Our calypsonians and other creative persons are adept at crafting imaginative interpretations of actual events. My headline this week reflects David Rudder’s portrayal in song of the breakthrough win of Exodus steel orchestra in Panorama 1992 as ‘dus in dey face’—when dust was raised on the then unpaved track to the stage.
These days, real Sahara dust is in our faces, turning our skies grey and polluting our nostrils, while speeches and statements made in the course of the current election are throwing the metaphorical dus’ in we face.
It is thrown for the purpose of blurring violent crime, degrading social conditions and the economy of the future—when whoever forms the next government has insufficient money in the Treasury to pay full salaries and wages, meet other commitments and also maintain the social safety nets.
Governments of both the UNC and the PNM have consecutively spent more than the country earns, while the budget deficit kept growing even before the pandemic. We could put back some of what we were spending when we had dollars flowing in on the petrochemical high tide but now it is low tide. Moreover, we cannot see any change in our economic conditions on the horizon, even in the distance.
The worrying question is how are we getting through the next two or three years without considerable economic pain? The election campaign is as barren as the Sahara Desert in terms of presenting competing policies proposed to assist our financial survival.
By way of example, shouts of creating 50,000 jobs and counter shouts of sending us to the International Monetary Fund (‘the IMF’) do not settle the minds of rational citizens deeply worried about the future. What will be the sources of investment in the enterprises, which will create those touted jobs?
Are the funds in the Heritage and Stabilisation fund sufficient to keep us out of the grasp of the IMF for a minimum of the two years of the severe economic depression predicted to be the result of the pandemic? Then, what next?
We also have a pandemic of clichés and tentative mark bussin’ without back-up material—like who secretly letting in citizens in to vote in breach of the closed borders and who paying what per vote.
Meanwhile, the tabanca corners in both parties are full. At least some wry amusement may be derived from the cries of those suffering from the political tabanca of being incumbents and not chosen to return to represent their constituency.
Some of the loudest cries are coming from Couva as well as from Grande way.
Not all those in the tabanca corner are crying audibly. Some sitting quiet, quiet in the dark, moving into one of the advanced stages of tabanca, like foufourou—when they realise that they will no longer be seen bouncing up and down on the television screen and VIP privileges gone.
They might have to pay for fete and event tickets. They might line up on time but still be deprived of the opportunity even to buy a ticket because ministries, like those they used to boss, have access to a hoard of tickets, euphemistically called ‘an allocation’.
One does not chuckle at the tabanca sufferers out of heartlessness. The laugh is at the egos and ambitions that grow so quickly with a little taste of power and at the loss of awareness of the realities of the half democracy practiced by political parties in the selection of candidates.
Persons seeking election repeatedly forget that being popular in the constituency and having other attributes count for very little if the political leader of the party does not want you.
If a candidate has offended the leader or makes the political leader jealous, he or she could go before the party’s screening committee and screen like a film star but will still fall into a pit of rejection. This pit is as bottomless as the pitch lake in La Brea, a constituency that was twice denied its first choice of PNM candidate.
He lost his awareness of who was boss.
And the shaky beat goes on, no matter who comes and goes.