Agriculture is in a state… planning is inadequate
Hospitals have no linen… is brown paper they using
Bribery and corruption… controlling every decision
We grieving with frustration… through mal-administration
Take yuh steel beam and go.”
No these are not the lyrics sung at this year’s Dimanche Gras Show. These words go back some 37 years to 1981 from a song entitled We Like it so (Steel Beam) sung by, one of the great exponents of political social commentary, the Mighty Sparrow.
Ironic isn’t it that 37 years later these sentiments don’t sound much different from the complaints we’ve been hearing over the past few years or even today for that matter. Yes, we have taller buildings propping up our skylines; newer and newer models of vehicles congesting our roadways; more mobile subscriber’s than the entire population; bigger and fancy houses inspired by HGTV and specialty gourmet stores selling items fit for the Food Channel, the list can go on and on.
However (to borrow a concept from the Monitoring and Evaluation lexicon) these are all just outputs. Outputs tell the story of what you produced or your organization’s activities. So every year during the budget, Minister after Minister would eloquently regale the population with how much monies they have spent; how many new vehicles they have bought; new schools, police stations or community centres they have built or are projected to build; how many houses they have given to families; how many people they have trained; how many grants they gave out etc.
Yet with all of these billions upon billions of dollars in expenditure every year we need to seriously ask ourselves the “So What Question”. So what if we build new schools or more Early Childhood Education Centres, is our education system any better? So what if we build new Police Stations, buy new equipment or give police officers in increased salary, do we feel any safer either at home or when we go out? So what if we give out houses ever so often, are we creating real homes and sustainable communities? These questions can go on and on and one would argue that the answers to these questions are a resounding no.
Why is it therefore, that we continue to allow those in authority to pull the marketing wool over our eyes all these years. There has to come a time when we need to begin to start “Minding Our Business”. It is important to remember that the actions or inaction of those to whom we give authority in the end impact our day to day lives. As such their business is our business also. We need to seriously, critically and impartially question our politicians, public servants, union leaders etc. on the decisions that they take, the monies that they spend and whether or not the intended “Outcomes” or desired results are being achieved.
No longer should we sit back and allow for the continuance of the top down style of governance that we have experienced over the past 50 plus years. Effective democracy in the 21st Century requires an individual who is willing to question those in authority, respect the views of others, develop innovative ideas, take risk etc. Democracy in not (as the late revolutionary leader Maurice Bishop states) “a situation where every five years, and for five seconds in those five years, a people are allowed to put an ‘X’ next to some candidate’s name, and for those five seconds in those five years they become democrats, and for the remainder of the time, four years four years and 364 days, they return to being non-people without the right to say anything to their government, without any right to be involved in running their country.”
Given the current economic climate in which Trinidad and Tobago is currently facing, one can argue that the environment is right for civil society organisations and the common man on the street to begin to actively engage and monitor the work of Ministers, Ministries and State Agencies, Municipal Corporations, our Members of Parliament and Local Government Councillors. We need not wait for “Monday Night Forums” or other events where politicians either come and let you know how they are working for you or criticizing the current government while at the same time lauding over what they did in government.
The time has come for all of us to become VIP Organisations and Citizens
V- Vigilant I – Innovative P – Persistent
It is only through actively monitoring and questioning government can we begin to keep out leaders in check and begin to lay the foundations for a better governed society. So the question you need to ask your self is are you a VIP.