The statement that Trinidadians are undisciplined has never sat comfortably with me.
The statement insinuates that we are unable to carefully control the way we work, live, or behave, especially to achieve our goals. My intuition is that, as a people, we do what the system allows and whatever we can get away with.
Think of our panyards; they are clear examples of communities being goal-oriented, observing strict division of labour, following the instructions of the leader and accepting the consequences. Bands are unlikely to succeed if they break these rules.
Think of Mas Bands and the traditional Carnival Mas Camps. They know the goal, organise to deliver the products and, in the majority of cases, hit the road on time and within budget.
Parallel these thoughts with our excellent handling of Covid-19 and what you see is that the goal was clear. It was to flatten the curve. The consequences were articulated by WHO and most international media houses.
You knew that you could become seriously ill, die or cause the death of your loved one. The context and remedy were communicated—close the borders and stay home.
It is the first time that I have seen our politicians take the advice of the scientists and follow it to the letter.
I hope this marks a new era in our development, an era in which our politicians and leaders will listen and take action based on science and data and not on their gut feelings.
But it is not as simple as following advice; a clear goal must be articulated and this is where we have failed big time over the past 62 years as an independent nation. Vision 2020 was an excellent effort but it fell by the wayside and Vision 2030 is a ‘gambage’—flashy but short on substance.
The ‘blue economy’ as articulated by the former People’s Partnership coalition government, like many other plans which were driven from the top, never really resonated with the population.
For example, if proper information is publicly provided, any citizen should be able to articulate the long term plans for any government project: like ‘flatten the curve’. But at the moment, those plans are not evident and the political rhetoric continues to be vitriolic and accusatory.
We have very little data to drive decision-making. And in this eleventh Parliament, no clear, strategic directions were articulated to ensure that the systems, structures and processes are put in place to strengthen our data-gathering capacity. We are not even sure which institution has the responsibility, and the Central Statistical Office (CSO) is lagging way behind.
Whoever forms the next government must focus on decision-making based on data. Otherwise our country will continue to lag behind on every indicator of development.
Worse than that, the already decades-long brain drain will continue, and those of us left to make sense of the continuing chaos will have an almost impossible task.
For us to change the backward direction of our country, citizens have a responsibility to demand that our systems, processes and structures are designed to work in the digital space of the 21st century.