By Capil Bissoon
Jump high, jump low. there is a sense that our country is now at the crossroads. We have exhausted existing governance paradigms. Institutions like the Financial Intelligence Unit, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Integrity Commission, bequeathed to us by years of PNM misgovernance, are in shambles.
We are in need of a transformative moment.
The 2015 General Elections will determine whether we free ourselves from the all the institutional shackles that have conspired to make us an underperforming nation.
Fellow columnist Michael Harris, viewing the PNM inspired dysfunction, has in despair called for the return of our colonial masters.
How did we arrive at this sorry pass?
Much of the blame rests at the feet of the PNM who ruled this country for much of our 50-plus years of independence.
We were fooled into a belief that it was the PNM who gave us independence. The truth is that a weakened, post-war Britain was glad to get rid of her colonies and we merely followed Ghana, Nigeria, India and even Jamaica in gaining independence.
We were lied to about Chaguaramas. The truth is that post-war United States had demobilised its army and moved, as a cost-saving measure, to close down military bases in Barbados, St Lucia and elsewhere.
So Sparrow was wrong when he sang: “A day of all days to remember, when we marched in the rain with our Premier…”
March or no march, the United States was going to return Chaguaramas to us whether we wanted it or not.
We were of the view that our Trinidad and Tobago Constitution was somehow unique. Years later as a student, I learned that it was a mere regurgitation of the unwritten British Constitution with very few new elements like the Service Commissions and entrenched clauses.
It was for the most part, a PNM exercise in plagiarism.
So the PNM vacuity of ideas and bankruptcy of vision which continues with its current Leader Dr Keith Rowley, has created a visionless society.
The major indigenous change to this mediocrity was the 1970s Black Power Revolution which attempted to confront the PNM-inspired dysfunction.
Even here, with Williams’ 1970s “Perspectives for a New Society,” the PNM took a good idea and turned it into the socialisation of the commanding heights of our economy and the plethora of underperforming State Enterprises that bedevil our economic development and stultify the growth of the more productive private sector.
Even that dysfunctional idea, of a socialised economy, was copied from India, Nigeria, Mexico, Ghana, Tanzania (The Arusha Declaration), Malaysia and others.
Today, transfers to State enterprises consume too much of our annual budgets. Combined with public servants wages and emoluments which take up over 75 per cent of our recurrent expenditures, one can understand why we need transformation.
This hugely expensive public sector has been described by the International Monetary Fund as the greatest drag on our development.
So far Dr Rowley has named his candidates. I see nothing in that talent pool which suggests that we are in for a transformative moment. With due respect to Clarence Rambharat, Stuart Young and Faris Al-Rawi, I see them not as Lee Quan Yews in the making, but as glorified OJTs. Nice fellas but not transformative leaders.
I have listened carefully to Dr Rowley’s plans and, if truth be told, I am decidedly not impressed. A rapid rail project, the closing down of the regional health authorities and the Local Government Ministry, and plans to have smaller Cabinets are not capable of dealing with the myriad systemic challenges we face.
I have followed and studied the performance of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and I discern glimpses of a transformative future.
Procurement legislation, term limits on Prime Ministers, more robust parliamentary Question Times, recall of MPs all suggest a 21st century climate of transparent government.
Setting of new thresholds in ministerial ethics and accountability contrast with the old PNM approach of sweeping ministerial misdemeanours under the carpet.
Broad-based development encompassing not only Port of Spain but the entire country suggests a new approach which will unleash the potential of the South West peninsula, South East T&T and our Eastern regions.
Mainly due to initiatives of the Minister of Tertiary Education and Skills Training Senator Fazal Karim, I see a new impetus in our human resources development in health and vocational education.
This elections will decide whether we embrace the future of vision or return to position of stasis.