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Are we watering down the brandy?

by Vernon Khelawan, vkmoose@gmail.com

I have long believed that the biggest problem we have in Trinidad and Tobago is one of proper management of our financial resources, and prudent utilisation of our manpower. That is now manifesting itself through the myriad of workplace problems that rear their ugly heads almost daily.

This degradation of standards has been coming for years. Remember when our Chief Justice, the late Sir Isaac Hyatali, coined the phrase “watering down the brandy”? He was even then alluding to the fact that our standards were dropping and doing so rapidly, not only in the judiciary, but also in almost every facet of life in the country.

Dwell for a moment on that statement. Reflect on it for a while, and I dare you to come to any other conclusion but that our brandy is being watered down. So, Mr Hyatali must ‘have seen’ the present imbroglio in the judiciary coming. Shortcuts and protocol breaches do not work, especially in the administration of justice. They eventually unravel.

If we had better management skills, we would not have seen the many examples of the lack of these skills, accompanied by the serious imbalance in the use of our limited resources – the public service, state companies, the make-work programmes like DEWD and URP, where a ‘ten-days’ has morphed into full-time work in many instances, the police service, and I can go on.

Let us now look at where the lower standards have taken us. We can look at the pearl of our economy – Petrotrin – where the many years of mismanagement have landed this company up to its neck in debt. Next, look at the national airline Caribbean Airlines, its predecessor BWIA, which has not made a profit in decades, but has had the time and money to celebrate an anniversary.

In the area of private/hire (PH) cars: Whoever is or was in charge of our transportation system must have fallen down on the job and now it’s almost impossible to stop this illegal trade. This is similar to what occurs in the building sector, with houses and shacks built willy-nilly anywhere there is space, whether public or private. The authorities in almost all instances close their eyes to these infractions. Where is the management?

We can ask the same question when it comes to the environment. Ever pay close attention to how the garbage contractors work? Whatever drops to the ground remains on the ground. No supervision from either the companies or the various corporations. Consider also the workers cleaning the drains or weeding the verges of our many roads. They may clean pretty well, but there is no truck arranged to pick up the pieces of garbage on the roadsides.

Then, we read last week, rather puzzlingly, that one faculty at University of the West Indies (UWI) is planning to lower its entry standards, now requiring only three O-Levels, rather than the five usually mandated for entry to some of its certificate courses. This may be a case of “watering down the brandy”.