Thursday, December 22, 2011


Christmas is always a wonderful time of the year ... even, I dare say, for those who are not christian. It is a time for family and friends and getting together to share ... especially in the way that every culture in the world shares memorable moments and occasions ... with food and drink and the giving of gifts. On Christmas Eve the excitement in the homes that are fortunate enough to have young children is so intense that many parents wonder if the little ones will ever fall asleep.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas this week ... not only about its religious and historical significance, but what the festival has come to mean in the hearts of millions of families around the world. When I was a little boy Christmas simply meant toys under the tree on Christmas morning. As I grew older, I began to appreciate the gathering of the family for Christmas lunch/ dinner (in my house we always had a very, very late lunch at about 5pm ... or, if you like, early dinner). I didn't notice the 'empty' chairs at first around the Christmas table ... those family members who had passed on or couldn't be there for whatever reason ... nor did I notice the hint of sadness in the eyes of my parents and older folk who had gathered. There were too many happy songs to be sung and I sang all of them!

But as the years have passed I have become more and more aware of the 'empty' chairs ... grown children in Australia, loved ones who have passed, and others who for one (good) reason or another simply cannot be there.

So, does this mean that those of us who have had the pain and sadness of losing a loved one this past year (or at any other time) should cry long tears at Christmas time? Well, if we want to. But I prefer to remember the words of the poet who said

"Life is real, life is earnest
And the grave is not its goal.
Dust thou art and to dust returneth
Was not spoken of the soul"

No. Christmas is a wonderful time ... and Christmas is (amongst other things) about life, glorious life. Remember those who have passed ... by all means. Shed a tear for them if you want. But on Christmas morning draw a deep breath and enjoy being alive. Christmas is a time for everybody to reflect, be happy and (most importantly) share with family and friends. It is, after all is said and done, a time for love.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and to your families.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Driving to work this morning I was indulging in my usual 'surfing' of the radio talk shows when I stopped on one that caught my ear. The hosts were talking about the problem that is Laventille and how nothing seems to have worked there for the last fifty or so years ... if not longer. Everything seems to have been tried and everything seems to have failed.

Like most Trinidadians I am acutely aware of the human disaster zone that is Laventille. I am also very aware of all that has been done (and not done) and the fact that so long as we don't fix it that we are all simply waiting for the moment when it explodes ... again!

So? What to do? I am of the view that there is no short term fix. This is a problem that took decades to come to where it is today and that short of dropping a nuclear bomb on the place (and, no! I am certainly not advocating that!) `the problem will not go away with a social program here ( a la "Colour Me Orange") or a basketball court there (a la PNM). And although we profess to be familiar with Einstein's edict concerning the definition of insanity, successive regimes continue to do effectively the same thing (though calling it by different names) while expecting a different result. And, of course, the different result never comes!

When I was a young lawyer I was told by an old (and very wise) Queen's Counsel that if I ever wanted to understand a problem I had to go back to basics. That sage advice has helped me enormously as I have journeyed through the adventures that have made up my life. So, applying that advice to Laventille, what is the basic problem there? Answer: extreme ignorance fuelled by excrutiating poverty. I know that a lot of people are going to take offence at the label of extreme ignorance, but it is unfortunately true. I admit that I have no figures to back me up on this, but I will bet dollars to doughnuts that the level of illiteracy in that unfortunate place is intolerably high. I will bet that most of the gang members (if not all) are functionally illiterate. And I will bet that most (if not all) of the pregnant teenage girls can't read or write properly (if at all) either! So, how do you ... we ... fix the social problem that is Laventille? And while I will admit that the ability to read and write may not be everything in this world it does pave the way for a child's mind to be opened. No society in the whole history of mankind has ever succeeded with an illiterate and ignorant population.

The answer has to be by education. The only way out of poverty and to raise a society's standards is by educating the population. In this regard I must say that I believe that our education system is an abysmal failure ... that it is failing our society, not only in Laventille, but in the country as a whole. But that is grist for another post. Let's just concentrate on Laventille for the moment. The schools that cater to that depressed area need to be revamped so that the kids that are churned out at the end are capable, responsible and right thinking. Now, that's a tall order! Those kids already have the terrible hurdles of badly educated (if at all) mothers, terrible and totally unacceptable male role models, and politicians of all stripes (but unfortunately mostly in the PNM) who seek not to help them but to use them for narrow political and sectarian purposes.

But it can be done. It will take time ... more than five years, which is why it probably has never been done. Nobody in power now will get the credit for something that will take about twenty years to fix. But don't fix it now (and 'now' means now!) and it will only get worse. Don't the Chinese have a saying about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with the first step?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


"Prime Ministers tend not to lose all their credibility in one go ... Rather it erodes in fits and starts amid accumulations of misstep and scandal".
The Economist - July 14th, 2011

The Government is facing a serious credibility problem that is largely of its own making on the question of the allleged plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and three other Ministers. This follows on the heels of other missteps and scandals such as the Reshmi Ramnarine affair, Caribbean Airlines, the Sat Maharaj/School Principal matter, and (what feels like) a host of others too numerous to count. Why they didn't let the Commissioner of Police announce the alleged plot is beyond me. At least if everything fell apart later (as it did) then he ... and not the Prime Minister ... would have taken the credibility "hit".

This supposed plot to kill the Prime Minister et al was a classic case of misstep that could and should have been avoided from the very beginning. First of all, assassinations of Prime Ministers and Presidents are usually carried out by one of two types: a "crazy" or a small group bent on regime change. But a group of 16 or so plotters is anything but small, and, assuming (though not accepting) that the allegations are true, then the sheer size of the group is practically a guarantee that the plot would leak out. The alleged plotters therefore could not have been very competent.

Put another way, something is missing from the information that we have been given, for the story that we have been given really doesn't make sense. The apparent aim of the assassinations was to cause panic and confusion in the society? Really? For what purpose? Who would benefit from this? For somebody has to benefit. You aren't going to do something as serious as this just to create confusion and panic ... unless you are crazy. And theer is no allegation that the alleged plotters are crazy. So, what could the purpose possibly have been?

The creator of Sherlock Holmes put these words in the mouth of his famous detective:

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"

So, using Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's logic, what can we deduce from what we have been told? Remember, we were told (a) there was a plot to kill the PM, and
(b) the aim was to create panic and confusion.
Now, assuming (though again not accepting) that this is indeed true, who would possibly benefit from the resulting panic and confusion? Would it be ... could it be ... somebody who would hope that the UNC would turn to him(her) for guidance and leadership and that he(she) would then tell the Party who to appoint as Prime Minister and thus become the "kingmaker" with all the resulting power that flows from such a position because the new "king" would owe his position to the "kingmaker"? Who?

I agree that this scenario is highly improbable ... but you have to admit that it makes a certain sense if what we were told is true! I will also admit that there are other possible scenarios that I have not been able to imagine. But something has to make sense! And I find it difficult to believe that the Prime Minister lied to us about the plot. So, if she didn't, what is the piece of information that we are missing in order for the plot to make sense?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Okay! I should say up front that I have absolutely no statistic to prove or disprove my belief in the real size of our population ... just a certain amount of skepticism and common sense. You see, for at least the last 20 or so years politicians (and everybody else for that matter) have been saying that we are a nation of about 1.3 million people. But that just can't be true! Look! The Elections & Boundaries Commission (EBC) said in the elections last year that there were more than 900,000 people on the electoral register (I can't remember the exact figure, which isn't important any way, for I am not dealing here with completely accurate figures). So, if that is the case, what percentage of the adult population do you think is not registered to vote? Ten percent? Twenty percent? Thirty percent? What? Most people that I ask this question say that they think that the percentage of the adult population that is not registered to vote is somewhere between twenty and thirty percent! (You see now why I said that I wasn't concerned with absolute accuracy of figures!) So, let's take the lower figure of twenty percent, and rounding it off we would say then that there are about 300,000 people who are not registered to vote. In other words, there are about 1.2 million adults in this country (900,000 registered voters plus 300,000 unregistered adults).

