation of the same people through fear rather than love. Where does this stem from or is this a different stem cell research: trini style? The answer is, this is promoted from the top – down for selfish reasons only, identifying failed leadership right across the board. As brilliant as Williams comes across as an academician I see him as suffering from a bout of megalomania in the political world. After all he chose to point out at the University of Woodford Square money is no problem, reminding the masses of their fore fathers labouring justifying that this is their time, distrusting ANR hence his speedily return from Piarco to Whitehall and many other instances e.g.,
    The question again arises if Singapore can do it what was/is holding back T&T.
    I agree that an educated and rational individual is paramount to disseminating information constructively which means in this case; what you sow is what you eventually reap.

  4. how can one compare the trinidad one percenters to the multi-billionaires named in this writing, as a percentage of their net worth, their charitable contributions could equal these americans. the people who manually labored to build up trinidad before independance were forced to because of slavery and the strict managerial skills of the european. slavery is supposedly over(a good thing),western european discipline is lacking, what has trinidad turned into?

  5. Culture plays an important role in the economic mobility of any ethnicity. If you are culturally predisposed to spending out your income before the next pay day, chances are you will always be in need and in poverty.

    I grew up in a culture of saving and ensuring that money was put away for a rainy day. The fact is I could depend on no one but me to take care of me. It is the normative of a culture that despise dependency of any kind.

    The Syrians own over 184 businesses and have rubbed shoulders with the PNM administration since the days of Jonny O. If they don’t sell for 10 years they will be fine. Why? because they are billionares. Most of their money in Panama. But why is that so. They developed a culture of hard work, understands how to get government contracts and to protect whatever accumulations of wealth they have acquire. Marrying within the stock to preserve the financial gains. One cannot fault them for having this business minded culture. I remember as a little boy, Syrians would come to our village and sell pants cloth, braving the sun, the dogs and unreasonable people who wanted clothing for free, just to make a sale. But they persevered and acquired wealth.

    As for the African mindset of cultural development based on pan, calypso, and various artforms expressed, one cannot be upset because he has arrived. He has arrive there after over two centuries of working at it. As such he must be proud of such achievements and dare not compare himself to others. As this article seems to imply.

    In the great cosmos of humanity, we are but a blimp in the anthropological DNA that is scattered across the globe. All and sundry have the opportunity to improve. But as my mother use to say “you can take a horse to water but you cannot force him to drink”. That is true of all opportunities before us.

  6. Oh, the poor black people. The govament never die dem nothing. From the days of Williams until the poor guys have been sidelined. Everyone else can eat half belly and save for another day, buy a piece of land and build a house for himslef and family and all the while not getting a penny from the govament. Look at the black guys dey sing calypso ( the art form dey call it) and lime all day and dont give sh*t about tomorrow. Poor guys , Rowley pls give dem a house.

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