THE low esteem in which the population holds key national leaders and institutions is once again underscored in the latest Express -commissioned poll which is published in today’s edition.
As was also found in last year’s poll, the public perceives athletes as the only group among those polled to have an overall positive impact on the society. However, at 51 per cent, even that is not as great as might be expected given the heights to which our most successful athletes have been able to lift us from time to time.
Although the Prime Minister may feel buoyed by his 50 per cent public approval ratings, as published in yesterday’s Sunday Express, he should recognise the seriousness of the challenge that lies before him and his government in the low level of confidence that the public has in the national institutions in Trinidad and Tobago. No society can expect to progress when roughly two-thirds of the population has no confidence in the institutions on which its democracy rests. In a few days’ time the new law term will open with its usual pomp and ceremony but with the judicial system prostrate at the bottom of the list with a mere 12 per cent of public confidence, we must accept that beneath the symbolic show lies a gutted, hollow institution in urgent need of credibility.
The same must be said for all the other institutions. The health system, in particular, cannot afford to bury its head in the sand. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh must lead his team in introspecting on the five point drop in public confidence in the health system over the past year as picked up in the poll conducted by Solution By Simulation for the Express.
One point that is well demonstrated by the poll is the power of leadership. Whatever one might think of Gary Griffith’s style of leadership as Commissioner of Police, he seems to have communicated hope to the public which has translated into an eight per cent uptick in public confidence in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service. Whether such confidence is sustained and even grows over the next year will depend on the Commissioner’s ability to deliver on his promise.
The situation could not be bleaker when it comes to the public’s perception about national leaders. The fact that the public perceives only 29 per cent of business leaders and a shocking 10 per cent of labour leaders as doing more good than harm to the country is mind-boggling. This is a country, after all, where business leaders are help up as exemplars and where labour leaders come out of a rich history of defending the rights of people. Something has gone seriously wrong when the great majority of the population concludes that it has little reason to hold either in high esteem.
This is no unique problem of the current political administration or of the one that preceded it. This is a problem that has dogged T&T society throughout the age of Independence. The fact that neither money nor change of governments has succeeded in resolving it should encourage us to search more deeply for answers.