Friday, December 15, 2017

Who’s really fixing T&T’s broken society?

I have to ask myself constantly, “Who’s fixing T&T?” Successive administrations have all claimed to be better than previous one, but in retrospect, they all appear to be no better than the other.

Politics in Trinidad and Tobago appears to be a popularity contest, with no party to date willing to do what they must realise as necessary to really “fix” our broken society. Now, on the cusp of an election year, all political parties will increase their rhetoric, tomfoolery, ballyhoo, and shenanigans.

Very recently members of the public and protective services had their union representatives threaten strike action, and in some cases, suspend services to members of the public. I have no problem with an increase in wages, provided that it is both warranted, and more importantly, deserved. I ask the following questions to these union leaders and their membership:

1. What metrics are being used to gauge “performance” of these employees to necessitate an increase in remuneration?

2. Mindful of the fact that we live in a society that is driven largely by our “sense of entitlement,” how can you reasonably justify an increase in remuneration for these employees based on what we’ve got from them thus far?

3. Are these employees and their union representatives aware of the current debt-to-GDP ratio of Trinidad and Tobago?

Successive administrations have miserably failed Trinidad and Tobago largely due to their notion of partisan politics and the popularity contest that they play. Which administration to date has made efforts to effect any of the following:

1. Food security for Trinidad and Tobago also with efforts at reducing the astronomically high food import bill.

2. Diversify the economy away from the hydrocarbon industry. These resources are finite, so what happens when our resources are depleted or when cheaper alternatives become available, like shale gas from North America?

3. Decentralisation of administrative services from Port of Spain.

4. Limit the volume of foreign used cars that appear on our streets.

5. Improve Public Transit services to make it an efficient alternative to driving a car to work.

6. Toll the highways for private automobiles with less than two people, inclusive of the driver.

7. Remove the absurd fuel subsidy that serves no sensible purpose, other than being an economic black hole.

8. Revamp the GATE programme and revert to the 50-50 agreement. This has two immediate benefits. Firstly, it’ll save taxpayers millions of dollars annually, and secondly, it attaches a value to this opportunity for all students, and thus makes them personally liable for their success or failure.

9. Scrutinise all welfare and social assistance applications more thoroughly.

10. Revisit the taxation regime in Trinidad and Tobago. Everyone, regardless of income should bear tax liability. I find it hard to imagine that someone earning less than $5,000 per month bears no tax liability but still enjoys commensurate social services that taxation funds. We need to do more to eradicate this type of parasitism in the economy.

11. Environmental preservation and protection with very strict and enforceable laws that severely punish infractions.

12. Encourage “sustainable development” in the country and not this willy-nilly runaway development that we have been seeing recently.

13. Alleviate this “overabundance of labour” that we observe within all state-run utilities in the country.

14. Design and develop a multi-disciplined approach aimed at reducing both white- and blue-collar crime, in both the private and public sectors.

I suspect we need a change in our mindset and the pass-the-buck mentality that permeates our society for any change to be meaningful. Regardless of your political affiliation or orientation, we have to realise that we all have a part to play in moving Trinidad and Tobago ahead.

Sherwin P Cedeno

Princes Town