PW : Trinidad & Tobago Independence Day
Today, August 31, we congratulate the people of Trinidad and Tobago on its National Day, the 49th year of Independence
from the British.
Big celebrations, are a bit under the whether, and not due to the hurricane season precisely, but to criminal activity that put the murder rate out of proportion for this entrepreneurial small Caribbean island.
Today's Express editorial
Cloud over our celebration
As Trinidad and Tobago marks its 49th year of Independence under a state of emergency, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced last Monday that curfew restrictions will be eased.
Although the Government intends to extend the state of emergency, the Prime Minister said that, in the interest of ensuring that citizens can go about their normal business, the curfew period will be reduced. This promise comes a little over a week since the state of emergency was proclaimed. Within that time, there has only been one domestic murder, which means, given the previous rate, between five to ten persons who would otherwise have been dead are still breathing today—although the odds are that several of them have been incarcerated because of the state of emergency.
Nonetheless, the Government has soon realised that the country cannot long continue to operate under the 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew restrictions. The business community, in general, supported the state of emergency since it was a main target of criminals. But the curfew has hit hard those businesses which depend mainly on nightlife, from pubs and cinemas to restaurants. The country's ports have also suffered since trade is a 24-hour process, and when ships or aircraft cannot unload their goods, there are financial penalties. Even the most basic category of business person—the Beetham entrepreneurs who collect scrap iron and other rubbish to sell—had its materials confiscated by the authorities. Yet on this matter, the Government also appears to be finding a level-headed temperance, with Attorney General Anand Ramlogan promising that the scrap-iron dealers would receive fair monetary compensation.
Still not quantified in all this, however, is the economic cost to the T&T "brand". Investors tend to shy away from countries where human rights may be suspended, unless the profits to be made are extraordinary as is the case with the energy industry. But in a situation where the world economy is still sluggish, T&T can hardly afford to stymie its own recovery efforts. The counter-argument here, voiced earlier this week by Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams, is that crime itself exacts economic costs. So if the state of emergency achieves its goal, the short-term economic sacrifice would have been worth it.
That little "if", however, remains a large caveat. It is ironic that on this, our 49th Independence anniversary, the Government feels it has no choice but to impose draconian measures to arrest the runaway crime situation.
The jury is still out on whether the state of emergency and curfew have brought real success, although the Government has claimed it has. Yes, there have been no murders and serious crimes, but the true test will be whether Trinidad and Tobago returns to the pre-August 22 situation of rampant murders when the state of emergency and curfew end.
Only then will we have reason to truly celebrate the big one—our 50th Independence anniversary—next year.
Trinidad Express /
Aug 31, 2011 at 12:40 AM ECT
We wish T&T all success in the world in all their endeavours, and the best for the people and government of Trinidad and Tobago led by, President George Maxwell Richards, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
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