by Kevin Ramnarine
Looking at the pictures from the shootout at the Maracas Valley police station one could not help but reflect on the words of William Butler Yeats’ poem the Second Coming, “Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” Yeats wrote that in 1919 as he surveyed the destruction of the first World War.
One wonders what Yeats would say about Trinidad and Tobago 98 years later. “Things Fall Apart” is also the title of a novel by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe.
Crime is the biggest issue we face. It is followed closely by the economy. Crime and the economy will dominate the national conversation from 2017 and beyond.
On both fronts, the Government has started the year on the wrong foot. One can only hope it is not the sign of further decay to come. Sadly, even the simple task of setting an election date seems beyond the minimum competence level.
If we gauge the mood of the country, we will find that people are beginning to lose hope. They are beginning to believe that tomorrow will not be better than today. The Government’s response is to blame the Police and Opposition.
While they point fingers, citizens are more fearful today than ever that they will be a victim of crime. Parents worry all night when their teenagers go out. Businessmen still can’t get foreign exchange.
The construction sector is stagnant. Cement sales for 2016 were 20.1% lower than in 2015. Many large contractors are now down to the minimum level of employment. Billions of dollars in projects and equipment remain in limbo and idle.
The bright spots such as the new C3 mall in San Fernando and the Unicomer (Courts) campus in Freeport have their genesis under the former Government and would not have happened if they weren’t driven by Ministerial will. The much-celebrated BP Juniper project, the largest upstream investment in the history of T&T, had its genesis in 2013. Construction on the Juniper topside started in November 2014 while I was Minister of Energy.
The incentives that were legislated to increase investment in the oil and gas sector and give us investments like Juniper were roundly condemned by the present Government.
There is a simple premise that seems to escape many. Wealth (a bad word for the socialists) is created at the microeconomic level by entrepreneurs small, medium and large. We wait with bated breath for the anti-business oligarchy to enter the 20th century.
The long and short of it is government’s needs to work with businessmen and investors to make investment happen. What is so difficult about that? This is how we landed a US$ 987 million investment for T&T and La Brea from Japan’s finest companies.
The PNM of the 1970’s and 1980’s with the likes of Errol Mahabir and Ronnie Williams understood the role that business played in building a nation.
With regard to crime, people have lost hope that the Police can deal with the problem. I say this as a former member of the National Security Council who has a good regard for the leadership of the Police Service. Is the problem one of resource deficit or one of resource allocation? Is it that the Police are overwhelmed?
The month of January 2017 is not yet ended but it has been marked by murders including the heart-breaking loss of Rachel Ramkissoon. Have we reached the point where our daughters cannot safely travel to school to get an education?
Perhaps if we had Uber in T&T our daughters, aunts, sisters and mothers would have a safe option for transport. Alas our ossified bureaucrats have sought to frustrate Uber instead of facilitating it.
We have also had in January the spectacular capitulation of the PNM Government to the demands of the OWTU. The Government should know that in some quarters, there is a view that the entire thing was orchestrated. I suspect that Mr. Imbert wanted to stand up on “zero, zero, zero” but was over ruled by forces beyond him. In the end the PNM Government paid the “Danegeld”.
When the PNM signed that MOU with the JTUM in 2015, it mounted a tiger that is going to be painful to dismount.
The tone at the top sets the tone for the country. It determines the national mood and behaviour. What leaders say, their tone and their body language resonates nationally. It was with words that Winston Churchill inspired the British people to stand up to Nazi Germany. Having said that, the Prime Minister should fire his speech writers or whoever is doing him the gross disservice of writing those dry speeches.
His addresses to the nation say nothing people don’t already know and fail to inspire. It seems like an address to the nation for address to the nation sake. The Prime Minister will soon realize, as I once did, that certain people he has placed in State Enterprises cannot deliver a snow ball in Siberia.
Let’s hope that we don’t become a manifestation of what inspired William Butler Yeats to pen “Things Fall Apart”. I close by saying that good leadership can change any bad situation and improve the lot of all citizens. Leadership like oil, gas, gold and copper is a resource that has to be employed.