Posts tagged ‘Summit of the Americas’

March 22, 2011

Of hypocrisy and hairdos

Though I know and have interviewed many politicians I generally hold them in fairly low regard. I have told veteran and aspiring politicians alike that to me all politicians are either crooks or crooks in training. Cynical, I know, but really not too far from my actual view.

Trinidad & Tobago got a new government in May of 2010. They were swept into power promising change and turning away from the real or perceived profligate spending of the previous regime.  After entering office the public was told that the treasury was low in funds and there would need to be a very careful approach to spending in the years ahead. All was okay, however, as we were told that “we are all in this together.” Again, fair enough.

While public servants and other quarters were calling for increased wages they were told that they should think of the national good and wait for the economy to recover. Not unreasonable  when put into the context of the aforementioned national belt-tightening  – then things started to change.

To appeal to heaven knows what electorate the prize money for cultural shows such as Soca Monarch, Chutney Soca Monarch and Calypso Monarch was suddenly increased to $2 million TT each. Did this money benefit the general population? Nope. Just the winners. Now, however, comes a development that is even more egregious a waste of  those allegedly diminished tax dollars – not because of scale but because it is not widely reported and is an example of  ‘do as I say but not as I do’.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar in earlier, less glam times.

The Prime Minister has been out of the country on a several trips for economic, cultural and political reasons.  During those trips ( including one to accept an award from Glamor magazine) she has been spotted in various upscale and fashionable ensembles. Not a problem really; she says  she is promoting local fashion designers. Naturally, these outfits need serious hair and makeup as well. Here I was thinking that the PM had learned some makeup tricks and was making use of the salons in the hotels she was staying in. Turns out I was wrong –  as I discovered following her recent trip to London to handle some Commonwealth business ( she is currently the head of that exceedingly useless organization filled with innumerable miscreants).

The New and Improved Glam Kam with the British PM - pic from news.gov.tt

It seems the PM, a la Oprah, travels on these trips with her own celebrity hairdresser from Trinidad – who normally caters to the rich and famous on the island. On the recent trip he closed up shop ( presumably losing a lot of money and requiring compensation)  for a week and tagged along  seeing to her coiffure needs. I can only presume this is being funded by taxpayers dollars ( unless she is willing to squander her own money for such a frivolous purpose). This reeks of hypocrisy.

I am sure her legions of supporters will say the hairdresser’s  airfare, hotel accommodation, meals and compensation for losing a week at his business is justified because the PM needs to look good so that the country looks good. This would suggest they truly believe the PM is unable to find a decent hair or makeup artist in the backwoods places she visits like New York and London. Surely  a hotel hairstylist could make the arduous trip up to the penthouse with straightening iron in hand?

When the Summit of the Americas was held in Trinidad, the US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton ( not a head of state but infinitely more important than the PM of a small Caribbean island) made it her business to look for a hairdresser in Port of Spain to take care of her needs.

As columnist and accountant William Lucie-Smith recently wrote in the Trinidad Express:

“I am very surprised at how partisan so many people are, because I find it difficult to give continuous support to any political party. The truth is I believe the people of Trinidad and Tobago have been very badly represented by politicians in general and that a great deal of the wealth of our country has been squandered by venal politicians more interested in personal political mileage than the common good. No political party has shown much virtue in their management of our resources and the current government is no exception.”

When preaching fiscal restraint it is always a good example to lead by example.

March 18, 2009

Summit wicked this way comes.

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The picture above hangs in my friend Robin’s weekend house in Toco which is located in the remote North East of Trinidad. When I first saw it years ago I didn’t think much of it but I have now become inordinately fond of it and look forward to seeing it every now and then.  It is painted by the artist Cromwell in a style that i suppose would be described as primitive but it is, in fact, that wonderfully naive style coupled with the decidedly local subject matter that makes me love it so much. It depicts some of the figures of Trinidad folklore that many, in areas such as Toco, still believe in.

The three figures in the foreground from left to right are LaDiablesse ( the she devil) , Soucouyant ( a sort of succubus who by day takes on the form of an old woman and then sheds her skin at night to do her evil deeds) and finally we have the Lagahoo ( a man who can change into animal form). Even though I said many rural people still believe in and fear these figures i am often surprised to learn that many urban types also believe in them. A perfectly normal educated adult might tell you with concern that he woke up with two small bite marks on his body and he is sure he is being attacked by a soucouyant. Though part of me shudders at the jarring reminder that I am living in the developing world ( which I am 100% certain will still be underdeveloped by 2020 thank you very much) another part of me finds the whole thing too cute for words.

To learn more about the fascinating pantheon of Trinidad folklore characters you  can just use our old friend Google as the link option is not working for me right now.