Now, if there are 1.2 million adults in the country, how many children do you think there are? (And by 'child' I mean anybody under the age of 18). Do you, for example, believe that the ratio of children to adults is one child to every adult? More? Less? Most people tell me that they think the ratio is about one and a half children to every adult. So, assuming (though not accepting ... but it sounds right) that this is so that would mean that there are about 1.8 million children in the country. Add this to the 1.2 million adults that we calculated above and you come up with a figure of about 3 million people living in this little twin island Republic.

Why is this important? Because if all of our plans, financial and otherwise, are based on a population of 1.3 million and the reality is that the population is more than double that then it must follow that all of our plans are useless! Our statistics as regards GDP would be wrong and the fiscal plans to prevent a further worsening of the recession would be totaly inadequate. We need to get a firm fix on where we are as regards poulation size ... and we need this information like yesterday! A census was done sometime ago. Its results need to be published ... now.

Monday, November 21, 2011

FLOODING (or, if it ain't my responsibility it ain't my fault)!

Have you ever noticed that when anything goes wrong in good old T&T that Nobody is to blame. Poor old Nobody! He gets in trouble all the time! But then it's always his fault! When you ask 'who did this?' or 'who is responsible?' you always get the answer 'Nobody'. As a result, nothing ever gets fixed. Nothing ever gets changed. And Nobody gets fired!

I know. I am being ridiculous. But, unfortunately, I am also being deadly accurate. Nobody ever gets blamed or punished for anything! It is never anybody's responsibility to make certain, for example, that applications for planning approvals for development include plans for proper drainage. It is never anybody's responsibility to deal with unapproved and unauthorised development ... even when this unauthorised development causes drainage (read "flooding") problems.

Patrick Manning used to boast about his Vision 20/20 plans. But in the seven year period in which he boasted and promoted it never once did I ever read of bench marks that would be able to tell us whether or not the implementation of this vision was on track. Even more importantly, nowhere did I ever read that people were going to be made responsible for things ... especially when they went wrong!

The flooding in Port of Spain and its western environs that took place after very heavy showers, that lasted only for about one hour, on Saturday has caused terrible damage and a great deal of unnecessary suffering that ought to have been avoidable. But when you ask whose fault it was you get answers like "developers" or "clogged drains" or some other vague reply. Who are these developers? What are their names? What developments? Who were the engineers? Who were the builders? Were things done according to approved plans? If so, who approved the plans? If the plans were not approved, then why didn't the relevant authority stop the development and do something about it? Bottom line: Who is responsible? And the answer? (Sound the trumpets) Nobody!

I am reluctantly coming to the very sad conclusion that we are all insane ... mad ... crazy! For we continue to do the same things over and over again and continue to expect a different result. Take the Office of Disaster and Preparedness Management (ODPM) for example. What exactly is its function? To hand out matteresses? If it is supposed to help prevent disasters then what exactly is it doing to prevent them? What? What steps has it taken to mitigate or prevent disasters? But what have we done to make this office function the way that it should? Where is the media in all this? Why doesn't the media ask for the names of those responsible and publicise them? Why? But Nobody has been fired from the ODPM for not doing his job!

And we continue to accept mediocrity. When somebody complains he/she is usually met with 'well, this is Trinidad!' as if that is a good reason (not even an excuse) to put up with the particular incompetence or inefficiency. We continue to allow ourselves to be sidetracked over stupid and unimportant issues (the PNM's present raging debate over whether or not their MP's should wear a balisier tie is a classic example of our collective stupidity on focusing on things that are unimportant) and do not tackle head on the things that are important and affect our lives, and most importantly, solve them!

But then Nobody is to blame for anything and everything. And the problem is that we can't fix it because it's Nobody's responsibility. Nobody will fix it ... we don't have to! But my guess is that Nobody is gonna fix things anytime soon. Why should he? We can't fire Nobody. He's got a job for life!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A lot of people may not realise it, but we are witness to history right now. The once mighty and invincable PNM is on its death bed and the last rites have been read. Oh! Don't get me wrong. The brand will be around for a long time, but the once great Party and all that it stood for is effectively dead and gone and the present leadership is totally and completely incapable of bringing it back to life. It simply is no longer a credible alternative government and is totally and completely incapable of uniting this little country of ours.

Although most of us might not have recognised it at the time, with the benefit of hindsight the Party clearly was mortally ill long before the May 2010 elections which effectively dealt it a mortal blow. Indeed, there are a lot of people (especially PNM people) who simply cannot understand why Manning called the election so early. The obvious answer was that he was facing a potentially devastating vote of no confidence which was being brought by then Leader of the Opposition Kamla Persad Bissessar and he didn't want what the then Opposition had to say to come out. If it had, his moral authority (which was already tenuous thanks to the UDECOTT Commission of Enquiry and its very public revelations) would have evaporated completely. Further, he was was facing a very serious rebellion in his own ranks. Dr. Rowley, because of his attacks on Manning up to that point, would have had to join with the Opposition against Mr. Manning, or lose complete credibility both within as well as without his Party. It was also quite probable that Rowley would have pulled a few of his supporters with him. All of this meant that even if he had been able to defeat the vote of no confidence in the Parliament, Manning would have lost it outside ... and outside is where it really counts!

Fast forward some 17 months later and only the most obtuse would not recognise that his so-called apology was a case of too little too late. After a truly dismal record as Prime Minister Mr. Manning came forward to apologise to "all those whom I have caused to be disenfrachised". What? Who did he disenfranchise? The Indian community? Most certainly he did do that! But did he mean them? I doubt it. And if he did then I really don't believe that the apology was sincere. Sorry. But actions speak louder than words. He hasn't done a thing to show that community that he is truly sorry for his actions over the years that effectively discriminated against them. And he did, people. He did!

So who was he referring to? Those PNMites who were feeding at the public trough? Quite possibly. That at least would be more believable. But that apology was really too late. It could have and should have come a lot earlier.

But the truth is that Mr. Manning really couldn't care less. What he was (and is) trying to do is to undermine Dr. Rowley ... who, God bless him, is trying as hard as he can to help Mr. Manning do just that! Everybody understood what Mr. Manning meant when he said that he wasn't going to be like "a pothound chasing after every passing car". What he was doing was demoting Dr. Rowley from rottwheiller status to that of a pot hound. And good old Rowley has cheerfully re-confirmed that he does just that when he made such stupid and silly comments about businessmen Steve Ferguson and Ishwar Galbaransingh winning their extradition matter that it provoked a meeting of the Law Association to discuss whether the comments constitute a contempt of Court.

Rowley clearly did not bother to read the 57 page judgement nor did he bother to acquaint himself remotely with the law of extradition. If you are going to criticise, by all means do so. But at least do it from an informed perspective. Nobody says that you have to agree with everything a judge decides ... even if it is a decision coming from the Privy Council! But if you are going to disagree, then for crying out loud, do so from a point that clearly understands all of the arguments.

