Wednesday, July 27, 2011
ONE STEP FORWARD...THREE STEPS BACK!
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"!
Posted by Robin Montano at 10:53 AM
Thursday, July 14, 2011
THE APPROACHING ICEBERG
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!
Posted by Robin Montano at 10:12 AM