Phillip Edward Alexander
What is there to be happy about, just being independent? Seriously, what is there to look back on in appreciation or forward to in anticipation when those who have held the reins have made such a mess of things for all of our independent existence?
In the 57 years since we declared ourselves in charge of our own destiny, this nation has been on a collision course with failed-nation status interrupted by two cash windfalls that we quickly blew through with almost nothing to show for it.
As a nation we have regressed to the point where life is almost valueless, where rampant murder no longer makes news, not because it is any less prevalent or gruesome, but because we are numb to images of the dead and the dying.
Horror stories no longer horrify. Dead bodies piled up like firewood in our failing morgue, our public health is an unfathomable disaster when compared to the billions that have been spent on it every year for decades. We have turned our two seasons from wet and dry into flood and drought, failing to master that most basic of science, the capturing of one to ameliorate the other. Vast amounts of our young are failed out or abandon our failing education system each year, becoming grist for the ever-expanding criminal mill. Social development and management without vision or direction functions as a means to handouts in exchange for party cards, and have created a vast underclass of poverty, squalor and desperation.
We fail to grow the most basic of food necessities, we frustrate willing and able farmers and eschew food production to our national detriment, making us a nation that was a net food exporter up to the 1970s, almost entirely food dependent on the rest of the world.
Our systems of state and government fare no better. Our legislature grinds out laws to plug the failings of previous laws but charts no course for a better future; our administration of justice is an unmentionable disaster; law enforcement has been called the biggest gang in the country, and while we have a freshly minted commissioner on whom we are pinning so much hope, the fact remains that even he is just one man stacked up against a service whose legacy is anything but proud, in a nation where too much of the crime, killing and kidnapping all seem to have police connections.
We operate the state as a plaything for friends and family, our borders remain unprotected as if to facilitate the pipeline of illegal drugs that we have known to have have flown through this country for decades; public works contracts and the provision of goods and service are all embroiled in allegations of massive corruption and bribery that leave no office untainted.
As the only Caribbean island outside the hurricane belt we should be the largest safe haven for pleasure craft in the western hemisphere, but we’re not. We should be the undisputed king of tourism in the region based on the idyllic beauty of Tobago, the natural wonders that abound in our islands such as amazing corals, the pitch lake and nylon pool to name a few, but we’re not.
Our geographical locations suggests that we should be a major hub for global shipping between North, South and Central America and the Caribbean, but we’re not. The uniqueness of our fertile soil has given global accolades to our cocoa and honey, we boast the second hottest pepper in the world and should be major players in global food production for all of those, but we’re not. The almost inexhaustible wonder of the pitch lake mentioned above used for so many essential purposes could by itself have us as the world authority in road surfacing and water proofing, but we’re not. We were a major player in the sugar, oil and gas industries but we’re not anymore. Like the child’s nursery rhyme about the goose that laid the golden eggs, we killed them out of uncontrollable greed and failure to manage. We SHOULD be happy to be independent, we should be boasting our achievements and looking forward with eager anticipation to the fulfilment of our goals and plans, but we’re not.
It’s Independence Day yes, but what there is to be happy about in this mad, wild, corrupt and dangerous place, damned if I know.
Phillip Edward Alexander is the political leader of the Progressive Empowerment Party.