I don't want here to go into that "Ish & Steve" case. We can deal with it at another time if necessary. The point here is not the decision of the judge, but how Rowley dealt with it. Rowley simply does not have the intellectual capacity nor the political "smarts" to lead a national political party. He is clear evidence of the "Peter Principle" at work.

The PNM has no effective or national leadership. There is nobody in its present hierarchy that looks remotely like an alternative Prime Minister and the Party is reaching more and more down into its more racist elements in order to be able to show that it has some modicum of support. Most of its educated and more sober minded supporters now look on with not little dismay. They can't bring themselves over even to support the COP (and that tells us something about the COP ... but, again, that's another story), and certainly they feel most uncomfortable with the UNC, but they can't bring themselves to vote for the Party that led this country to independance almost 5o years ago. So, those voters are parked up now and the PNM is about to die (if it ain't dead already)!

The problem here for Kamla is that politics (like nature) abhors a vacuum. There is no guarantee that a new third force will not rise to take the PNM's place, and if it does, and the economy remains sluggish, it could cause serious problems for the Partnership. We'll all continue to watch with interest.

Monday, October 31, 2011


We all are (or ought to be) familiar with Albert Einstein's famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. It seems to me that this is what we have been doing for a long time ... too long. Quite frankly. I cannot discern any real difference between the economic philosophies and policies of this administration from the last, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary and despite all the previous hype about "new politics". If there are policy differences, then could somebody please explain them to me.

The economy is central to everything ... the war against crime, the making of a better life for the citizenry, better health care, better education, better roads ... everything! If the economy fails then everything else sooner or later (and usually sooner) will also fail. Once you understand this fundamental fact then you will understand why I keep going on about the economy and what the Government is or is not doing about it.

Back in 1987 the "flavour" of the time was "trickle down economics". This was an economic theory that had two powerful adherents ... Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. When the NAR Government came in under A.N.R. Robinson it followed the principles of this theory slavishly. The argument then was that T&T needed to adopt these type of economic principles in order to get out of the rather deep hole that we had dug ourselves into. At the time I was an Opposition Senator and argued that you could not run a country like a business ... a country was not a business, and that if you attempted to do so then while you would get the country out of the hole what would happen is that the rich would get richer and that the poor would get poorer and the middle class would be squeezed out of existance.

Well, Manning came to power in 1991 and persued the same economic policies. Then came Panday in 1995, and Manning again in 2001. As far as economic policies are concerned nothing changed. (This has nothing to do with Manning's squandermania ... we are talking about economic policies! Even the best policies go awry when the wealth of a country is squandered). And here we are back at the beginning as it were ... 1987 all over again. (It is interesting to note, by the way, that Mr. Dookeran was the Planning Minister in Robinson's Cabinet back then).

Time has, most unfortunately, proven my 1987 arguments correct. The gap between rich and poor is now much greater than it ever was, and the middle class is gasping for breath on its death bed. If the present Finance Minister continues on his present course he might get us out of the hole, but at a terrible cost. It would be like the famous medical joke: the operation was a success but the patient died!

So, what to do? We ought to take another look at how we are doing things. Maybe we should take a leaf out of former President Bill Clinton's idea of "invest and grow economics" as opposed to the outdated and discredited "trickle down" theory. We need to start creating ... like yesterday ... a new investment paradigm. We need to make T&T a place where people will want to come and live and invest. Do you know, for example, that Brazil is enjoying an influx of qualified and educated Europeans who, unable to find work in their own countries are now migrating en masse to Brazil? This 'reverse' brain drain is beginning to cause such concern that just last week you had the BBC reporting on it. Educated immigrants build a country. So, why don't we look at this possibility? And if you tell me in a rather smug manner that you are, then what are you doing about it?

Put another way, the time has come to stop all the "ol' talk" which we are so good at. No! The time has come to perform ... get things done! As the old Basdeo Panday used to say ... and he was right ... performance beats old talk every time! We don't need a lot of half baked theories, nor do we need a bunch of badly articulated speeches. We need action ... now! And just in case you didn't understand "now" means now!

Friday, October 21, 2011


The just concluded budget debate was as uninspiring as the erstwhile Finance Minister's budget presentation. It is almost as if every single Parliamentarian was absolutely determined not to outshine the Minister when it came to his ideas on the management of the economy. Everybody payed lip service to the old idea that "we have to stop depending on our oil and gas" (and I have put the phrase in inverted commas on purpose), but nobody came up with any new ideas as to how we should achieve this obviously desirable goal. Nobody stood up and articulated a vision as to how we should or could achieve this highly desirable goal. Because let's face it, the oil and gas will run out one of these days! And then what?!

Looking at the relationship between Government and the private sector in this country since dinosaurs roamed the earth (or at least since independence) it is difficult to come to any other conclusion but that the private sector has failed miserably and/or been unable to meet the great challenge of being able to pay its own way as far as exports are concerned. In other words, if it weren't for the oil and gas revenues we would not be anywhere near the level of development that we now enjoy. So, the big question is why? Why hasn't the private sector 'stepped up to the plate and performed as it should have? They have had almost fifty years to do this! So? Why haven't they?

A friend of mine has suggested to me that one of the reasons for this is quite simple: all elected governments tend to become elected dictatorships for their term in office. In good old T&T the business class has tended to "suck up" to the Administration of the day and behave as supplicants rather than as partners. The result to date has been that the elected politicians tend to preen their feathers and enjoy their temporary and apparent superiority without bothering to realise that this attitude has stymied economic growth for the last fifty years! It is more fun to deal with a supplicant rather than with a partner. Having to deal with a partner would mean that you have to listen to his views ... which can occasionally be inconvenient. But if the rules mean that any time you want to get something that you have to come to me for permission then my ego is inflated and there is a good chance that I can get my pocket fattened as well. So, it ain't really in my interest ("me" being a politician of any political party who is either in office at the moment or who has hopes of one day being in office) to fix the problem or change the rules in any meaningful way that would allow you to make decisions without having to beg or ask me for a favour.

Let me put it another way: there are a host of things that require governmental approval or licences. At any given time on any given subject, the businessman has to jump through hoops to get his approval. There is no such thing as a fast track for anything, ranging from the simple application for a passport to the obtaining of an energy licence to do exploration. Work permits continue to be difficult to obtain, even when the foreigner invests substantial sums in the country. The prevailing attitude from those in charge of the State apparatus is that they are doing us a favour ... and not the other way around ... by giving us a licence or permission for whatever!

If you compare Trinidad and Tobago with Singapore you will get an idea of where I am coming from. In Singapore the Government treats with the private sector as partners, not as supplicants. Decisions on all matters are quick and informed. The Government there does not try to supplant or dominate the business community.The result has been that a small country with no apparent physical resources has boomed in the last fifty years. Things work there ... and work well! A lot has to do with attitude, especially the attitude of the politicians and the civil servants.

We have to start realising that it is not sinful to make money and to start creating an environment that is truly "business friendly". This is not to say that the business community is without sin. Don't let me get started on that! Maybe the sins of the business community can be the subject of another post, but let's deal with one thing at a time.

