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.