The importance of work

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 28, 2024

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeAnyone who believes the PNM Government will solve the problem of black underdevelopment, joblessness, and criminality in the depressed areas of the island had better think again. It will not happen in the near future. The elites who have taken over the party have no interest in these problems, they do not have the will to solve them, nor the intelligence to know the difference.

The residents of Morvant/Laventille and East Port of Spain are on the brink of destruction. Their communities are saddled with joblessness and riddled with crime and fear. Even PNM ministers of government lament “youth crime” (Express May 21). Yet the only thing PNM offers them is CEPEP, a programme that has not solved the problem over the past 60 years. CEPEP has cramped the residents’ creativity, stifled their productivity, belittled their personhood, and reduced them to satisfying the animal functions of their being.

Asked about the problem of joblessness, Adrian Leonce, Laventille East MP, offered: “At the end of the day, the political leader (of the UNC) has to score points. We are trying to deal with the crime in T&T. It’s unfortunate a number of the bills that were brought to Parliament never got the support of the Opposition Leader and her team (Express, May 19).

Fitzgerald Hinds, MP for Laventille West, waxes philosophical: “These (water/jobs/crime) are serious socio-economic issues that call for deep introspection, discussion and facts,” while Camille Robinson-Regis prefers to appeal to an uncaring God: “Jesus, my Saviour….We, too, feel that helplessness O God, and help us identify those who will be our strength and support in those moments of helplessness.”

In 1996, when the Leader of Our Grief challenged Patrick Manning’s leadership, I brought William Julius Wilson’s When Work Disappears (1996) to his attention. Wilson’s book examined the effects of joblessness on US inner cities. It became the central theme of the leader’s campaign.

Wilson argued: “The disappearance of work has adversely affected not only individuals, families and neighbourhoods, but the social life of the city at large as well. Inner-city joblessness is a severe problem that is often overlooked or obscured when the focus is placed mainly on poverty and its consequences…

“The consequences of high neighbourhood joblessness are more devastating than those of high neighbourhood poverty. A neighbourhood in which people are poor but employed is different from a neighbourhood in which people are poor but jobless. Many of today’s problems in the inner-city ghetto neighbourhoods—crime, family dissolution, welfare, low levels of social organisation, and so on—are fundamentally a consequence of the disappearance of work.”

I have always argued that the lack of jobs is one of the main causes of our crime problem, particularly among our youths. Wilson remarks: “Inner-city ghetto children also grow up in neighbourhoods with devastating rates of joblessness, which trigger a whole series of other problems that are not conducive to healthy child development or intellectual growth.”

Having a job entails more than making a dollar. It encourages positive behavioural outcomes, regularises work habits, allows one to hope for a better life, and raises one’s self-esteem. It creates a more cohesive community and signals that the government cares about their welfare.

The first thing they should have done—should still be doing—is to go to the ends of the earth to get one or two companies to locate their plants in these communities. The spin-offs of such an endeavour are enormous. The presence of jobs in the community allows residents to cultivate entrepreneurial skills, business people to appreciate the results of their labour, and to make the community proud of itself.

Rather than devote himself to solving these problems, the Leader of Our Grief travelled to Ghana to party with a king and to appeal to Indian cricketing officials to build a cricket academy on land that former prime minister Basdeo Panday gave to Pan Trinbago to build its headquarters (Express, November 18, 2001). This is an ignoble move: from the creative to the chaotic.

PNM’s failed crime policy is visible to all. The headlines in last Sunday’s Express told the entire story: “Kidnapped in El Dorado,” “Five shot dead in 24 hours,” “Criminals Operate far from Home,” “End the Bloodbaths”. A Letter to the Editor, queried: “Will our children be able to go freely outside to play without the fear that something can go wrong at any time?”

A failed crime policy turns normal people into animals.

Morvant/Laventille and East Port of Spain remain a cauldron of criminality and underdevelopment because our Government does not understand the roots of our social predicament nor care particularly for poor people. Each day their actions demonstrate their contempt for their citizens.

Isn’t it about time the Government wakes up from its stupor?

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