Monday, February 19, 2018

Irretrievably Third World


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When the maîtres d' at my favourite hangouts ask me on arrival with my wife whether it is a special occasion, I reply that every day in my life is a special occasion.

You may find this suspiciously cheerful for a political cynic but I have for some years now been at peace with myself, much achieved without submission to our control freak politicians. They do not have anything to give that I would like to have. I have enough friends and I buy my own drinks, thanks.

That is not to say that I am at peace with our country. Far from that because we remain in a condition of being irretrievably third world as far as political and public administration is concerned. One reason the mediocrity seems irretrievable is the delusional state of those chosen to administer the resources of the State and the terminal irrelevance with which it afflicts politicians.

Minister Rudi Moonilal now suffers bouts of terminal irrelevance. The Rowley march was more than the 34 he cockily predicted and it attracted non-PNM support. Immediately after that, (the Prime Minister having conceded that marches are "an indicator of our political health") for yet another time, despite Moonilal being sarcastic about what the public wanted we got part of it. Minister Volney was made to put away his snake because it get away and bite the Government, biting him and the Attorney General the hardest.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that Volney's insertion into the UNC team was a special treat from the political leader. It was an irretrievably third world choice and snake bite them as a result; and it has not finished biting them.

My fellow columnist Raffique Shah still has me laughing at his explanation as to why, despite the delusional mantra that God is a Trini, we get into a mess quicker than you can say "gas" because God don't help stupid.

My laughter is the edgy laughter of laugh and cry living in the same house because we pay a high personal price when our public and political administration fails. For example, as Raffique underlined, when rain falls, we flood out, but the Office of Disaster Preparedness Management (the ODPM) tells us they have a plan to evacuate us safely in the event of a tsunami. So let me add my ODPM piece of delusion.

On Thursday, August 30, 2012 I received this text message from the ODPM: "The ODPM advises the public to carpool and use public transportation into Port of Spain for Independence Day celebrations over the weekend to ease traffic congestion." That message was about as counterproductive as eating green guava to ease another sort of congestion.

It was also typical of the ole talk used as a Third World alternative to effective public administration. At the same time when they are visibly failing us, both UNC and PNM governments, take out full-page ads telling us of their "achievements".

I suggest that when the ODPM advertises its "achievements" it lists "traffic management intervention" by contrast to the reality that mere rumour of a tropical storm creates four-hour traffic jams. In that situation anything resembling a good surfers' wave would drown us all who are stuck in our vehicles. If the ODPM sees a link between disaster preparedness management and feteing, perhaps it could offer a "Tipsy Taxi" service.

The reality however is that everyday traffic management is non-existent both when there is a rumour of a storm and when there is a genuine storm warning. Insane traffic is the bane of a vast majority of existences in our Republic. I thank my colleague Senator Prescott SC for re-establishing the use of the word bane, meaning a cause of harm, injury, ruin or death when he referred to Section 34 as "the bane of it".

Median jumping, which goes unpunished, is killing or maiming us. Thousands of productive hours are lost. The obvious mitigation measure is policing but that is not done. Lack of policing was a major cause of the withdrawal of the Woodbrook/St James traffic plan but the Minister of Works preferred to talk about the St Ann's roundabout, undoubtedly a success, but wholly irrelevant to the withdrawn plan.

Woeful policing, specious excuses like those first offered for the Section 34 fiasco, and for the traffic plan are obvious symptoms of our Third World condition.

Let's end with a First World example recommended for study by the COP: Lord Carrington resigned as foreign secretary when the Falkland Islands were invaded, although he did not believe the Conservative Government had mishandled the situation: He said in the House of Lords in January 1983: "The wide sense of outrage and impotence was understandable. I was the head of the Foreign Office. It did not seem to me a time for self-justification and certainly not to cling to office. I think country is more important than self".