Daly Bread: The unease of doing business in T&T—and the difficulty in “getting thru”

The inquiry “yuh get thru?” is commonplace. It means: did you succeed in completing the business or personal transaction you were attempting to do with a third party?

The transaction is usually one involving access to a service and the path to such success is routinely frustrating and stressful.

Waiting in vain?

Unless one belongs to one of the political cliques or to the super capitalist class, for whose benefit the country is disproportionately run, every other citizen has to line up with the now notorious brown envelope carrying “yuh documents” in order to “get thru”.

The documents may be deemed insufficient because the bureaucrat belatedly decides that more documents than what was first demanded are required—so you have to return. Often going online is not much better, except it does not require standing in line in the hot sun.

Why is a birth certificate “to prove nationality” necessary if a person already has a Trinidad and Tobago passport? In addition, if you have to present a birth certificate it has to be in the latest of the prescribed forms causing the further inconvenience of seeking out each new edition. We must go through the same hoops for marriage and death certificates.

To add to our considerable stress, many private sector businesses have become big bureaucratic beasts indistinguishable from those prowling the public sector. Mind you, this is a “who the cap fits” narrative because all of us occasionally meet an officer or employee who will help us out of the cruel bureaucratic grasp, provided the security personnel have not already bouffed you.

A public sector employee (right) conducts a transaction in the movie Zootopia.

Why is a statement of source of funds required from us when we have an entitlement to receive our own money—for example, with the surrender of a life insurance policy or a sale of shares? The money was long ago invested and currently must be “clean” money.

Does taking money out or making a sale of shares therefore really require the same level of interrogation?

Moreover is the Unit Trust recognized as an institution to which funds due can be sent? This obstacle was reportedly put in the way of someone who has long emigrated and no longer has any other account in Trinidad and Tobago to which funds can be sent. Trying to open an account anywhere now is a nightmare.

I sometimes meet nice persons who take care of me where I bank, like I did last Thursday, but banks are big pressure. The pressure points are so many and so cruel, especially for older citizens, that some banks are at risk of replacing lawyers as the top hate-figures.

A customer tries, in vain, to access services on a corporate website.
(via eBay.com)

Readers will be particularly disappointed if I do not also join their complains about the fees for online transactions and paper statements, even though online statements are only available for limited periods.

Why are the online banking platforms so diverse in their requirements? What is the password and encryption game? Why force a consumer to change passwords when signing up for online service.

Why provide an initial password that is so long and complicated that it looks like alphabet soup and anyway does not grant access ?

I had a minor victory. Some younger persons told me two years ago that my age was the reason for my complaints. Now they have encouraged me to write this column. Whenever I fail at an online transaction I usually have someone in their 20s or 30s attempt it and it does not surprise me when they also fail.

Aaaargh!

This column has barely touched the mountain of bureaucratic obstacles to doing business. Where are they taking us with a digitised process limited to getting an application form and an appointment date, but no grant of the application if the information is in order? You still have to “go een” and face bureaucratic assailants to receive renewals or to complete registrations.

The beat of hollow announcements about the ease of doing business goes on while we travel in circles on potholed digital roads to nowhere. Readers should bombard those organisations full of offending bureaucrats as well as newspaper editors with letters detailing their bad experiences by the grappe.

Let’s wake up the sleeping regulators.

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