by Vernon Khelawan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Just ten days ago we celebrated, as an independent nation, our 55th birthday. And now that all the various forms of celebrations are over, the question arises: are we as a people, satisfied with the progress we have made over the last half a century? I would say no. The transition from third world to first world requires much more.
The experts answer this question differently. Some say we have done well, others disagree, and many remain locked at various points along the 1 –10 scale usually used for such discussions. Are some of these experts telling us what we want to hear or are they being realistic? My feeling is that they are afraid to face the truth.
The billions of dollars we have gone through in 55 years, would make some other island state shudder, but the various governments thought the “good times” would never end. Saving for the rainy day was not necessary. The largesse is almost forever. Now that those rainy days are here there’s a fight on for survival.
Nobody was paying attention when cash cow Petrotrin, the source of the ‘petro dollars’ was allowed to sink deeper and deeper in debt and its infrastructure allowed to deteriorate. Now it would take billions to resuscitate. The never-built World GTL plant is just one of the many mistakes made.
This observation does not apply to any particular administration. The blame lies with all of them, because the politicians tell you one thing on the campaign trail, but change their tune when in government. Just look at the various manifestos: loads of promises, but they are never delivered.
We have been through two energy booms, but what have these done for us? Yes, we have a lot more vehicles in the country and more to come, but not enough roads on which to drive them. We have more housing units, both private and public, but the public ones remain empty because our rapidly decreasing middle class cannot afford them. We have a lot more of small businesses, but the conglomerates are still able to access our limited foreign exchange.
The booms did not do much for our infrastructure. A cursory look at the roads tell a story of neglect and lack of planning. The Public Transportation Service Corporation (PTSC) short changes many commuters frequently as it lacks proper scheduling and maintenance. The promise of “water for all” by the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) remains just that – a promise. Let’s not even talk about the sea bridge fiasco. It’s too much!
What is the answer? The society must take matters in hand. We have to become more vigilant; a more just society where kindness abounds; where love of your neighbour is essential; where forgiveness is not just a word, but a reality; where we as a people must make our politicians accountable; and where truth is a watchword which must be upheld at all times. This is the only way we can hope to be a first-world country.