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Demming: Election 2020—can’t we do better than this?

The 2020 election campaigns have presented a kind of sameness or familiarity which is uninspiring. I get that their main objective is to energise their respective bases, but as comedian Sprangalang would say ‘allyuh go keel we’.

Given these uninspiring attempts to excite the population, I conclude that both major parties have either run out of ideas or are simply unable to tap into the creative pools of talent which exist throughout our country.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC.
(Copyright Power102fm)

Creatives, like many others, are stymied by Covid-19 and are barely surviving. How is it that the talent pool being showcased does not reflect our abundance of young creatives?

The lyrics feel familiar and the thematic messages provide nothing new. Superimpose on this flatness, speeches which are filled with accusations and disgust and you have campaigns which are noisy, empty and bland.

Covid-19 provided an opportunity to re-imagine our entire economy including the way we engage in electioneering. The old campaign messages are not reflecting the new reality of life in the 21st century.

Instead of grasping that opportunity for re-imagination, we have simply taken old, tired campaigns and dropped them onto digital platforms. The result is that audiences experience a range of emotions from disengagement to confusion.

If there are messages of our economic difficulties, they are lost on the population. Neither party is telling us about our need to reduce our almost $6 billion import bill. We are not being told about the lifestyle changes we must make in order to survive.

Photo: PNM supporters poke fun at the outgoing Prime Minister on 7 September 2015 at Balisier House.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Instead it is noise about who stole more from the treasury and when charges will be laid. Citizens are being bombarded by an incoherence which does not point to a way forward.

Whoever is left standing at the end of the count on 10 August 2020 has a monumental task to restructure our economy. The semi-welfare state which we have designed over the years has to be dismantled.

We can no longer afford to pay people for make-work activities but herein lies an opportunity. We can insist that CEPEP/DEWD/URP workers split their day into ‘X’ hours for physical labour and ‘Y’ hours to embark on some kind of educational course which is evaluated and monitored.

The opportunity here is to keep people employed while preparing them for the next wave of demand in the digital space—but this requires monitoring and evaluation to keep people focused and on target. Infrastructure must also be put in place to prevent the alleged favours-done-for-promotions which has been the cause of problems in these types of programs.

Whoever is left standing has to reduce the $6 billion dollar food import bill. This means re-shaping the collective palette of T&T citizens away from imported food to enjoying what we grow locally.

Photo: UNC political leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar (second from right) on the campaign trail with Moruga/Tableland candidate Michelle Benjamin (centre) and Naparima candidate Rodney Charles (third from left) in Moruga.
(via UNC)

If each household can feed itself using more locally-produced items, we will see a reduction in the food import bill while building a sense of joy and pride in consuming what is local.

Whoever is left standing must have a plan to focus on healing our communities and moving our youth away from gang culture, guns and drugs. This means teaching community-based alternatives for conflict resolution from preschool levels right up to high-school.

It also means re-engineering our education system to avoid non-academically inclined students from being alienated, so that they feel included and accepted within the school community.

Diversification of our economy has been discussed for decades, but if past performance is any indication of future behaviour then I expect a continued focus on the energy sector for our salvation.

Given the global collapse of oil prices and the thrust in several large countries toward renewable energy sources, we can anticipate reduced revenue streams which means we cannot sustain the lifestyles of the past.

Photo: Look out!
(Copyright Seyran Caferli)

Our survival requires a leader who is people-centered and able to communicate our new reality to a population that has become exhausted with—though reliant on—patronage and nepotism.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

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9 comments

  1. The UNC’s approach is utterly reckless, promising to facilitate consumption of scarce foreign exchange by ending online taxes and raid the people’s UTC and NIB savings for make-work infrastructure programs. The PNM approach may be flawed but the UNC approach is utter madness; there is no place for a false equivalence between the two.

