Don’t know about you, but nowadays when the Prime Minister speaks, I want to reach for the headphones or a violin. What a whiner.
Now it’s a martyr’s drone over the population’s disbelief in the Government’s stats on “economic migrants.” Does Dr Rowley forget he’s a politician? Generally politicians don’t poll well on the trust meter. And these days, if, as Bhutan, Trinidad and Tobago conducts a Gross National Happiness survey (GNH, not GDP), which excludes questions on Venezuela, what percentage of the population would be nominally happy?
With this Government in particular, fewer and fewer. The Prime Minister is deeply out of favour and I suspect across most age groups and ethnicities. To quote not Voltaire, but Shaggy: “It wasn’t me.”
In 2018 I was “off island,” as the T&T bourgeoisie say, and when I got back “on island,” the proverbial mess had hit the fan. Disillusion, rage, and downright disgust with this inflation regime. Two principal areas of complaint: failure to kick start the economy and indefatigable crime of all colours.
But to be fair, there is general fatigue with all administrations, with whom the GNH numbers would plunge below 50 per cent. Here’s an anecdotal example of why:
Sometimes you have to let the dust settle, no, even more practical yet, wait for it dissipate so you can detect the dud, pick it out of the shells that have exploded, and return it to sender.
The dust in this case was the registration of thousands of Venezuelans and the attendant rage, panic, with a soupcon of mercy. And the tired, clichéd politics, who was more pro-human rights than the other.
This time the dust had roosted just enough for the dud to become visible. Or rather, audible: police announced that they had gathered a great deal of intelligence from the migrants.
Risible. Two or three years after the rest of the population was intelligent enough to see that we were enveloped in the Venezuelan madness. Intelligence? A visit to supermarkets would have provided the first set of Intel. There, in your face, Trinis—I can’t speak for Tobagonians—were already purchasing goods to profit from the shortages.
They weren’t using trolleys to shop, but those elongated trays, on which they stuffed and piled bales of toilet paper, diapers, soap, shampoo, in general all the toiletries in great shortage across the sea.
And they were paying for the goods in cash; stunned I watched this middle aged woman extract hundreds of bills from a wad in her wallet to pay the cashier. It was distasteful, repugnant. And deeply suspicious.
Intelligence fuh so. Police officers would enter the wholesale and retail shops and not a one would ask a question. They would buy their stuff and speed off. Intelligent shoppers were frustrated, their faces marked with knowing weariness, as the lines grew longer.
One morning a confrontation in a wholesalers store in Spanish with a rude, feisty Venezuelan woman could have landed me a well-paying, but indubitably dangerous job. In front of us were a group of men with mountains of things and they had overheard the dispute. As they rolled the trays out, I was asked if I wanted to join the “team.” I could make good US dollars speaking Spanish. So I asked the “team” where they sold their supplies. Their boats left from Chaguaramas, they said. From where else?
Had I, and I would not have, gone to the Ministry of National Security to report the growing black market, which as a matter of course, would include human trafficking, would I not have been laughed out of whatever spy agency? Intelligence from a grocery?
It’s not just me. Everyone possesses the “intelligence”. So you feel like a dud when authorities, their political gonads caught in a vice, claim laughable victory and exit the field, holding aloft a trophy, a trophy made of tin, bound for rust and the dustbin.
Am I a super dud or did this hyper sensitive Finance Minister promise us a crack team to mow down tax evasion when he first announced plans to choke us with taxes, during, of all times, an economic downturn. No crack team yet, but levies are copious.
The result: an increase in tax evasion. How do I know Mr Imbert? In many places of economic activity, for example, doctors’ offices, the option of using LINX or credit cards has been taken off the table. Cheque or cash only. How many people still use cheques? And if they do, these doctors simply play games with the cheques, depositing them the following month or into someone else’s account and collecting the cash. Doctors, not all of them mind you, are merely one set of tax masters.
Fair-mindedness to Mr Imbert demands I underscore that talk of a tax criminal investigation unit began at the turn of the millennium, yet boldfaced tax evasion abounds. We all know it. And it is easily defended through resentment and wariness about where tax dollars go and how they are wasted or co-opted by perpetually overly bulky governments and their bulkier friends.
Which is why people fraid Kamla. If Rowley is an amalgamation of Oscar the Grouch and Snuffleupagus, Kamla is the Cookie Monster, but definitely not the Count. And the electorate suspects that the Cookie Monster hasn’t learned yet when to stop munching, metaphor of course, for her untamed spending. But five more years of this?
Here are some statistics that might make the PM really cry: Intelligence? Zero. The trust quotient? Low. Our GNH? A dud.