“Attention please! This is your captain speaking! Please fasten your seatbelts. It is about to get a little bumpy!”
Perhaps to change a culture that thought it was a good idea, we may have to go back to folk tales about the Little Red Hen rushing around helplessly crying: "The sky is falling, the sky is falling!” (if we even notice that it is) instead of taking heed of other folk tales about the grasshopper and the ant, where the beautiful grasshopper limed in the sunshine, went to fetes and played mas, while the ant, grain by grain, toiled away, putting aside what he would need to survive in tough times to come.
On a different level, there are still people who shrug off the storm warnings, saying: “God is a Trini.” Of course He is; that is why in the background the captain is whispering in the ears of those who are willing to hear.
There is a miasma of alternative reality setting in, deliberately obscuring the captain’s vision, and before we land we need the answers to some questions.
For those who are in the business of producing goods and services, the world has been divided into befores and afters. Before covid and after covid. Before global warming, and after global warming began in earnest.
There are those who cannot break out of the “old-time days and the old-time ways.” Don’t blame them. They simply do not have the intellectual flexibility and energy to be able to.
Then there are those who see the writing on the wall, who have been – as they always have, to protect their families – saving or investing in properties abroad, choosing survival over country, emigrating before the war starts or the violence gets so far beyond control that the police become part of the problem and those left behind either live in fortress-like "gated communities" or buy firearms and teach their daughters how to shoot in self-defence.
The alternative seems to be apathy arising from the feeling of helplessness blotting out the last five years’ economic decline.
Some of us tear up all our strategic plans and start again, because there is no return to "normality" (there is no such thing) and reality is not what politicians, prophets and poll-takers in the popular press have promoted.
Reality is not popular where presidents of organisations such as TTUTA can assert with authority that contractors had eight weeks to effect much-needed repairs to deteriorating primary schools, but failed to do so (and they are right), without mention of where, when and if the funds are coming from, and fail to acknowledge the corollary, which is that teachers, and TTUTA, had the same eight weeks to “rest and reflect” about the parlous state of our education system (which they rightly noted), but also failed to do so. Nor were any solutions offered.
The weather-forecasters/economists warn us that the weather ahead will bring storms and hurricanes. They let us watch on TV as real rivers worldwide run dry and agricultural lands are lost to floods, whole properties are lost to landslides; but strangely, governments in our region do not rush to promote practical and immediate systems that can be implemented so that those who will be most affected can compensate for the upcoming consequences.
The ongoing climate changes continue to devastate the countries we import food from, as well as at home. And do we think about how this country will be affected by Europe ’s traditional transport venues, by river and sea, vanishing into cracked cakes of mud, once-verdant agricultural lands stripped by floodwaters of the nourishing elements that enabled rice and vegetables to grow?
Little help from government ministries is presented to import the Guyanese rice strains that can grow in even salty water, despite that impressive huge Caribbean agri-conference recently. Do you think it was a coincidence that it took place in Guyana? Or the magnificent one held in the Savannah last month?
When I asked where I could buy the products being sold there after the agricultural "nagar" finished, I discovered that no such arrangements had been made. Great presentation with no follow-up.
Part of the culture that builds a great stadium but doesn’t maintain it. NHA buildings in the Plannings, anyone?
Whether talking about building a relationship, or a building, initial creation feels good; maintenance is long and hard. This does not apply only to the mas-playing hoi polloi. I have seen people with PhDs teaching at universities, holding high government offices, living in government, university or company housing, suddenly – like the grasshopper – finding themselves out in the cold looking for somewhere to go when retirement comes around and their houses are allocated to their successors.
There is an equivalent children's story in every culture. If you cannot hear the captain’s voice, go back to your childhood. Not to the IMF.
Life has never been easy over the past decade in small and medium-sized economies (SMEs), but life has been easier in TT than it has been in almost all other countries this size. If the current story about our government receiving a stipend (via the WHO?) for every death attributed officially to covid, even where an aged dying person had suffered from comorbidities for decades, we can understand it. Governments always want to claim credit for any serendipitous income source, even a rise in gas and oil income resulting from a war in Europe. We are accustomed to that.
But with all the forewarning of turbulence to come, is it unreasonable to ask for preventative strategies other than raising taxes and energy prices, to guide us safely to landing?