Trinidad and Tobago is plunging downward right back where we fell in the mid-eighties having gorged ourselves on the proceeds of the preceding oil boom.
A second round of energy sector riches have once again, in the famous Michael Manley phrase, “passed through us like a dose of salts,” but with one stunning addition. The addition is a runaway murder rate.
My last two columns focused on the obtuseness of the statistical excuses that the Police Service gives us in its attempt to show that it is not failing us. Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, last week had the gall to tell us that he should not be assessed “on murders alone” when his resignation is being called for.
Stephen Williams just does not get it. We are not assessing the Police Service, of which he is the failed head, “on murders alone.” It is on the daily murders coupled with the impunity with which they are committed—even right in front of a police station in the latest mark of police impotence—that we make the negative assessment.
Sadly, since the disastrous Patrick Manning-led administration when murder was dismissed as “collateral damage”, I have been highlighting the impunity issue as the one to which Governments must respond by a constitutional overhaul of the Police Service and by themselves abstaining from the goodies and campaign finance served up by the political leeches and the criminal element who are the devils in disguise.
Unfortunately, there is little resistance to the ‘big pappy life’ that is enjoyed by means of these goodies and the unquestioning State payment for feasts, premium drinks, travel, blue-lighted Prados and other lickerish appetites.
There is now weeping and wailing about the reckless abandon with which the state enterprise sector has supported the big pappy life. The first of my unheeded critiques of the State enterprise sector was made in 2002.
Much of our leadership manhood is proven, not by progression to maturity. It is vested in political sweetheart deals, concessions and consumer brands.
The political, professional, business and institutional oligarchy, whose manhood is apparently dependent on these things, has abdicated leadership responsibility and has recently been vividly exposed as lacking the moral authority to encourage restraint in trade union demands.
Even our iconic, indigenous creation—steel pan music—is now threatened as a result of the big pappy life, which requires State support for a cultural product, without accountability, without regard for declining audiences and without any review whether Panorama in its current form is still an incentive to musical excellence.
I will be setting off this week on an increased round of visits to the panyards for the Carnival 2017 season. I hope to see more players, more spectators and to feel a livelier vibe than—with one or two exceptions—on my first visits last week. It is three weeks to Panorama semi-finals and things should already be busy.
Sadly, there are reports that even some of the most famous bands are now struggling to obtain a full complement of players. The money fight to preserve the status quo, regardless of the economic circumstances of the State, might end by mashing up everything.
I have witnessed many scenes, in both the first and second energy booms, reflective of the unbridled love of the big pappy life. One time, in the mid 90’s after emerging from a sitting of the Senate and getting into the Mazda I owned at the time, a Minister of the then Government asked me “Daly, why yuh don’t get a proper car?”
Another time, at an insurance company’s Christmas party, when Johnny Walker Black was first in vogue, an employee remonstrated with a barman for pouring him a non-premium scotch. He said to the barman: “I am a top salesman in here. I know you have Black.”
When the Black was delivered, the self-described top salesman, poured a hot soft drink into it and guzzled it.
More recently, I witnessed the VIP crowd at the International Steelband Panorama, buss the VIP bar and lounge before intermission. Some persons sat at tables and never turned around to see what band was on stage. There were personages, over whom the Integrity Commission has jurisdiction, ill-advisedly mingling with financiers and contact persons.
In the words of Farmer Nappy: it was a “Big People Party.”
“The city could burn down, we jamming still. The Treasury could burn down we jamming still. Recession doh bother we, promote a fete and you go see.”
After this last hurrah to which we have been so excitingly invited by the Ultimate Rejects, the reality that is likely is this: Now the money nearly done, the continuing big pappy life may finally break the Treasury and send us into the hands of the IMF, into ultimate backlash and Venezuelan style lines for rice and potatoes.
Best grow plenty more bodi, yes.