  2. Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and his administration performed well under very difficult circumstances. It starts with coming into office and being informed that the Gov has enough money to run the country for 3 days, immediately Finance Minister Colm Imbert gets loans, he also refinanced some UNC made loans and got better rates. The PNM continued with the construction projects rather than to cancel them, PM Rowley even manages to reduce the price of some of these projects by more than half saving tax payers hundreds of millions of dollars! Now I ain’t saying corruption, but use your head, if you can build the same thing for half the price budgeted by the people who were in power before then something is very strange indeed. The PNM was not able to push back crime, they really tried though. They immediately moved to appoint a permanent COP rather than to have an acting COP, with Gary Griffith who is an ex military, ex min of nat sec we have a person with a background of excellence, he has given the TT Police a new energy, as a result of this and the reactivation of Sort and other special units the TT Police has been able to make significant seizures and arrests. The PNM Government brought lots of legislation to parliament to fight crime, the UNC even made fun of them for this as if they want to use laws to fight crime, well yes, that is exactly what we must do, we must have all the laws we need so the good of the nation can prevail. Our border security is lacking with disastrous consequences for our people, and one major reason for this is the cancellation of the offshore patrol vessel contract with the British by then PM Kamla Persad Bissessar, it was surely a decision for which she didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to know that it would be a mistake in the question of National Security. The Dr. Keith Rowley administration recognised the border security problem and again is procuring offshore patrol vessels for Trinidad and Tobago’s coast guard, hopefully this time we actually get them and they get put to good use to protect our nation and our people. There have been numerous investigations into corruption under the UNC Gov led by Kamla Persad Bissessar, very serious criminal cases have resulted from this, it is of course all still alleged until the courts decide what is the truth, and in TT this can take 20 years as we saw with Piarco. If we had a proper functioning judiciary like in the UK, Canada, Switzerland and other 1st world countries then we would had the final verdicts a long time ago, and if the verdict had been GUILTY then here would be no UNC today, you cannot do what has been alleged and remain politically viable. Covid 19 was another test of this administration and they performer very well. Pm Rowley, Health Minister Deyalsingh, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Parasaram, Information Minister Cox, Minister of Nat Sec Young, our Doctors and Nurses performed with distinction. It is almost a miracle that covid 19 didn’t run through Trinidad and Tobago’s population like a wildfire in the bush, if one factors in that there are many thousands of Trinbagonians moving about all the time in covid 19 hotspots like the USA, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Italy etc. Then in the homeland people squeeze into maxi taxis and taxis, they stand in line at retail stores, the stand in line at banks, they live in the homes of their relatives who then go to work, school etc., again it is almost a miracle that TT was able to contain the spread. Now we are seeing a slight raising of the numbers, nobody knows why, is it illegal migration, or is it that community spread was happening all along, it is difficult to say. Eventually our borders will open and our people will be repatriated, we have to stay the course even if the price of closed borders and lockdown measures is high. We must be smart and not exchange the people in Gov in the middle of a life and death crisis. Think about the future of TT, be honest with yourself, do you really believe that people with the mentality of the UNC would have outperformed Dr. Keith Rowley, Colm Imbert, Terrence Deyalsingh, Roshan Parasaram, Donna Cox, Fitzgerald Hinds, Stuart Young, Rohan Sinanan etc.? I say NO WAY.

  3. A government is a reflection of people in its society. It’s crazy how we as Trinidadians somehow don’t realize this. The citizens that govern this country are us and we are them. We as a people seriously lack creativity and imagination, this manifests itself in the business, media, governance, etc. This country has so much room for growth its ridiculous but we rather cry and bawl “people suffering”

    We can produce many legit millionaires and possibly a couple of billionaires, but….”d government……”
    and this breath is passed from us to our children.

    Change starts at an individual level, not from leaders who have at best 2 more general elections in them and that’s a stretch. They are lost causes. Nevertheless, this is what we have currently. UNC is a migraine, PNM is a headache. I don’t want either but if I had to choose, ill choose the latter.

    • Earl Best

      Interestingly, Chris, I am not sure that the writer’s response to a choice between the migraine and the headache would be different from yours, certainly not on the basis of this piece.
      On the basis of the totality of her contributions here, one is left in no doubt about where she stands on the PM and the PNM. On the basis of the totality of her contributions here, do you know where she stands on Kamla AliBaba and the UNC?
      Do you get the impression that her real lament is the absence of other viable options?
      Maybe we will get clarity on that in her next contribution.
      Hold your horses.

    • I respect your view in the full knowledge that with your thinking we will get more of the same. I am voting to disrupt the Parliament. We have to change our operating context for us to change and “ketchup and mustard” have both brought us rising crime, poor management of our energy money, poor systems, process and structures, no accountability, transparency or collaboration. They have brought us school buildings but no schools, hospitals but no care etc. I am voting to do something different.
      Blessings!

    • Mr. Bickmaus
      You have a right to your opinion and the use of unsubstantiated data to justify your position. Where your approach becomes problematic is where you pose the rhetorical question which implies that I may not be honest and your categorizing a group of people as having a certain mentality. By implication you are negatively stereotyping a group of persons and predicting their lack of mental capacity. Maybe we all need to be more tolerant towards those holding different opinions and present our arguments without negatively stereotyping.