In other news many of my interviews of late have been with people involved in or concerned about next month’s 5th Summit of the Americas to be held here. While I can still not think of a really good reason for us to be spending about $100 million US to prepare for it other than to feed the already inflated egos of politicians in charge who want to wine and dine 34 hemispheric leaders including President Obama it is still a fact of life here. One thing becoming increasingly clear is that virtually all of the capital will be under lockdown for the 4 days including my area of Cascade/St. Anns which contains both the Prime Ministers monstrosity newly built residence in all its taxpayer dollar lavishness and the Hilton Trinidad which will be host to the 1,000 strong US delegation.

My new plan is to get the hell outta here and head to Toronto for the week that the summit is on and return when I can actually go to the supermarket without being patted down by 6 security officers.

March 8, 2009

Profits of Doom

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It has been quite a few days since my last entry but I have been pondering the state of the local and global economies of late and, being a natural pessimist/realist I have not really been in the mood to natter away online. Actually, more shockingly still I have not even been online that much lately as matters in my personal life have been also keeping me away from the computer.

I think it would be safe to say at this point that we are heading into a deep economic valley and we can only guess how far we still have to fall. Like an earthquake the frightening thing is that there is no way to hide from it as it is global in scope. As Europe and the US  try and pour money into the sinkholes that used to be insurance companies and banks and as at least one US carmaker ( GM) faces the possibility of going out of business it seems that we may  really be teetering on the verge of a depression and are just too afraid to admit it.

Here in Trinidad we have started to feel many of the same problems as the more developed world including the need for government intervention into the banking and insurance sector. The giant CL Financial empire has seen its insurance arm CLICO  forced to approach the Central Bank for help when it realised it had a serious liquidity problem. Thus far the Central Bank is suggesting that the shortfall may exceed $10 billion and who knows what is going to hit the the economy next as oil and gas prices remain a long way off from their highs last year. There is probably good reason to expect a devaluation of the TT$ sometime after we host the Summit of the Americas. Other than the PM’s urge to show off that he can spend our money I have still not understood why we have spent at least half a billion dollars to host the wretched thing.

It seems that hardship is on the way and, like every other sensible person, I am thinking twice before making any big purchases that I can possibly defer. I know that poor consumer confidence is sure to exacerbate the decline but I am also equally sure that the fundamentals of how we did business are extremely flawed and caution would seem the wise choice.

There are , of course, several possible ways to survive the tough times ahead stocking up on vodka and hunkering down to waft through the crisis in an alcoholic haze springs to mind. Unfortunately, if they devalue the currency any decent vodka will be out of range and the thought of drinking the local plonk would be even more depressing. I guess I will have to fasten my seat-belt and hope the ride is not too bumpy just like everyone else.

December 1, 2008

Down for the count

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As the title of this entry implies I have been suffering from a rather unpleasant bout of the flu for the last couple of days and have not found shivering and headache conducive to blogging. I suspect it took a turn for the worse when I was subjected to watching the PM’s address to the nation on the current financial crisis last night. I swear i felt the aches and pains getting worse as his mouth formed words that made little sense to me.

As we watch economies around the world scramble to hunker down for the fallout of a developing financial meltdown we are being assured that we will be ok. Frankly, the explanations and math are not really working for me. Despite oil and gas being down around 15-20% and presumably VAT receipts likely to fall with a loss of consumer confidence the government thinks cutting out $5.6 billion from their $50 billion budget will be enough. I can only guess that they intend to not put anything into the Heritage Fund since that rainy day has already arrived. The PM says that after painful soul searching they have decided to cut back on building hospitals, new schools and affordable housing. Thank heavens he got his own palatial digs finished in time so he can stay in the lap of comfort. We also seem to still be hosting the Summit of the Americas and the Commonwealth Heads of Government at a cost of millions and there was no mention of the multi-billion dollar transit system being shelved.

The thing that annoys me the most when the PM and his people speak is that they speak of how well they have managed the economy. If they actually believe what they are saying then the state of delusion in government is frightening. Bragging that we now have $2 billion US in the Heritage Fund as if it is an achievement when we could have billions more had they taken a more measured approach to spending our money. But I guess it is all just money under the bridge.

In other news in this part of the world we have basically now hit the 500 homicide mark give or take the odd body or two. Nicholas Laughlin has a marvelously sardonic column on the matter in his blog. As I have said before the fact the the Nat. Security Minister is incompetent and ineffectual is not really shocking such things happen – the truly shocking thing is that he has not had the shame to step down after failing so ostensibly and more shockingly the PM keeps him in the position. I suppose it is easy to not worry about being killed when you are surrounded by security at all times and driven to work in a motorcade. Little or anything effective is being done about the crime situation and those that say it is not the government committing the crimes seem to forget that they are spending billions of our money to allegedly protect us. What has this resulted in? Well, in one shining example, my friend Peter S saw prowlers outside his apartment last night and called 999 telling them he was fearing for his life and they were right outside his door. He has yet to see a police vehicle show up at his place and he lives in Port of Spain. That, to me, is not just shameful it is simply scandalous.

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