"New politics" (that grossly over used and over abused phrase) ought to be revisited again ... and this time it ought to mean something. It ought to mean creating a new and efficient business environment. It ought to mean that we are finally growing up and realise that our favourite colour should be the colour of our hundred dollar bills ... blue!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Okay. I think that now is about the time in the old cowboy movies when the wagons had been circled and the Indians were riding around shooting flaming arrows into them and amunition was running low that you would hear the sound of a bugle and you knew that at the last minute the cavalry was going to appear from just behind the hill and chase the Indians away saving everybody except for a couple of bad guys in the wagon train who had been conveniently killed by the Indians. In other words, now is the time for the cavalry (in the form of the Prime Minister) to take charge and fire her Finance Minister before all the wagons (the economy) are completely burned and the Indians (the economic problems facing us) completely overwhelm the wagon train (the country).

The budget presented by Mr. Dookeran was wooly, lacked any kind of detail, pretended that nothing had been promised last year and therefore there was no need to refer to any of the unkept promises from last year (because they simply didn't exist in his mind), and did absolutely nothing to engender confidence in his stewardship of the economy. It was a hodgepodge of good wishes and vague promises. In simple English, look out for more of the same that we have endured over the last year. Things just aren't going to get better ... in fact, they will probably get worse!

If I am proven wrong then I will be the first person to sing 'Glory Halleluiah!! Thank goodness that I was wrong!" I genuinely do not want to be right! But if I am right ... and, unfortunately, I believe that I am ... what are we going to do? Hold our collective heads and bawl "woe is me!"? Well, that is one solution. Another would be to take charge of our destiny by telling the Prime Minister that while we still have confidence in her, regretably, we do not have any confidence in Mr. Dookeran's ability to manage our economy. Let's face it! He has failed to deliver! And the sooner that we face up to this the better. I know that I am mixing metaphors here, but we have to stop being the people who see that the Emperor is naked and pretending that he isn't.

Can the economy be saved? The short answer is 'yes'. But it cannot be saved and will not be saved unless there is leadership with clear and well articulated policies and ideas to get us out of the stinking morass that we find ourselves in. And regretably, that just ain't comin' from our hapless and seemingly helpless Finance Minister.

Actually, he should count himself lucky, because the Opposition PNM is even more hapless and helpless than he is. Dr. Rowley and his cohorts are continuously reminding all of us why we voted them out last year. Dr. Rowley's budget contribution failed to gain any traction, nor has he been able to articulate even his good points (because he did have a few) in a way that resonated with the average person. The truth is that the PNM is suffering from a dearth (as well as a death)of leadership. It is hard to believe that it could have ever happened, but Dr. Rowley's performance over the last 16 months or so has had the obviously unintended effect of making Patrick Manning look good!

But Kamla should not sit back and take too much comfort from the PNM's obvious disarray. The old truism that oppositions do not win elections ... governments lose them, still holds true today. The Prime Minister cannot rest on the fact that she is today the most popular politician in the country. Nor should she take comfort from the fact that the majority of the population still supports her Government. She should remember that the Indians in the old cowboy movies were able to inflict tremendous damage on wagon trains that carried with it incompetent persons who failed to live up to their responsibilities to guard the wagons and the people inside. How many old movies have you seen where a guard fell asleep and the Indians were able to sneek up, kill him and then cause serious damage to the wagons and their occupants? Usually in those old movies, the hero/heroine would see the Indians sneeking in and raise the alarm. We need the heroine in this real life cowboy and indian movie to raise the alarm right now. She is the only one who can do it. Put another way, give Mr. Dookeran another job. Anything! Send him to China! Anywhere! Just get him out of Finance. We can't afford him there much longer.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


In a few days from now the Minister of Finance is going to unveil his 2011-2012 budget. There are many who are predicting that the very large gasoline or fuel subsidy will be radically reduced if only because we can no longer afford it. There are others who are predicting (including the Minister) that there will be several "surprises" ... and that most of them will be unpleasant. (Though, to be fair to the Minister, although he has said that there will be "surprises", he hasn't said that they will be unpleasant.) My question is why is it necessary for there to be "surprises" (especially unpleasant ones) from a politician who spent years preaching transparency and open government?

And this brings me to the central point of this post: Leadership! I have said it many times ... the only test for leadership is to lead and to lead vigorously! But in order to lead you have to have some idea of where you want to go. You don't want to lead people, for example, off a cliff onto the sharp rocks below. In order to lead vigorously you have to explain where it is that you want to go, why you want to get there, how you intend to get there, and what everyone is going to have to do in order to get to that "shining city on the hill". Once you do that you will find that if your ideas are clear and logical people will happily follow, even if it entails some immediate sacrifice on their part. But, if you don't explain yourself properly and just in effect say 'well, this is what I am going to do and I expect all of you to be quiet and just fall in line' , then you will sooner or later get a lot of grumbling that will eventually spill over into serious protest that is neither welcome nor healthy for any democratic society.

The truth is that people only resort to protesting when they feel that their leaders are not listening and/or don't really care about the problems that are being encountered by the protestors in their day to day lives.If people feel that their leaders care and are doing the best that they can in all of the circumstances they will "take the pressure". But it is so very important that the people can see the light at the end of the tunnel and understand why it is necessary to "go through the tunnel" all the way until the end.

The present Finance Minister is regarded by many as having failed in his stewardship of the economy over the last 16 months that he has been in office. To those who would disagree I say look at the fact that the TT dollar has slipped from $6.30 to US$1.00 down to about $6.47 to US$1.00 in the last 16 months ... and it continues to fall. The Central Bank has said that the reason for the slippage is the high demand for US dollars. Why would anyone want to convert his TT dollars into US dollars at this time in history when the pressure on the American economy is terrible, the immediate prospects for teh American economy are anything but good, and interest rates in American banks on deposits hover at around half of one percent? There is only one answer that makes sense: people with money have more confidence in the American economy than they do in the Trinidad one! Then you have only got to listen to almost every businessman complaining that "things are slow". Yes! Things are slow! Unemployment is rising slowly and people are finding it harder to make ends meet. Maybe things might have been worse if you, Mr. Minister, had not done certain things. But is it too much to ask you to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the economy, Clico and everything else?! Because let me tell you something: It is not too much to demand from you that you tell us what has been going on and what you intend to do in clear and unequivocal terms. You didn't do that last year!

And therein lies the case for leadership. The Minister should understand that he has precious little time left to lead us out of the stagnation that we have found ourselves in. I do understand that a lot of the problems that the Minister is grappling with are not of his making. But that ain't the point! The point is that we voted for you to solve these problems for us. Speaking for myself only, I really do hope that the Minister does not spend an inordinate time on Monday telling us all about the problems. Hello! We know what they are. What we want to know is how you are going to fix them and why you believe that the solutions that you are presenting will work. We also want to know what are your benchmarks for success.

If you do that Mr. Minister, everyone (including me) will praise you and call you a hero. If you don't do that, then quite frankly, and as nice as you are, the Prime Minister should fire you, for you clearly cannot lead. And leadership is what we so desperately need right now!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This Government really needs somebody to help them explain to the public their aims and objectives for or on any particular issue ... especially when there are so many thorny issues that need explaining. In the Twenty-First century it is a sine qua non that governments should be open and transparent, at least if they aspire to be democratic. It is also important to keep reminding this Government that they were elected (inter alia) on a promise of just that, i.e., openness and transparency. And it is important that we keep on pointing out that they are failing miserably in being open and transparent on a host of important issues.

