Banking on chaos


SERPENTINE frozen queues, fainting elderly, countless hours lost, confusion and fear; there are few things we do better than chaos in Trini.

Last week saw yet another example of this Government’s penchant for pointless pandemonium. A demonetisation exercise triggered bedlam across the country.

Some complained bitterly that the changeover was executed without any planning whatsoever. That, however, isn’t true. The fact that the bills arrived a day after demonetisation of the $100 bill was announced shows the change was in the offing for quite some.

Quite predictably, government supporters ravaged critics of the ensuing demonetisation fallout, demonising them as criminal-loving bellyachers. Anyone put out by long lines and uncertainty over the availability of the new polymer notes doesn’t want the authorities to clamp down on money launderers, drug barons and murderers. Trinis didn’t want to put up with “a little inconvenience” for the greater good

Our people flaunt their binary thought processes like a front-section masquerader in a Carnival band. You either want to combat crime or you don’t. If you aren’t a criminal you shouldn’t have any problems. If you complain about the chaotic process, you are against demonetisation. You claiming the economy is dead but you lining up to deposit yuh millions. This country is in too precarious a state to countenance such wanton stupidity.

I haven’t come across a single objection to swapping out the old $100 bills for the more robust polymer notes. If it puts a spoke in counterfeiters’ wheel and gelds criminals posing on Facebook with piles of cash, that’s fantastic. If gambling machines can’t ingest the new notes and parlour punters instead have to go home to their families, hallelujah! Most of the complaints, from my reading of it hinge on the poor handling of the process.

For starters, the currency change was conducted like a national security operation rather than the implementation of monetary policy. Presumably, the Government believed secrecy and the tight deadline for the changeover of old bills would “catch” criminals, as they would be netted sauntering into banks with wheelbarrows filled with cash.

As the authorities are well aware, there is an entire sub-economy enabling underworld figures to convert their ill-gotten gains into gold, properties and business investments. This they can accomplish without having to go anywhere near a bank.

A fair portion of their money will be lost, true. The more enterprising zessers, though, will be up and running in no time, posing on stacks of polymer notes. Moreover, the puppeteers of these local criminals, the human traffickers and international drug syndicates trade in US currency, not TT dollars, so they will be untouched by demonetisation.

That’s not to say it shouldn’t have been done. Again, concerns centre on the “how,” not the why. No one should have been surprised at the cultural disconnect exhibited by the Government.

Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. Just go and deposit the money. Use your credit card or debit card. This, coming from a man who probably sleeps in Savile Row pyjamas. It’s difficult for politicians removed from the people to understand that there are citizens with a deep distrust for banks. As such, they have nothing to do with them.

The AG assumes every pensioner has a bank card and a credit card. People at that level of governance should know many older people aren’t comfortable using technology. Additionally, confronting an older person in a bank with a source-of-funds form to explain life savings that were, only moments before, deposited in a Sealy Posturepedic account is a recipe for panic.

The sea bridge crisis, the Venezuelan registration debacle, the vehicle inspection sticker bacchanal, the calamitous shuttering of Petrotrin; these are just a few highlights of crises engineered through political spitefulness, mismanagement, and good old-fashioned incompetence.

The Government has become an agent of chaos. Through acts of omission and ill-considered decisions, citizens have suffered much more than a mere inconvenience. Businesses have been wounded, lives upended and already weak productivity further diminished.

People must stop processing government ineptitude through their political prism. We are so blinded by cancerous political allegiances we can only see the forest for the opposition.

The botched demonetisation is just one in a series of avoidable missteps. These bungles all form links in a chain at the end of which is an anchor dragging us to the depths. Perhaps you can guess what the anchor is in this overwrought analogy.


"Banking on chaos"

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