Monday, January 10, 2011


My wife asked me a very good question this morning: "If you were the adviser to the Government for one day ... and they would listen to you ... what would you advise them to do?"
"That's easy", I thought. "I would ...!" And then I stopped. What the heck would I advise them to do? There are a host of problems to deal with. And all of a sudden it was my responsibility to solve them?! It's really easy to fix the problems of the country from the luxury of your armchair ... or computer, but when you actually have the power, what would you do? What would I do?

So I stalled for time. "Why are you asking me that?" I said. "Because', she replied, "You are always so critical. What would you advise? How would you fix things?" Well, I don't really think that I am so crititical, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if my wife of all people thinks that I am ... well, maybe there might be something in the criticism. (Just 'maybe' ... the lawyer in me says never admit anything!). And she was right! You shouldn't criticise unless you really believe that you have a solution to whatever you are being critical about.

I must confess that I found this a very difficult question to answer. But here is the summation of the advice that I would give to the Government (who, of course, in an ideal world would listen to these 'golden nuggets' of wisdom and act on them):

First of all, I would deal with crime. At the end of the day the solution to crime does not involve more laws. It involves catching the bad guys and locking them up. This involves better policing. We have had about a million crime plans, all with varying catchy names like Operation Anaconda and so on, but none of them making so much as a dent in the terrible statistics coming out day after day and week after week. Let's face it, if the system of policing that we have now involves an inexorable rise in the crime rate, the solution does not involve making excuses for the rise, the solution lies in changing the system. So far, all we have done is tinkered with the system. But we haven't changed it! The Police Service is badly trained, badly paid, badly equipped and badly educated! Deal with it! Nothing! Absolutely nothing is going to change until we deal with that problem head on.

Next, I would deal with the economy and what Indira Sagewan-Ali called the biting issues. For example, I would tell the Minister of Finance that he had to settle with the Clico policy holders now. What exactly the settlement would look like, unfortunately I can't say today because I do not have the necessary figures from the Treasury ... but if I were the adviser ... well, I would have them, wouldn't I? But I would tell the Finance Minister that he had to start practising what he preached for so long ... transparency and open government. Trust the people with the truth.

Then I would turn to the Minister of Labour and tell him to get off his fanny and intervene in the PSA dispute. Either the Government has the money to pay the public sector workers or it doesn't. If it does then he should come out and say so and force the Minister of Finance to bend. If it doesn't then he should do the same thing and use his credibility with the Labour movement to convince them that the Government simply can't pay. But this sitting on the sidelines and coming up with the neo-colonialist bleating of "There is a process to be followed" is just so much ... I almost wrote a four letter word beginning with 'c'. Let me just say that it is so much rubbish!

I would then call all the Ministers together and tell them that even though their Government is a coalition and they all come to the table with differing agendas, they are going to have to understand that they are the Government of Trinidad & Tobago. In this regard they have got to learn to speak with one voice and to control their respective mouths and their respective Parties. This squabbling in public has to stop. It ain't good for anybody, not least the country.

Finally, I would tell the Prime Minister that she still has a lot of goodwill left. But she is squandering it uselessly. There are too many events which the public recognises as 'PR' and too little action taking place on the ground where it counts. I would tell her that she has got to be seen to have a firm grip on the reins and to be leading her fractitious MP's in a manner that engenders confidence. I would tell her that it was time to take the velvet glove off of her iron fist.

By then my day would be over and as there would be no second day for this adviser, I would have to go quietly home and see if any of my ideas actually worked! (Which is, of course, the big test!) Of course, there would be many, many more issues that I had not had the time to deal with ... but, maybe if my first ideas worked they might come back to me for a second day! (Yeah! Right! But I am dreaming, so I have the right to make comments like this.)

But being serious again, that's what I would advise. What would you advise? Think about it. It's not nearly as easy as it looks. And although I have been a little facetious in places in this post, the question is a most serious one.


  1. Robin,

    I enjoy your blogs very much. Thanks.