I raise this now because I am concerned at the lack of a cohesive message coming from the Government concerning the State of Emergency (SoE), what are the aims and goals that the Government has, for what I have previously called "the end game" strategy. As I have said before, I personally can't see "the end game" strategy, which is, of course, a far different thing from saying that such a strategy does not exist. But in looking at what has happened over the last month in the country and in also reading (or trying to at any rate) everything that both the proponents and the critics of the SoE have had to say, I have come to certain tentative conclusions which I will readily admit are not necessarily accurate. Still, persons with whom I have discussed them with agree that they make some sense. It is in this light that I seek to share them with you.

First of all, it is unreasonable to expect that the SoE will mean the complete or virtual elimination of serious crime. It won't and it can't. The "bad boys" will get out of jail sooner or later and they will try to return to their evil ways. And the police will have to be prepared to deal with that when it happens ... as it most certainly will.

However, what we can all hope for and reasonably expect is that the imposition of the SoE and the seizures of arms and ammunition has been (will be) such that this combination seriously dents the various criminal enterprises being carried on by the various criminal gangs. In other words, it is going to be difficult for the gangs to get back up to their previous levels of murderous activity. Anything that makes life difficult for the criminals has to be a good thing.

Secondly, there has been a lot of criticism that "Mr. Big" has not yet been caught. This criticism is really as unrealistic as it is unfair. Let's examine a few facts:
(1) Something like 98 per cent of the gang activity (murders, armed robbery, etc.)
is being committed by gangs coming out of what you might call the "original
hotspots" like Laventille and the Beetham. It happens that most of the people
in these areas are African ... which is why most of those arrested/detained so
far have been black.
(2) These gangs are not the importers of the guns. It is reasonable to assume
(though I will readily confess that I have absolutely no evidence to back this up)
that the importers of the arms and ammunition come from Central and South. I
say this because I believe that most of the smuggling of guns and drugs come in
through fishing boats operated by "fishermen" in Central and South. Now,
assuming that this is correct then it is also quite probable that most of these
gun importers are Indian. Again, I say this because the majority of East Indians
live in Central and South. It is also reasonable to assume that these are the "Mr
Bigs" that everybody keeps talking about.
(3) The problem for the authorities is that without some sort of evidence it is going
to be difficult, if not impossible to get any kind of evidence against the gun
importers. Think about it. If you were a gang leader and I was your supplier of
guns and ammunition I would be the last person that you would "sell out".
There are two obvious reasons for this: First of all, if you sold me out you would
be cutting off your future supply, and secondly, if you sold me out I would
probably kill you and/or your family. Think about it!

In other words, the authorities ain't gonna catch "Mr. Big" any time soon. They will catch a few "big" gang leaders, but those guys at the top of the pyramid will continue to walk the streets of T&T! Sad, but true! The authorities therefore are probably better off doing just what they have been doing ... attacking the "market" that the "Mr. Bigs" have been supplying their products to in an effort to destroy or seriusly damge the trade.

Some politicians have foolishly been trying to play the race card in order to bolster their standing with certain elements of the electorate. This is as stupid as it is dangerous and should be condemned by all right thinking people. But that is not the point of this particular post.

The point is that we ought to understand that regardless of what some might be saying, that the bench marks for success in this SoE have to be a lot lower than what we might be being led to believe. Therefore, the bench marks for success have to be:
(a) That when the SoE is removed although we can expect
(regretably) some escalation again in criminal activity, that such
activity is considerably less than what was pertaining before the SoE
was declared;
(b) That the intelligence/information gathered by the police during this
SoE is such that the police will now be in a position to force the
continued downward spiral of serious crime in this little country of

Put another way, we should be very realistic as to what is and what is not achievable. Speaking for myself, I believe that what I have said above is achievable and realistic. I, for one, will be satisfied if this is indeed what is achieved. What do you think? What are your benchmarks for judging the success of the SoE?

Monday, September 5, 2011


To say that the contributions of the PNM Opposition in the State of Emergency (SoE) debate in Parliament over the weekend were pithy and uninspiring is to put it mildly. The primary purpose of an Opposition in a democratic Parliament is to present achievable alternatives for or to a particular problem. Instead of coming to the Parliament with real ideas and proposals just about every Opposition speaker from Keith Rowley to Amery Browne (and everybody in between) simply attacked the Government with criticisms that on occasion were overtly racist in both tone and content and provided absolutely no alternatives to the present imbroglio.

As readers of this blog will have noted, I am one of those who is most concerned about the end result. I too have said (and continue to say) that there has to be a well thought out strategy to be able to take the country up over and out. But, I have made it clear (or tried to at any rate) that I cautiously support the Government in this SoE and that I am dearly hoping that they do in fact succeed. The fact that I can't discern an 'end game' strategy does not mean that there isn't one. And no, I personally do not have at this time any 'end game' solutions. So, we should all just sit and wait ... at least for a while. Put another way, I am prepared to give the Government a chance to make things right. Heck! it is in my/our interests that they do make things right.

But life has to go on, and one of the most important events of the year is just around the corner ... and that is the presentation of the annual budget. No thinking person in the country cannot help but be concerned. We have seen the TT dollar over the last 15 or so months slip from about TT$6.30 to US$1.00 down to about TT$6.47 to US$1.00! And the Minister of Finance has behaved as if this is no big thing and of no great concern to him. In talking to persons who should know they tell me that the main reason for this 'slippage' is because wealthy Trinidadians are taking their money out ... in other words, they do not have confidence in the Government's overall ability to manage the economy and they are betting on a continuing slide or devaluation.

Now, I have spoken with several Government Ministers and other spokesmen who assure me that the budget will change things radically for the better and that we are going to see fairly soon some big projects that will turn on the flow of dollars once more ... indeed, the Prime Minister herself spoke in Parliament over the weekend of a huge $40 billion project that is about to be launched for Invaders Bay. But these big projects have to start coming on stream now ... and 'now' means now!!

What also needs to happen is for the Minister of Finance to start to tell the country what his plans are in advance of the budget. People need hope that things will get better. One of the ways of giving them that hope is to explain to the population how you are planning things to make their lives better and what exactly you are planning. We need to see the plans and be able to understand them. We need to have an idea of when things are likely to start turning around. And we need to understand why you think that it will take the time that you say. Or, as I have said before: Explain! Explain!! Explain!!!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Like most people in the country, I am very concerned about the crime situation and an hoping and praying that this state of emergency (SOE) really does 'break the backs' of the criminal gangs. And, like a lot of thinking people who do not have access to security reports, I am concerned because I cannot discern a clear strategy for what happens after the SOE is lifted and life goes back to 'normal' (whatever 'normal' was).

You see, I was doing some very simple arithmetic on the back of a napkin in a favourite watering hole at lunch time yesterday and came up with the following:

Let's say that we have a population of 1.5 million people. (In the absence of the publication of a reliable census we are all guessing ... I am assuming that the population is in fact larger than the 1.3 million everybody quotes. All the other figures too are simply assumptions/guesses, but hopefully you will get my point). Now, let's say that the African/Black population is a little less than half that figure ... say, 650,000. Now, let's say that of that figure approximately half are males ... so that would give us a figure of 325,000. Now, let's say that of that figure a little less than half live in the 'hotspots'. So that would give us a figure of approximately 150,000 African males living in the 'hotspots'. And of that figure let's say that approximately half are young enough/old enough to be the 'target age group' for gang membership. That would yield a figure of approximately 75,000. And finally, let's say that gang membership is confined to approximately 10 per cent of this 'target age group'. In other words, there are approximately 7,500 young, angry and dangerous men running around with various degrees of lethal weapons at their command.

