Amid the usual barrage of chamber panels, macroeconomic analyses and inevitable dust-ups that follow the national budget, I decided to convene my own panel: Reyes, Jelisa and Shana (names changed), all single mothers working night shifts as security guards in a residential building and as eminently qualified as any of our commentators.
How are you managing?
I believe everybody is affected. It come like you’re working and as you get pay you’re looking forward to the next pay. You can’t save anything.
I’ll have to stay in my job. It have so many unemployed looking for something. I (will) stick here until the covid19 situation done.
With all that do, you have any time to learn or skill up?
I saw someone was giving out courses – I think it was patient care and some other course – but the time being, you can’t really do anything when you’re working security. This is a 12-hour job. I work two daylights, two nights and two off. You sleep practically whole day.
Yeah, it have the YTEPP (Youth Training and Employment Partnership Programme) and other things. What about me, who don’t have a phone?
Schooling is not cheap and it have no jobs.
Before the pandemic hit, where did you see yourself in a year?
I see myself with food in my house!
That will have to be on a hold because I have to make sure the children eat.
I would have been a police now! Most of my plans got pushed back because I wouldn’t have been stressed like how I am right now.
I would be in a better job. I would be more financially stable. I would spend more time with my son.
You will start to feel that life against you the world against you. They supposed to put things in place for the people.
Do you think covid19 will spur change?
People will look at life differently. The old lifestyle we had, we don’t have it any more.
I surprised to hear (the utilities) are overstaffed – they’re always digging up the road as soon as they finish repairing one. I does swear they don’t have enough workers. But that will have to change.
If you were the finance minister, what would you do?
I wouldn’t employ much people because we’re done in a crisis.
I would have said we have to spend some of this money – that they don’t have – so what them supposed to do?
You have to put something in place so people occupy their time. Put something in place, open avenues so people don’t get into those worldly things (drugs). The agricultural programmes for youth are important.
Give them supplies (investment) where they can work for a percentage and the government can earn from that also.
What suggestions do you have for economic growth?
I think tourism is a big thing, being in the Caribbean. We don’t sell it as much as we should or invest as much as they should in Trinidad. When you go online you see the worst of TT. I think the government could invest more in tourism to bring in foreign currency.
They don’t ever consult with the poor people, but we make up the majority of the country. They will cater for themselves and their lifestyles. Look at examples like Seas Lots and the Beetham. They have a lot of good children out there, but they are ignored. Every creed and race find an equal place. (Laughs) I believe in miracles!
I hear some workers complain of being treated poorly while many businesspeople complain about poor work ethic. How would you improve productivity and relations between both sides?
A happy work environment will make anybody productive. I enjoy working because my corporal does make me feel comfortable (not like the last shift I was on). Being in a comfortable work environment.
De bosses and dem complain of work ethic. But you can’t judge everybody the same – you have to reward or the (good) majority will start to behave like the (bad) minority.
What advice do you have for our readers?
I can’t be winning and I see my friend ent winning. If dais my friend I’ll help you win too. Help each other win.
One day things must get better. It’s not you alone, it's all of us in it together.
Kiran Mathur Mohammed is a social entrepreneur, economist and businessman. He is a former banker and a graduate of the University of Edinburgh.