    Since you asked what I would do, were I the PM, here's my suggestion - Now, I have no idea what your personal convictions are, nor do they concern me. My own, however, are based on the premise that man is a psycho-somatic unity - a material being with a spiritual soul. I believe that an appeal needs to be made, in the first place, to the spiritual nature of man first, and once this has been accepted, various options then arise.

    I would focus, first and foremost on CRIME as my #1 target.

    For example,

    1. I would consider calling a meeting of all religious leaders and ask them to prepare a 5-minute (no more) point-by-point presentation of their ideas as to how the crime problem could be / should be approached. At the meeting, each leader would have an opportunity to present his / her ideas, and a general discussion should follow, with an attempt to seek consensus. (This meeting may demand a full day, or perhaps even longer - so be it!)

    2. I would encourage each religious leader to get on board with me in an attempt to deliver strong messages of community, responsibility, moral standards, life, family, patriotism, etc.

    3. I would schedule a series of personal and delegated visits to churches, mosques, temples, etc. and, with appropriate approvals from the leaders, appeal to the various religious groups for a cessation of the crime wave that has so seriously hurt the community.

    4. In consultation with the Chief of Police, I would consider granting an amnesty for a limited period of time to all citizens to hand in their weapons, no questions asked.

    5. At the end of the amnesty period, I would use every tool at my disposal to hunt down and bring to justice those responsible for the deadly crime wave in Trinidad and Tobago. I would show the greatest support for the Police and Military Organizations and show my seriousness in upholding the Rule of Law.

    6. I would show my strongest support too, to the Judiciary and work with the Chief Justice to fill vacant posts of Judges and Magistrates. I would seek the advice of the Chief Justice to construct additional courts in outlying districts.

    7. I would ensure that my efforts to correct the crime situation in TT are properly documented and publicized, both locally and in Trinidad's foreign missions. I would try to ensure that Trinidad's international image is a good, positive one, and that the rest of the world knows it.

    And I'd leave some stuff to be done tomorrow - I can try some more. What you say, eh?

    Nigel Boos

  2. Hi Robin
    Interesting blog. But you and I both know that there is an underlying economy that may or may not be too much to be offset by higher wages paid to policemen. Likely higher pay may not be a substitute for supplementary income provided by the underlying economy. I believe that there must be two elite units established: Internal Affairs Division and Drug Enforcement Agency. Moreover, being at least more ignorant than you are, I cannot see more than one term of Government to catch up on basic technology: DNA, Forensics,Criminal Database in every police car etc. But the HARDEST part is to protect the service from corruption.

  3. Well, starting with crime I think you need to know what has been done to improve the effectiveness of the police service, the training, both here and abroad, the cross fertilisation of experience, new management, new technology. They have had not only the best advice, but the finest expert policemen from abroad who themselves have not been able to control the situation yet, so even if you were there, what would you do, specifically, that is different? The PP are only now beginning to recognise the enormity of the problem and they have nothing new to offer, because almost all that could be done was being done. Of note the one thing they did differently was to shut down the air ship and the SIA only to see the RATE of murders escalate again.

    The rest of the issues deal with the economy. There is paralysis in the Ministry of Finance, and this I believe is a result of the personalities there, but you (plural) voted for that, when we knew from before the indecisiveness and vascillation that would take place. Oil prices are well above budget, and gas prices are just about on par, so what then is the problem? Fear.

    For labour, increases need to be controlled or we will face a round of inflation that would be ruinous. What is of great concern is the declining confidence levels in the country.

    The country continues to earn more foreign exchange than we spend, and yet there is a shortfall in supply. This can only be attributed to speculation and lack of confidence, so businessmen with large cash reserves (the banks have more liquidity than they have ever had) prefer to buy foreign exchange than to invest here in Trinidad.

    On every basis the Government has failed and continues to fail. If they fail, we all fail. Sad but true.

  4. Robin,

    The ONLY advice forward is what you have already espoused.
    1) Trust the people with the truth....
    That involves, CLICO, whether there is enough money to pay public servants, weed out the drug lords..from the TOP, and clean out a corrupt police service.

    but..........each of the above is synonymous with being exiled to plant peas in Tobago!!