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Letter: Personal interest in public space
Published on July 31, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

Dear Sir:

The People’s Partnership government in Trinidad and Tobago has been forced to steer the course, prodded at every corner it may have tried to turn. Some observers have said that, while the prime minister may not be in the news for days, some of her ministers find a way to broadcast themselves; probably believing that all publicity is good publicity. The reality is that the electorate does not approve of how matters of public interest are handled.

The findings of an opinion survey conducted by the North American Caribbean Teachers Association (NACTA) a few months ago showed that the approval rating of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has remained resilient four years after her victory, even as that of Dr Keith Rowley has been climbing. In general, the findings showed the ruling People’s Partnership government is struggling to retain its political support from 2010 when it comprehensively defeated the then ruling PNM. Although the PP has slipped, the PM’s approval rating remains relatively strong vis-à-vis her ministers; much attributed to positive responses from the population to the tough actions she took to discipline errant ministers, chairpersons and CEOs of government corporations and members of state boards.

Recently, opposition parties, civil society groups, and labour unions have assumed the mantle of the protest vote, giving the ordinary man an opportunity to kick the government in the teeth. Therefore, the more these ministers squeal and squirm, the more attractive a vote for the opposition actually becomes. Add to that the brand recognition that the media is obligingly giving, some being recognised by the ILP and PNM for their over-zealous coverage of government activities; while being slapped on the wrists for tea plates.

The fact that we, the employers, did not approve the pay hike nor believe the overwhelming workload complaint showed that some in the political class are losing touch with popular sentiment and have no idea how to respond. Call me a rat!

Voters in Trinidad and Tobago are opposed to the proposed Judges Salaries and Pensions Amendment Bill and the Retiring Allowances Legislative Service Amendment, that would substantially increase pensions of judges and parliamentarians, another poll by NACTA has found. Although referred for review, coupled with the proroguing of Parliament, the electorate is wary of its return. Filler and paint make the devil a saint; such is the belief of the common man.

Idioms of Self Interest: Credit, Identity, and Property” written by Jill Phillips Ingram noted that Lancelot Andrewes, centuries before the book was published, did not rebuke profit’s dependence upon chance. He cites contingency as a rationale for merchants’ enterprises and uses it to support profit-taking. In his “Exposition of the 8th Commandment,” he examined ways of unjust getting, as well as the lawful ways of acquiring. Among the lawful or just ways of acquiring are those that come “by industry and pains.”

Andrewes made the broader point that greater rewards are given to those who willingly take the greater risk and who withstand the uncertainty that attends true risk. Thus the merchant’s gain ought to be greater because he ventures his “estate and life,” whereas the husbandman only ventures his “seed.”

Merchants may deserve a profit, in other words, that at first seems excessive but that is justified ultimately only because they have placed their goods and lives in danger. Although Andrewes approves of this type of material gain, he reiterates common warnings about the requirements for those who benefit from worldly gains and riches. This was typical of theologians and moralists of the time in reminding merchants that their success lay in God’s hands. No person was ever honoured for what he received. Honour has been the reward for what he gave.

“Whomsoever would have divitias sine verme, riches without cares and sorrows, as Saint Augustine sayeth, must be persuaded that riches are the gift of God; and that whomsoever God would have to be rich, he would have them use only lawful and direct means for the attaining of them.”

The arguments put forward in the debate in favour of determining due compensation may haunt the labour landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people; they can no longer lead solely based on positional power.

Insider information is another power, recently demonstrated in the FCB IPO, which must be managed. While the population is today left to wonder about the Pensions Bill and Life Sport, new stories seem to be slipping into our daily media diet. Even Winston “Gypsy” Peters has acknowledged that the 2015 general election will not be the same as the PP's euphoric 2010 experience.

The fight to hold on to a seat or to find a seat has only now begun to publicly show itself. Enviable as it appears, with one person being appointed to shadow over several, the electorate has tuned in.

One of the problems we have as a government is our inability to keep secrets. And it costs us, in terms of our relationship with other governments, in terms of the willingness of other intelligence services to work with us, in terms of revealing sources and methods. And all of those elements enter into some of these leaks.” Dick Cheney, former Vice President of the United States of America.

Omardath Maharaj
Reads: 12935

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