It's not that they don't hear. They don't care

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -


MP FOR Port of Spain South Keith Scotland apologised for his coal pot advice mostly because he was hauled over his own coals.

Scotland took more heat for his brain flatulence than his equally offending colleagues because his budget recommendations were ridiculous. His apology was also timely because there was a slim chance reporters might shadow him to see whether he'd cycle to court as promised.

Still, credit should be given to Scotland for having the character to throw himself on the mercy of the public court. This is a government not known for retrospection.

Indeed, Scotland was likely emboldened to offer his creative solutions after the Prime Minister suggested we could save gas by choosing not to commute in traffic. The soundly chastened MP volunteered insights on his roast breadfruit lifestyle after beauty and lifestyle influencer Shamfa Cujdoe had already doubled down on her advice to “sacrifice.”

There's this mistaken idea that government ministers and Members of Parliament are clueless about what's happening on the ground – business closures, economic contraction, expanding pockets of suffering across the country.

The Government is fully aware of hardships in the ranks of the grumbling, oppressed proletariat. Detachment and ignorance aren't the same things.

This administration has a vested interest in downplaying our circumstances. Crime isn't as horrific as ordinary citizens are experiencing daily. Members of the commuting public have no complaints about PTSC. The private sector is booming. Minister of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds described any idea of suffering in the national community as an evil construct of an eternally malevolent opposition.

The organisms that constitute this administration must say these things. To admit to anything else is an open confession of their failure to achieve even a fragment of their mandate.

The PNM's primal instinct when confronted with challenging issues and broader public discontent is the out-of-season political meeting – the PNM roadshow. It's an opportunity to remind supporters that the true villain isn't their party's incompetence, mismanagement and corruption but the schemes of an irrelevant UNC that hasn't been in office for seven years and hasn't held power for even ten consecutive years of our six decades as an independent nation.

This administration is keenly aware of what people are saying and feeling. Were it not so, Prime Minister Rowley wouldn't have volunteered the explanation of ministers experiencing “microphone” troubles – a peculiar euphemism for chronic verbal diarrhoea. Dr Rowley deftly omitted himself from that group stricken with malfunctioning audio equipment.

Government acolytes and activists in sheep's clothing who recognised the difficulty of defending the indefensible budget came up with an approach to create the illusion of unbiased opinion – the problem with the budget wasn't the substance, but the way the Government chose to sell it to the public. The backlash was caused by a communications problem. This is, of course, nonsense.

The fundamental flaw of the budget is the absence of any discernible strategy to lift this country out of the morass of economic stagnation.

The Government has made it clear that its main priority is keeping public servants happy. That's because this cohort has always been perceived as the bellwether of the PNM's political fortunes. Folks in the public sector can count on job security and wage increases regardless of the global economic climate or Vlad the Invader.

Public servants number roughly 90,000, whereas the rest of the population who make up the private sector, self-employed and other categories must face the stiff winds of increasing costs of living with static salaries.

Moreover, during the pandemic, public servants were paid to stay home while countless thousands lost their jobs and saw their businesses collapse. A government with nakedly narrow interests is a natural consequence of a nation dominated largely by one political party for most of its life. The PNM is the default political setting in this country. That reality breeds the quality of hubris that permeates our governance.

This administration's response to the backlash came long after the broadly expressed view that citizens are going to have to throttle back on the “good life.” As a people, it seems we all got used to splurging at MovieTowne three times a week and feasting on ham every month. Even so, that belated response included no mea culpa, save for Keith Scotland.

Society has essentially engineered the contempt the Government has for its people. It's not that we remain unheard. Our voices don't matter nearly as much as our silent consent.


"It’s not that they don’t hear. They don’t care"

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