IF YOU believe there are 200,000 Venezuelan migrants in TT, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.
Thanks to social media one now has almost instant access to just about every public act of human indecency and/or inanity imaginable.
If anything, it reaffirms the old truism in radio broadcasting: everyone wishes they had a radio programme but not everyone is fit to be heard by a public audience.
Sadly, today’s example of reckless excess and unbridled conjecture is the casual belief that there are more than 200,000 Venezuelan migrants presently in Trinidad.
If anything this reaffirms two beliefs about people living in TT.
Firstly, we are God awful at estimating crowd size and understanding quantities more than 20, ie, our God-given number of fingers and toes. (For example: Johnny, how many people were in the 25,0000-seat national stadium on November 19, 1989? Miss, more than a million. Possibly even two.)
Secondly, if given the choice between cold hard facts and the wildest unsubstantiated exaggeration, Trinis are easily seduced by the latter.
And whereas 200,000 may be closer to reality than the “ten per cent of all Venezuela is now in Trinidad” remark uttered by Ancil Roget a few days ago, it is unchecked conjecture like this which, in my honest view, causes widespread panic and will eventually lead to hate crimes and violence.
To even insinuate such a thing is irresponsible. Can anyone relate with absolute certainty that out of every 60 people they walk past on the street, that ten are Venezuelan? To put it in better perspective, 200,000 people are equivalent to more than three times the population of all of Tobago. And are actually more than the populations of San Fernando, Arima, Chaguanas and Pt Fortin taken together. And are more than the number of eligible voters in ten constituencies.
Mathematically, the proposition is also rendered ridiculous. With just over 400,000 passenger arrivals to this country each year, those visitors would have to remain here at a rate of ten per cent over five years to arrive at an immigrant population of 200,000.
Over five years, 110 visitors would have to arrive here each and every day just to get us to that 200,000 mark.
Are you beginning to see just how ludicrous that sounds? Let’s break it down some more.
Two hundred thousand Venezuelans are equivalent to 1,500 direct flights. At a rate of one per day, it would take four years and two months to complete that exodus.
Two hundred thousand represent 400 ferry loads. Or 10,000 boatloads if a pirogue is your preferred choice of transport.
If you lined up 200,000 people and asked them to hold hands and make a human chain, that chain would extend for over 60 km.
If you counted to 200,000 it would take you more than 55 hours – provided of course you can keep up a rate of one per second.
If you had 200,000 dollar bills and you stacked them one on top of the other, the stack would be over 71 feet tall.
And where pray tell are these 200,000 working and shopping? Even at minimum wage we are talking about a $12 billion boost to our gross domestic product. That’s almost ten per cent. The effect would be felt and well known.
The entire workforce of TT is around 675,000 people, so how many of those people have now been replaced by Venezuelans?
Where do they live? Even if we assigned eight to each home, 25,000 homes would be required for them. Supply aside, can anyone appreciate what such an increase in demand would do to rents in this country? The real estate market and construction sectors would be booming.
What about transport? Being unbankable they would be unable to access car loans so one can assume they would be taking public transport. Two hundred thousand people would require 8,000 25-seater maxi-taxis to take them back and forth every day.
So, in light of the above, how.many Venezuelans did you encounter today? How many did you pass on the street? How many were your customers or your co-workers? How many were in your taxi or maxi-taxi as you went from home to work to home again?
Don’t bother to answer because I already know your response: “Millions! More than the number of people in the national stadium on November 19, 1989. The whole ah town done overrun. All 32 million Venezuelans are here and the island is sinking.”
Sinking indeed: From the shear weight of ignorance and illogic and xenophobia. The true recession in this country is not economic in nature, but intellectual. And it has doomed us to a far worse hell than we can bear.