VIDEO: Sandals Tobago and You: What you Need to Know – A conversation

Each citizen has a responsibility to be vigilant . We CANNOT allow such huge investments without understanding the implications for the future. This is worth investing the time to be educated and informed.

Afra Raymond was at the Scarborough Public Library in Tobago on 13 December 2018 to speak on his successful Freedom of Information request to see the Memorandum of Understanding between the T&T government and the Sandals Group to develop and run a Sandal/Beaches resort in Tobago. His analysis of the MoU was discussed and Q&A followed.

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Urban Renewal PNM style!

Recently I returned to the place of my childhood, Quarry Street, East Dry River. It was just 7:30 pm and the streets were quiet. No families sitting out … no fellas liming under the street light, just an eerie quiet. I noticed that there were several cars neatly parked on one side of the street. It struck me that this street of my childhood was no longer a neat row of houses with plants in the front, filled with the laughter of families enjoying the evening breeze from their galleries. The quiet was troubling and I wondered out loud, “Why people have stopped passing time under the streetlights and on the corners?” My passenger exclaimed, “Girlfriend, they fraid gun toting bandits!” Equally troubling was the dilapidated buildings which dotted this one-mile stretch from Observatory Street to the top of Quarry Street.

It’s true that things are always changing, but I expected that things would have been better. Instead the evidence of poverty and decline is “in yuh face”. The halfway “falling down” former family homes, the piles of garbage on the corners, the roaming stray dogs, the vine-covered trailer truck which once housed Syncopaters steelband — all tell a story of a community in decline. I wondered about the plan for resuscitation and renewal.

My reason for being there was to drop someone home. Our journey was filled with nervous chatter about the dangers of living in such an area and having to rely on the informal public transportation (unregistered drivers using their cars as taxis) which exists in the absence of any formal system in that area. Transportation there has always been problematic, and for the past 50 years, no government has worked on finding solutions.

This is just one example of a wicked problem crying out for a solution. This areas has voted solidly for the PNM except for the 1986 election when they temporarily voted for the NAR. It is not surprising that this community has been ghettoised over the past 40-something years, but it is time to try a different engagement strategy which takes the residents into consideration. A strategy of collaboration across the community with all stakeholders being accountable for the outcomes. The people who live in this community enjoy easy access to the city and are often not interested in moving out. They just want basic opportunities to live a safe life.

Breathing new life into that community can begin by simply helping residents unravel the ownership of the lands on which their houses are built. The rebirth and revitalization of our troubled communities is not only a government responsibility, it is an opportunity for collaboration and once it is successful in one area, has the potential to spread like wildfire to other communities. Two important quality of life factors are housing and transportation, both of which have proved to be unsolvable by our current politicians.

What we need are politicians with vision, empathy and backbone who are prepared to provide inspired leadership.

“Mornin!” Former Petrotrin Worker.

Today marks the end of life as you knew it for the past whatever number of years you worked proudly for Petrotrin.  Today, you awake with an emptiness deep in your soul and a lack of clarity about your future. You are not even assured that the severance package to which you are entitled will be paid.  You don’t know when, next money will be deposited into your account.

Depending on how you calculate it, you are one of either 1700, 3500 or 5000 family members who are awake now with nothing to do this morning and several mornings to come.  Unofficial statistics suggest that you join another 18000 persons who have lost their jobs under the leadership of Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley.

The most important thing you can do for you and your family is to take time to assess your finances.  Really work the number of days to bankruptcy and do it with your significant other. This can be a frightening task but it will give you a true sense of where you are and what you need to do.  It will also help you whip up the courage to have a conversation with your bank, credit union or financial institution and plan for your future.

The only bright light in this equation is that some of you will be employed by Paria and Legacy because there is no other option.  The pool of employees for any new company is the local workforce and there are only a few multi-thousand dollar jobs available for expatriates and politically connected locals.  But many of you either have to retrain for a new career or learn to survive on a reduced income. However you chart your future course, you must never forget that the ultimate responsibility for the closure of Petrotrin belongs to the current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley.

When he is no longer Prime Minister, I shall remember him for three things.  Firstly, his lack of accountability to Petrotrin workers and the nation about the future of Petrotrin.  My second memory will be about him paying lip service to holding collaboration as a core value.  In his capacity as Leader of the Opposition, he collaborated with the Union and signed a MOU which was quickly abandoned when he became Prime Minister.  My third memory will be of a Prime Minister who talks about transparency but who hides his action “under a bushel”.  The new companies Paria and Legacy were not conceptualized yesterday; they have been long in the planning.  It is just that the roll-out has been sloppy.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for workers at TSTT who are currently undergoing a similar hatchet job.  WASA, I hear you are next in line for the chopping block.