Tuesday, January 19, 2010


There is nothing quite that clears the mind and lets you see things through fresh eyes as a short holiday abroad. I went to Venezuela for Christmas, and while I have nothing but praise for the hospitality and generosity of my wife's family and friends, the truth is that I couldn't help but notice how things had deteriorated in that beautiful country. The cost of living has gone through the roof, food is a lot more expensive and people are coping, but they are not happy. Crime in Caracas makes the crime we are complaining about here look like a tea party! They really have problems!

So, when I came back home I looked again at where we are, where we have come from, and where we seem to be going. Let me say from the outset that I agree with most (if not all) of the criticisms that are heard in the street, on the radio and are read about in the print media with what is wrong with our little country. But I always try to be fair (even if I don't always succeed) and because this blog is not about being in a popularity contest but about trying to discuss things that I think need discussing, I thought that perhaps it might be worthwhile to look at where we are from a slightly different angle. In other words, are things really as bleak as we like to make them out to be? Are we really in serious trouble as so many (including me) like to say? Or can we say to our selves that despite everything there is hope?

Certainly we are better off than our Latin neighbour just to the west of us. I don’t propose to go into any analysis of why Venezuela is experiencing the problems that it has, my point is simply that they really are in trouble. And I genuinely hope that they can get out of it. We are also much better off than our Caricom brothers and sisters to the north of us. All of those little islands are in trouble. Jamaica is facing economic problems that would make a grown Trini cry! Even well run Barbados has experienced a major downturn in its financial affairs! Why do we think that we are or ought to be immune? And, yes, I know what our Prime Minister and his minions have been saying in the past and are saying now. But, for the purposes of this particular post I deliberately do not want to “taint” it with criticisms (or praise) of any particular politician(s). I just want to look at our position right now as coldly and as truthfully as possible.

And if I were to be completely frank I would have to say that while acknowledging all the well known criticisms (or perhaps even in spite of them) the truth is that we are not as badly off as we sometimes like to say. Unemployment (whether helped by CEPEP or nor) is still relatively low. Our economy, while it has been battered is still fairly healthy. Our currency although it has depreciated slightly has not been devalued. (Incidentally, as I understand it a major reason for the present depreciation is that a lot of “big players” have moved their money out and converted it to US dollars! In other words, we are creating our own “crisis”.) Our Court system still enjoys the confidence of the vast majority of the citizenry and the Judiciary still feels that it is able to stand up to the Executive whenever it deems it necessary. And although our press has many (undeclared) biases it is still by and large free and able to criticize the government whenever it feels it necessary or desirable to do so.

You might think that all that I have listed is not important. But it is. You might also say, well all the more reason that we should be vigilant and make sure that we do not lose our rights and privileges … and I would agree with you absolutely.

There is an organisation called Freedom House. It was founded in 1941 with a mandate or objective (amongst other things) to report on the state of freedom in countries around the world.
It is a highly regarded and respected organisation around the world. If you go to its website you will find reports on something like 193 countries. Our little country scores a 2 on political rights and a 2 on civil liberties. The highest score a country can get is a 1. Our status is listed as “free”. The United States gets a 1 in political rights and a 1 in civil liberties and its status is also listed as “free”. The website says that countries whose ratings are between 1.0 and 2.5 are regarded as “free”. Countries whose ratings are listed as 3.0 to 5.0 are regarded as “partly free”, and countries with a rating of 5.0 to 7 are regarded as “not free”. A “2” rating in civil liberties and political rights means that these countries have a slightly weaker system because of “such factors as some political corruption, limits on the functioning of political parties and opposition groups, and foreign or military influence on politics”.

Brazil, one of Latin America’s strongest emerging countries has identical ratings to ours. Neighbouring Venezuela gets a “4” on both political rights and civil liberties and a “partly free” rating. Zimbabwe gets a “7” and a “6” and a not free rating. Jamaica is like us. Barbados is the only Caribbean nation to get a”1” in both political rights and civil liberties!

Put another way, we aren’t doing so badly. Put another way again, perhaps we should recognise that our glass is really half full as opposed to half empty. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I agree that we must look at the good that we still enjoy, I have read of many countries that do not enjoy many of the "freedoms" we take for granted here. But I am going to implore everyone to continue to point out all that is wrong in the country, failing this we would soon find that allot more has become "the norm" sooner than later we would be much closer to those countries that are "worst than us". Forgive me for tainting your post, but I know you would appreciate the points raised. It would be so easy for us to decline to an undesireable state, there must always be those who stand up and demand better, even if others are far worst.