THE EDITOR: If any student or researcher of economics from any part of the world were to perform a Google search using any combination or permutation of the words “Polymer introduced in Trinidad and Tobago”, some of the major weblink headlines from our local newspapers that would come up include: Blue Vex, Frustration, Dollar note change causes frenzy across T&T, Rush to Change, ATM Strain and Communication Fiasco. And this is not being selective. News headlines have not been kind to the latest monetary kid on the block.
Fact of the matter is that TT may have suddenly become the prime example of “how not to introduce a new currency into your country.” And that too may soon be a major hit on Google. This new, shiny and glittery polymer has single-handedly activated an historic and unprecedented mad rush of confusion, chaos, frustration, anguish and anger. It has pushed an entire nation into pain, suffering and distress. From long lines in the nation’s banks, to traffic on the roadways and from confusion at the bank counter, to pandemonium at the automatic teller machines, the polymer has played ‘mas’ on the sensitivities of an entire nation. And as fate would have it, the launch of the dazzling polymer came amidst both heavy rainfall and a commercial banking sector caught napping in unpreparedness, a case of more than just river banks bursting at its seams.
One thing is for certain and that is, that many questions would be asked when the frenzy subsides. And perhaps one question might just be, what would have prompted this measure to be done with such haste, as if meeting some deadline and which consequently appeared to lack any planning, organisation and structure. There was a sense of hurriedness and secrecy which predictably the government would argue was necessary because of national security and that any further “openness” about the move would have alerted the criminal elements and that would have defied the objectives of introducing the currency in the first place. But how would they explain the fact that every single stakeholder seemed unprepared? Next to the ill-fated Petrotrin, the polymer disaster now follows a close second as being a national strategy or perhaps tragedy which was shrouded in secrecy and confusion.
The timing of the introduction of the polymer has also aroused significant suspicion. And not just the fact that the Government decided to let loose the new bill when the entire country was preparing for sorrel, pastelle and parang. But more so, that the polished note came when the Elections and Boundaries Commission was still wrapping up the vote count and candidates were preparing to take their oath of office in the respective corporations.
Is it that the polymer was scheduled to come on stream in the New Year after the hustle and bustle of the yuletide, but it was “fast-tracked” as an expedient political distraction from the results of the local government election? Maybe, the government felt dissatisfied with the response to the LED light distribution promise and felt compelled to offer something that was shinier, brighter, and glossier.
The unfortunate series of events which have accompanied the launch of this new currency could have been averted if there was a plan that was conceived after the strategic inputs of all the stakeholders and which reflected internal best practices. This clearly was not done. At the end of the day, what may have been genuine motives have been overshadowed by images of distress and hardship. It should be a message to leaders that the presentation of gloss to the people must not take precedence over their comfort, safety and well-being. And it should be a message to the people as well with 12 months to go before a constitutionally due general election. And that message may very well be to look beyond that which is superficially attractive for all that glitters is not polymer.