Now, before anybody accuses me of some kind of racism because I am targeting only young black men, let me just say that the empirical evidence that has been presented to the population as a whole over the last few years is that the overwhelming majority of the criminal gang population appears to be composed of young black men. If this is not so, then please present your own evidence that proves or suggests otherwise.

So, back to my point, which is that it was announced in today's papers that the total number arrested was 820. This means that according to my figures ... which admittedly could easily be widely inaccurate ... a little more than 10 percent of the gang members have so far been detained! Assuming (as is entirely possible) that this figure doubles or even quadruples in the coming weeks, what happens next? I just don't see an 'exit strategy'. And this (the 'exit strategy') is probably even more important than just locking up all of these people for now.

The Government needs to understand that the citizenry is overwhelmingly on its side in this war on the criminals, and we desperately want it to succeed. We do understand that for obvious security reasons they cannot tell us everything, but we need to be told enough to stay on their side. So when, for example, the Attorney General says something like the names of those detained cannot be published for legal reasons... a statement which does not make sense at all ... it becomes difficult for those of us who wish the Government well in this SOE to defend all of their actions. And it allows people like Amery Browne to defend otherwise indefensible causes.

The Government must understand that at the end of the day, there will have to be a full and frank accounting. It will be to their eternal credit if they not only do that, but when they do they are able to demonstrate their success so clearly that even an idiot will have to acknowledge it and we will all be able to live in a country that once more belongs to all of us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


I received the following e mail from a PP supporter last night which is self explanatory:

I received this YouTube clip and the sender captioned it as Kalipersad vs Ramlogan.
Kalipersad vs Ramlogan... I don’t think so! Now that I have seen/heard the interview (Youtube video clip attached below) I see it as a continuation of the PNM underground machine/war room which has always been aided and abetted by the Trinidad Express very active and very much at work.
The sustained attack by the Express Newspaper on the PM and the Government continues. This was not professional journalism, indeed, it was an abuse by Kalipersad of the electronic media, an abuse of the “freedom of the press” – he discarded all journalistic integrity!
Dominic Kalipersad should be ashamed and embarrassed by his unethical and unprofessional conduct!
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan must be congratulated for his very professional responses and for “keeping his cool” especially when from the very beginning it was evident that Kalipersad’s tone and intent were going to be confrontational and irresponsible.

Now, let me tell you what my problem is: Having watched the video I did not think that Kalipersad had "discarded all journalistic integrity" as stated by my friend above. I did think that he was tough and aggressive ... and could even buy the argument that he was totally unsympathetic to the Attorney General's (and by extension the Government's) position. On the other hand, I did think that the interviewer was wrong when he told the Attorney General of Trinidad & Tobago "don't be rude". Even if you don't like the individual who happens to occupy the office, you ought at all times to respect that office. At the very least, I thought that the comment was disrespectful. I also thought that it was certainly not at all nice to say that the AG had invited himself onto the program. That may have indeed been true, but to say it like that!? When I heard that my reaction was "ouch"! Put another way, I thought that this comment was unnecessary and added nothing to the quality of the interview. But overall I did not have a problem with the very tough questioning of the Minister.

I also thought that the AG could have done a better job in explaining things. For example, thePolice Service Commission (PSC) had come out and criticised the Commissioner of Police (CoP) for being out of the country when the state of emergency (SOE) was called. Dominic Kalipersad questioned the AG on this ... rather aggressively and the AG obviously did not have the facts at his fingertips that have appeared in this morning's papers. (What happened, it seems, was that the CoP had indeed written to the proper authority informing them of his travel plans. The PSC was informed on the Friday before (i.e., 19th August) and the PSC did not deal with the letter until Tuesday 23rd August! But the PSC on Monday 22nd August decided to slam the CoP for not informing them (when in fact he had) of his plans to be out of the country!) Certain questions arise as to whether or not the PSC was correct in all of the circumstances to make the press release as hastily as it did ... for it was clearly wrong ... but that could be the subject of another post. Suffice to say at this time that if today's newspaper reports are correct, then the apparent or perceived bias of one of the members of the PSC ought now to be called into question.

And this brings me to the central point of this post. In the last four days since the declaration of the SOE you can tell who is a supporter of the Government and who is a supporter of the PNM merely by listening to or reading the comments as to whether or not the SOE is a good or bad move. Let's all take a few steps back and a few deep breaths. These are trying enough times without us all being at one another's throats. First of all, let us all acknowledge that if this SOE works and the criminal elements in our society are "licked up" that will be a very, very good thing and that the temporary sacrifice of giving up our civil liberties will have been well worth it. Let us understand that the real enemies are the criminals, not the PNM or the PP supporters. Everybody should be united on this. And I am the first to acknowledge that there appear to be serious problems with the way that this SOE was implemented. At the moment, though, I am prepared (probably because I recognise how desperate and how serious the situation is) to put aside any misgivings that I might have and give this thing a chance to work. If it does not work then we can all revisit all of the issues. For now, at least, I urge everyone else to do the same.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Every right thinking member of society must want the Government to succeed in its war against the criminal elements in our society. And make no mistake: it is a war. There are many who have been calling for a state of emergency ("SOE") to be declared for just this purpose and there are great expectations that the criminal elements will finally be brought to heel. But will they? It is difficult to say at this time. I certainly hope so ... but hoping just ain't good enough!

Let me explain what I mean: The way that this SOE was declared was ... well, unusual, to say the least. SOE's are never usually declared in advance. They are usually declared quietly and when they are in force the Government then moves to pick up and detain those persons who are considered a threat to the society for whatever reason (planning a coup, crime, etc.). If an SOE is announced well before it come s into effect, that announcement will give time to the very persons who are targets of the SOE to run and hide.

Remember that the declaration of an SOE is an extermely serious thing. An SOE takes away certain fundamental constitutional rights that the citizenry has against dictatorship and virtually allows a Government (any Government) untrammeled access to powers of arrest and detention without access to the Courts. While it is sometimes necessary for a Government in times of peril to declare an SOE that declaration needs to be very carefully thought out and the SOE needs to be very carefully executed and removed as soon as possible.

So, my question is what exactly happened to cause this SOE to be declared? The second question is why was it declared in advance of it taking effect? I will readily admit that there may be another reason, or even several other reasons, but I can only think of two: The first is that there was a sudden and unexpected security threat that could only be met by the declaring of an SOE. This is possible, and it may also explain why the whole thing was handled in such an apparently rushed way. (More on this point later.) It could also explain why this happened when the Commissioner of Police and his deputy were out of the country! (That point in itself is curious too, don't you think?)

The next possibility is that it was done by "vaps". Eleven murders took place in a very short space of time and the Government panicked. This could also explain the rather haphazard way that the whole thing was presented. But then surely Brigadier Sandy should have known better?

Now, most democratic Governments have (or ought to have) contingency plans in place for just about every type of emergency, including (though not limited to) declaing an SOE. It would be disheartening to learn that such a contingency plan did not exist, and I for one would like to believe otherwise. But if it did exist, why was the SOE declared in the way that it was? That did not make sense at all!

