In the know
Looking back at the 2008 global financial crisis last month, Hank Paulson, the then US Treasury Secretary, revealed that in 2006 he had warned US President George W Bush of an impending crisis.
“Hank, what would cause the financial crisis,” Bush asked. Paulson said he replied: “I don’t know, sir. But after it happens, with 20/20 hindsight it will be obvious.”
At the time, US financial markets were flourishing. By means of a highly-complex securitisation model, home mortgages across America were being bundled and sold, with the risks spread over financial markets worldwide.
But even before 2006, a few pundits foresaw the downside, a coming financial crisis. Deep in the indicators these analysts were seeing something moving ominously. Paulson was warned and said he was on the alert, yet in early 2008 he was still giving robust, up-beat assessments of the US economy.
By November 2008, the great reckoning had arrived, throwing the world into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. US government officials now say that it might have been avoided had they been alert, watching the bankers, not the borrowers.
That crisis may have become obvious to Paulson only in hindsight, but not so for us in T&T. Every day since 2010 there has been that dizzy feeling of being caught in a maelstrom—an unending whirl of crisis after crisis.
If we use the political landscape as an indicator, its readings will reveal the true nature of the distortions caused in the main by the recklessness and irrationality that has been the basis of political decision-making.
By this time next Monday, we will be holding the third election for this year. This should not be seen as the country just being asked routinely to elect new faces to the 14 local government bodies, because in reality this election is an assessment of the Government’s performance over the past three years.
Dianne Marshall-Holdip, a St Joseph constituent, is one elector who has adopted a unique method of evaluating the candidates campaigning in her constituency.
In previous elections she sent her personal questions to candidates indicating that their responses to her would determine whether they get her vote.
For instance, in a recent letter to one candidate she recounts the Prime Minister’s statement in the Chaguanas West by-election campaign that constituents should vote for the party, not the individual.
“I am at variance with that statement and I invite you to dialogue on it,” she wrote.
She asks whether this election is the first for the candidate, and if not, could the candidate detail his/her record in public life.
Here are some of citizen Marshall-Holdip’s questions:
• What methods have you used to determine the collective needs of constituents?
• List five outstanding areas, in order of priority, that you intend to address in the Mt Lambert area.
• The issue of Proportional Representation—how do you interpret it, and why was it introduced so surreptitiously?
• A former PM said the only qualification needed in politics was “a level head”. (She rejects the statement, and requests that the candidate answer specifically the question: “Who are you?”)
• There have been negative reports relating to persons in public life e.g. persons with false qualifications, etc. Do you have plans to deal with this?
• The former local government minister is inviting citizens to text him directly to get their potholes fixed. Do you plan to replicate that technique?
• As a young person, how do you plan to deal with political mud-slinging?
• Can you list the five significant points your party’s representatives made during last week’s television debate? Were there any points made by others that you plan to consider?
• What are your views on campaign financing? How is your campaign being financed?
I found Ms Marshall-Holdip’s alert approach to her citizen’s rights meritorious and deserving of mention.
Many US pundits are saying that had they been truly alert and had the warning bells sounded their crisis could have been avoided.
Here in T&T we may have reached the stage of going beyond mis-steps to the political crisis-of-the-hour. Just take a brief look at the ‘‘hourly’’ list:
• The Attorney General publicly scolds the acting Police Commissioner, and gives the new National Security Minister a back-hand slap over their comments on “gang leaders”.
• The Health Minister is confused between Bird flu and Swine flu, and then their is his plan to hand over police investigations into the theft of medical equipment at the San Fernando General Hospital to Crime Watch host Ian Alleyne.
• The tactless position of the Prime Minister’s lawyer in the emailgate scandal.
• Financial scandals at National Quarries and stolen buses at PTSC.
The crisis list seems to change every hour. Fortunately, unlike President Bush, we can identify who and what are causing our crises.
Thank you, citizen Marshall-Holdip, for being so alert.
• Keith Subero, a former Express news editor, has since followed a career in
communication and management