Thursday, January 18, 2018

Widespread pandering to the people

For many years now outspoken talk show host Morgan Job has been denouncing the notion that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. He retorts that the voice of the people is the voice of mischief and that “thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil”.

Dr Job goes on to lament that few leaders in our society provide leadership and direction and almost none even speak about what is required of a modern, progressive society.

I must admit that I expected more from the Fyzabad Accord considering the involvement of intellectuals like Winston Dookeran and Mary King.

Rather than getting a comprehensive plan or even a situation analysis, we have seen a pandering to the demands of people which is quickly degenerating into the creation of a welfare state with competitive bidding over who can dole out more “assistance”.

The natural danger of this “serving the people” is that it feeds off itself into a never-ending cycle of votes and welfare while never really solving anything. The role of a government is not to provide every service to its citizens. The role of a government is to lead and to put in place an enabling framework to ensure needs can be comfortably met.

Perhaps this may sound like elite capitalism, but I am actually more of a socialist who would like to see an end to suffering and poverty.

A typical example of what I mean is that access to affordable housing would be better served by bringing State land to the market rather than building and running housing developments.

The State is in a perfect position to fast-track approvals, access and infrastructure for land space while the private sector is in the perfect position to develop and manage housing developments efficiently.

The delivery speed of this approach alone would likely lead to a significant impact on house prices and perhaps even community values and crime.

More and more as I look around, I realise that what makes living in Trinidad and Tobago tedious is the way people think and behave. We all seem to be engaged in a race to the death, a hustle. Very few of us stick to our word or say what we mean.

Too many of us think that being clever means outsmarting somebody or “working the system”.

Outsiders are often amused at how offended we are when politicians engage in corruption because we are so corrupt ourselves at every level. I was therefore happy to see the public service announcement campaigns related to courtesy, dangerous driving and drug trafficking, but more is needed if we are to reform as a society – and it should start with statements from ministers.

Rishi-Nirvan Balroop

Diego Martin