The expectation of the population is that crime will drop radically after this (assuming always that it really was done to declare war on the criminals); but if that is going to be the case then it was reasonable to expect that (a) there would be massive arrests of known gang leaders and gang members, and (b) that there would be massive searches in the designated hotspots which would yield massive seizures of arms and ammunition. But neither has happened yet! And at the time of writing the SOE is almost 48 hours old! Usually the significant arrests and seizures are made almost immediately after the SOE comes into force! Everything after that is what might be called "mopping up" operations.

So? What has happened? Please don't get me wrong. I want this SOE to work. I want the criminals caught and put under lock and key. I do not want the Government to fail on this. You see, if after the SOE is lifted crime simply goes right back to where it was before then we will be in a worse position than we were in before the SOE was declared. It will mean that the SOE was totally ineffective and that the bad guys were able to outsmart the good guys. It will also mean that the Government has run out of effective means of controlling the criminals in this country. I honestly and sincerely hope that the Government wins this fight. It has to! There is obviously no "Plan B". And that can't be good for any of us.

Friday, August 19, 2011


"Unless we find a way to either reduce our import demand and replace that with domestic production we are going to be struggling with maintaining a relatively stable TT dollar versus the US dollar,"

Put another way, what the Central Bank Governor is saying in the above quoted article that we look as though we are heading for an inevitable devaluation. More than one reader of this blog has in fact written we to tell me this. Well, the short story is that I agree with them. It certainly looks that way. The long story, though, is a little different in that it ain't necessarily so! A devaluation is not necessarily inevitable and can still be warded off.

What I mean is this: The sad truth is that in the 15 or so months that he has been Finance Minister Mr. Dookeran has done little to engender the necessary confidence in the business community that he has the financial situation under control. They look at the fact that there has beeen an extremely tight rein on Government expenditure and that promised projects and payments are inexplicably delayed, that there is suddenly a huge squeeze by the commercial banks on hitherto good customers ... which squeeze the banks say is being dictated to them by the Central Bank ... and the absolute dearth of clear information as to exactly what is the state of our finances. After more than two years the infamous Clico accounts, we are told, are still in a mess! Really? If that is true, then where in the name of heaven was the Regulatory Authority (better known as the Central Bank) in all those years previously when Clico and its executives were bestriding the world like a colossos (or is it 'colossi'?)? Where were the auditors? How come nobody has been charged with fraud?

It may very well be that Mr. Dookeran is doing a fine job in his Ministry and that he is indeed saving us all from an even greater calamity that could befall our tiny nation state in the global economic hurricanes that are blowing at this time. But he just isn't telling us a thing! And this is the man who preached transparency, new politics and open government all the while that he was in opposition! So, what happened? Was all that just a lie? Is he a hypocrite who says one thing but does another? What? Why can't he explain?

A Finance Minister has to lead ... and the only way to lead is to lead vigourously. He cannot stay in his ivory tower, drink coffee and hold meetings with the IMF boffins who tell him that he is doing a great job. He might be , but we don't know that!!! And therein lies the problem. Why can we not be trusted with the truth?

The TT dollar is sinking as against the US dollar. The US dollar is sinking as against many of the world's major currencies, so we are getting hit not once, but twice! And the main reason that our dollar is sinking is because there is a lack of confidence in Mr. Dookeran's management of the economy. And the main reason for that lack of confidence is because he simply will not explain to us what exactly is going on.

The time has come for Mr. Dookeran to be replaced as Finance Minister ... before it is too late. If the reality is that he is really doing a good job (which I will be the first to admit might be possible) then keep him on as a junior Finance Minister where from behind the scenes he can help. But put a person who can lead ... Vassant Bharath comes to mind for example, although agriculture is so important that I would hate to see him go from there. The problem is that the Finance Ministry is the most important ministry of all. Without good management and leadership there nothing happens! It is still not too late. The economic situation can still be turned around. What is needed is a huge dose of confidence to be injected into the national pysche. And it is clear that whatever his virtues (which may be many) Mr. Dookeran's ability to engender confidence is clearly not one of them. Because, mark me well, in the words of Gypsy's immortal calypso, Captain, the ship is sinking and without that confidence the very bad storms which are gathering on the not so distant horizon will strike to the detriment of all.

Isn't there a saying about who doh hear must feel?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


There are, quite obviously, a lot of questions concerning the Caribbean Airline (CAL) crash in Guyana in the early hours of Saturday morning that can't and won't be answered until the investigation by the American National Transport and safety Board (NTSB) is concluded. One thing is certain, the Americans will not allow any cover up and we will all sooner or later learn the truth. I suppose that we ought to be grateful for small mercies!

However, one of the questions that can and should be answered right away is how come CAL says that it has "a proud 70 year track record" of being accident free? Let's start from the beginning: First of all, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) defines an aviation accident like this:

"An aviation accident is defined in the Convention on International Civil
Aviation Annex 13 as an occurrence associated with the operation of an
aircraft which takes place between the time any person boards the aircraft
with an intention of flight and all such persons have disembarked, in which a
person is fatally or seriously injured, the aircraft sustains damage or
structural failure or the aircraft is missing or is completely inaccesible."

So, it is quite clear that according to the best definition from the highest aviation authority in the world that the CAL aircraft suffered an accident ... and a serious one at that ... on Saturday 30th July, 2011 in Guyana. Also, it is also clear that BWIA never had an accident in its proud history. So, I can hear you say, what's the problem?

The problem is that CAL is not a 70 year old airline with a 70 year old track record! It is only four years old and as fledgling airline has had what you might call a "fledgling" accident. You can test this assertion fairly easily. If CAL is simply BWIA re-branded and is "a rose by any other name" then CAL would be liable for all of BWIA's debts and prior responsibilities. But CAL is not liable for BWIA's debts and obligations. Ask the former employees of BWIA, many of whom feel that they were unfairly shafted when the last Government shut down BWIA and threw many of them out on the street. These former employees were told that they could sue the defunct BWIA if they wanted, but that nothing from nothing was nothing and CAL was a brand new airline!
In other words, the Government took what it wanted from the old BWIA and created a new entity that was CAL. Heck! They even sold the BWIA landing slots in London! (And that's yet another scandal waiting to explode!)

Now, it may be that CAL's safety procedures are similar to, or even identical to the defunct BWIA. It may also be that CAL has taken a lot of good things from BWIA, including but not limited to some of its old employees (like pilots and engineers). But it is not BWIA re-branded. It is a brand new airline. It does have various different procedures and ways of doing business which may or may not be better than BWIA's. But it is disingenuous to say the least that it has a "proud 70 year old track record". It doesn't. It is not BWIA and those who are trying to piggyback CAL's safety record onto that of BWIA's are not doing that now defunct airline any service, nor are they being fair to the former employees of BWIA or the travelling public. Frankly, they are being dishonest! CAL's track record is only four years old! No more and no less!

And you know what? The people who have to make decisions concerning insurance and viability are not going to be fooled by the persons who are spouting this '70 year' nonsense. But then, I suppose those people, because they have no respect for us and believe that lieing to us has no consequences whatsoever, know that they can get away with nonsense like this. And you know what? Maybe they are right! That's what makes this all the more galling!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Let me declare my bias from the start: I voted for this Government; I want them to succeed; I do not want them to fail. Unfortunately, they are failing. There are too many unforced errors taking place and only the most biased or dishonest observers will not admit that we are in trouble. And by "we" I mean the country.

