The ingrained habits of those who form each government are well known. Many of those habits are bad habits and some of them, such as the safaris and pilgrimages to far off lands which are self awarded as a prize for winning an election in the guise of cultural and trade exchanges, are also very heavy on our pockets.
Another predictable habit is the rhetoric about agriculture and tourism. There is the one about uplifting agriculture "to cut down the food import bill" while at the same time Government hangers on guzzle the latest Johnnie Walker colour and give orders to bulldoze or use the best agricultural lands for housing.
The tourism cant is even more voluminous because an interest in tourism more easily justifies free loading trips to the poshest of locations. May I remind readers of the notorious Tourism and Industrial Development Company (TIDCO). Remember the story I related about the capture of the decanter of Armagnac in Berlin when it was TIDCO time and the then TIDCO posse was riding high?
One justification offered for the recent mammoth trip to India was to attract potential tourists from India and, more recently, there was the announcement that $13 million is to be spent on Ariapita Avenue as a tourist destination, stimulated by the vaps that it is a fun place and the New York Times talked it up, never mind that war is being waged on motor vehicles in the area, there is nowhere to pee and there has been little or no consultation with residents in the area as to how to accommodate a French Quarter type operation in Woodbrook.
What exactly is Trinidad and Tobago's tourism product, if any? What is the market which we have in mind for that product? What infrastructure do we have to support an influx of visitors? The respective answers to the these questions are: Product? Not thought through beyond the emotional belief that "we special". The market? Foreigners, but looking for what, not entirely sure. Infrastructure? Pitifully inadequate. And of course what of the issue of crime?
Our strengths are our performing arts, especially music, food and fete and we must play to those strengths. We also have some exotic scenery but much of it is inaccessible or subject to tedious, traffic ridden pot-holed journeys to get there. Our disadvantages are distance, inefficient and unwelcoming arrival handling, lack of hotel rooms, no boarding house system with officially certified standards and no integration of the respective strengths of the fact that we are twin islands.
We are also scornful of our history and our governments are deliberately allowing our built heritage to fall into ruin to huff them for phallic symbols of steel, concrete and glass.
I have advocated our musical strength repeatedly and I have recently advanced my idea for the re-branding of our Republic as the land of the drum. I would simply add that the Eight of Hearts production is nearly ready for international audiences and, combined with a food festival and other expressions of the drum, is ripe for international promotion as a place worth leaving the US to spend a Memorial Day weekend, ripe to be sold as a pre-summer let down.
I see this weekend in the future as big as Carnival but with a different emphasis, which will carry forward the reputation of the pan as an exponent of popular music.
However, to promote any new musical event internationally does not require free trips for a tourism minister and his entourage. What is required is linkage with those of our musicians who have gone abroad and made a living and earned quiet but credible fame in music circles, like Robbie Greenidge and Happy Williams, who have made music all over the world, including New York City's famed Lincoln Center.
I had the privilege of listening to Robbie Greenidge at Steelfest. He generously told us how he made it abroad, having started hiding behind the lamppost to avoid being taken to school, only to go in the pan yard and when his music floated out, to get licks for his truancy. The whole range of heavy music people who embraced him is impressive.
On a recent visit to the United States I had a day-off in Brooklyn which Happy Williams described as "a take-the-job-and-shove-it day" during which we discussed the prospects for the international promotion of Trinbago music. The "shove-it day" was the concept of Happy's brother Noble, who had a number of Hollywood gigs.
I enjoyed the discussions about our music and maybe I will be so bold as to accept Happy's invitation to have further discussions with him in the form of an interview.
Is it beyond the narcissism of our officials to let these successful compatriots of ours into the plans for the future? Is it not time for us to employ these shining lights of the Caribbean as our theme persons for the future?