Governance Checklist No. 2: What kind of Country do we want?

Thanks so much to the many readers who contacted me to express their views on the Underpinnings of a Nation. Emerging from those views it was clear that we should be inviting you to tell us, What kind of Country do we want?

 In this light I propose to present various choices available to us, including:

(i) maintaining the status quo – we are happy with the state of our Country

(ii) authoritarian governance – what we need is strict discipline and controls over every facet of our lives

(iii)  socialism – the State takes care of our every need, from cradle to grave 

(iv) unbridled capitalism – take what you can get and the devil take the hindmost

(v) a meritocracy wherein appointments and responsibilities are objectively assigned to individuals based upon their “merits” and achievements or

(v) should we choose a mixture of these systems that work best for Trinidad and Tobago. 

1. Maintaining the Status Quo

What aspects of life in Trinidad would we like to retain or be prepared to give up? The freedom to choose whatever allows us to enjoy life to the max. In choosing such freedom, does that mean we owe no duties and responsibilities to our neighbor or to our Country – does absolute freedom allow a Country to prosper as a whole and therefore result in negative consequences which ultimately places my enjoyment of life at risk. 

Are you happy that what has evolved in Trinidad & Tobago is a system of patrimony – to get anything done we need to know somebody in authority or at least know somebody who knows somebody.

Would you prefer that the Country’s institutions and the services they offer be accessed by everyone on the same basis and that services be extended in a courteous manner in such a way as to resolve any problem which we are experiencing. 

What would it take for us to enjoy such a level of service without the hassle of having to return multiple times and on each occasion be faced with a new hurdle to be crossed? Would a system of e-government in which we can receive the service required by applying electronically over the internet? Should a secure system of national e-identity with a unique identifier be introduced so that we are not faced with repeated requests for the same information which is held by another government department? In this way government would be better able to offer better public services while cutting administration costs, which would open the door to eliminating bribery and allow every citizen and equal opportuinity to access the services of the State, without unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape. 

Are you happy with the services which the State offers in relation to Education, Health, Security, Roads and Transportation, Water and Drainage Infrastructure? Why have we not been able to transform these facilities despite the billions of dollars that the Country has spent since 1991? The productivity of our citizens is well below what will enable us to become a first world nation.  Can our failure to attract new investment be a consequence of our lack of productivity?

Are the enormous amounts of time wasted on travelling on our roads and the length of time taken to access the simplest services be a contributing factor to our abysmal productivity? 

Is the current form of governance up to the task? What other governance forms might better allow us to achieve true nationhood in which every person has an equal opportunity to pursue their goals, dreams and aspirations?  

2. Authoritarian Governance

Faced with these multiple hindrances to achieving prosperity, there are voices which proclaim that what Trinidad and Tobago needs is an Authoritarian Leader who by his own decree dictates to us what we must and must not do. Are we prepared to suffer under such an authoritarian leader in order to enforce indiscipline and lack of productivity? 

Can one find a benevolent Authoritarian Leader who can be relied on to put the interests of the citizenry as his priority?

Or would all such Leaders ultimately suffer from their own Ego-driven craving for more power lead them to pursue their own personal goals and ambitions and that of friends and family – in other words, would nepotism, cronyism and discrimination reign supreme.    

While a simplistic view might be that an Authoritarian Leader who is given unhindered power to rule as he pleased would transform Trinidad and Tobago, I would suggest that you must beware what you wish for – you might yet have a dictator for life who determines his successor in the same mould as himself leading in the final analysis to all our rights and freedoms being taken away and our final state will be worse than the former.  

I once again look forward to your constructive feedback on the issues raised as to the kind of Country we want and what approaches you consider might best lead us towards the goal of a prosperous first world nation. 

Next week when we meet again, I will be exploring Socialism, Unbridled Capitalism and Meritocracy as forms of Governance that we may wish to consider on our journey of exploring how we might the best Trinidad and Tobago that we can be.


– Timothy Hamel-Smith

Vol. 1, Issue 3