Let's look at the latest problem to hit the headlines: the imbroglio with the unions. The first question that I have is one that reflects my utter disbelief at the total incompetence of the Cabinet. How in the name of heaven could the Ministers responsible for the clash with the unions allow the Prime Minister to go into a meeting with the unions when it was clear from the start that the PrimeMinister's chances of getting them to agree to back down were slim to none?!? Ministers are supposed to defend the Prime Minister, and if anything "fall on their swords" for her (or him as the case may be). They aren't supposed to let the Prime Minister put her credibility on the line the way that they did! The best way that I can probably explain this is to borrow a sentence that I got from The Economist about a week ago in an article that it published concerning the phone hacking scandal in Britain: "Prime Ministers tend not to lose all their credibility in one go ... Rather it erodes in fits and starts amid accumulations of misstep and scandal".

And who are the Ministers responsible? Answer: The Ministers of Finance and Labour! Let us call a spade a spade and stop this neo-colonial type of nonsense where we continuously pretend that we can see the naked Emperor's clothes. Hello! The Emperor is naked! It is the responsibility of the Finance Minister to put the case for money squarely and fairly on the table. If the country cannot afford the wage increases that are being demanded it is his responsibility to explain to all of us exactly what our financial situation is and why we cannot afford to pay what the unions are asking for. It is the responsibility of the Labour Minister to help calm the stormy waters that his ministerial colleague finds himself in, to familiarise himself with the truth of what the Finance Minister is saying, and to convince the unions that the Finance Minister is indeed telling the truth. And if the Finance Minister is not telling the truth then it is the responsibility of teh Labour Minister to make it clear to the Prime Minister that her Finance Minister's position is untenable. But these guys cannot keep quiet and effectively throw the Prime Minister and her Government under the proverbial bus ... which is exactly what they have done!

I don't know about you, but I am totally fed-up. Like most people I believe that the country simply cannot afford the demands that the unions are making. I also believe that these demands are unreasonable given the existing economic situation prevailing not only here, but worldwide. However, the operative word in that last sentence is "believe". I don't know that we can't afford to pay and/or meet the unions' demands. I also believe that the workers that the unions represent are hurting ... and hurting badly! I also believe that they deserve much more than a measly five percent pay rise. And, yes, it is measly given the inflation that has ravaged the country over the last few years.

In other words, for me at least, the argument is not whether the workers deserve a pay rise in excess of five per cent, but whether or not we can afford to pay it? So, Mr. Dookeran, as always it is over to you. Show us! Tell us! Explain to us! We are not dummies. The threatened general strike will fail if you convince the country that we really can't afford it. It is also quite possible that even if you don't, most people are like me and believe that we can't afford it, which would mean that the strike will fail. But belief can only go so far. Sooner or later the population will start to demand proof. Take some good advice: Don't wait until then!

And Mr. McLeod, the only reason that you are in the Cabinet and hold the post of Minister of Labour is because of your long experience and your connections with the Labour Movement. Every single administration in every single democracy sooner or later locks horns with organised labour. What every single administration needs is a Labour Minister who can and will interface with the Labour Movement in a way that successfully diffuses the inevitable tensions that are bound to arise. If you can't or won't do that then leave. I don't care which ('can't' or 'won't') it is. It doesn't matter. What matters is that this job (Minister of Labour) requires leadership; and the only test for leadership is to lead vigorously. If you can't or won't, then get out of the way. The country does not need you if you are just going to sit on your hands and bleat about "process". And right now, you simply ain't leading!

And to Mesrrs. Roget and company, I say, look, most people are sympathetic to your cause. Don't hold the country to ransom over unrealistic demands. Show us that we really can afford to pay you and you will get our support without your having to threaten the society in the way that you are doing now. But you won't get it simply by demanding that we pay regardless of the consequences. No thinking or responsible citizen could ever agree to that. And remember, "jaw-jaw" is always better than "war-war"!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Everybody knows that most of an iceberg is under the water. So if you are in either the Arctic or Antartic oceans and you see an iceberg towering, say, some fifty feet over the water, you know that there is at least three to four hundred feet hiding beneath the surface. I say this because I sometimes feel like the guy on the foredeck of the Titanic who on seeing the huge iceberg which the illfated ship was heading straight for, tried to warn those on the great ship's bridge ... but of course, they were too high up, too far away to hear the shouts and too "experienced" to listen to some unqualified peasant on the foredeck of the ship peering through the fog. What could he possibly see that they couldn't!?

Like the Titanic, the good ship S.S. Trinidad & Tobago seems to be heading directly for a large economic iceberg that is roughly the same size as the one that struck that great ship a century ago. By that I mean that I can see that the economy is shaky, that the slightest "tremor" can sink us and that the Ministry of Finance either doesn't have a plan or does not want to share the plan with the rest of us peasants.

Pay attention: The unions are threatening a general strike and the police are threatening a five day strike if the Government does not resile from its five percent cap on wages. The Government says that the country cannot afford to pay more. The unions say that this is nonsense! And here is where the rest of us come in. Like most people, I tend to believe that the Government is telling the truth, i.e., that the country really can't afford to pay more. But, like most people, I personally don't have the evidence before me that will prove that this is indeed so. Further, Winston Dookeran, if nothing else has to be just about the worst communicator in history! This is a man who for years preached transparency and open government, but on getting into power has practised secrecy and an absolute refusal to tell the nation exactly what is going on with the country's various economic problems. All we have got from him over the last year has been "this is what we are going to do whether you like it or not" attitude instead of "look, this is what is going on and as a result this is what we think is the best thing to do".

I have complained about this before; I call it the neo-colonialist attitude that has crippled our country since Eric williams came to power in 1956. In the "good old days" of the colonial period there were two rules: Rule 1 was that the white man or massa was always right. Rule 2 was when massa was wrong refer back to rule 1!! Just about every single Prime Minister from Williams to date has adopted these two rules as if they were gospel. The end result has been that instead of the country having a modern twenty-first century outlook, we have remained mired in outdated, out moded, unoriginal, old fashioned 1960's type of thinking. We continue to try and solve the same old problems with the same old solutions, Albert Einstein, what did you say was the classic definition of insanity?

In addition to Mr. Dookeran's obvious failures, we also have the image of a so-called Labour leader in the person of Errol McLeod who appears to be doing absolutely nothing to head off this most serious approaching crisis. I can think of only two reasons why Mr. McLeod will not intervene forcefully: Either he is totally and completely incompetent and is occupying a position that he is really not qualified to occupy, or he really doesn't believe his Ministerial colleague and believes that the country can pay more. If anybody can give me a third, or even a tenth, reason then please do. But this is all that I can come up with. And yes, I am aware of the neo-colonialist B.S. (Baloney for Sure) that I have heard Mr. McLeod spout about "process"! Please!! Don't come with that claptrap! When a house is on fire you don't wait for the "process" of the fire department to come. You start to throw water on the fire immediately. At least, that is what a modern twenty first century person would do.

We are heading for a period of potentially serious and possibly fatal social instability caused by the inability of those responsible in the Government to communicate effectively. The "iceberg effect"! In other words, once trouble starts there is no way that we will know how deep it will go. It is still not too late. Things can still be turned around ... and the best way of doing this is to tell us the truth. We aren't stupid and we see what is going on in the rest of the world. But people, especially working class people are hurting badly. The Government has to come forward and show all of us that it not only understands and empathises, but given the circumstances is doing the best that it can. But it will have to explain what these "circumstances" are exactly. Telling us that Moody's has given us a good credit rating means nothing to the man at the bottom. Explain! Explain! Explain! That is one way that you can serve the people! Serve the people! Serve the people!