Sunday, May 12, 2013

BUREAUCRATS OR ENTREPRENEURS? - the Peter O'Connor commentary

Who should manage the “business” of our country? And I am not talking about private enterprise here, but rather that unwieldy mess of State Enterprises and State organizations, including government ministries, that has been built upon the wobbly foundation of expediency rather than either efficiency or effectiveness.

We are cursed with two types of governance in our country. We tend to look at these options in terms of race or—to be more politically correct ---ethnicity. And while this may be a fairly valid assumption of what we get for governance, the main difference between our governments is really cultural.

Our “traditional” government (and I so describe the PNM because it is they who have ruled us from our alleged Independence through most of our slide into failure, incompetence and despair, and also because they proudly proclaim this history for themselves—“this is PNM Country!”), is steeped in, and hobbled by all the ritual bureaucracy of Queen Victoria’s Empire. 

We were trained, for over two hundred years, to carefully follow the rules and restrictions of Great Britain’s concept of a “good colony”. And Independence did nothing to change that, other than Dr. Eric Williams becoming the “Governor”.

The people who make up our “alternative” government do not come
from the ranks of the Public Service and other bureaucratically hobbled institutions. They and their families came largely via family businesses, and professions like law and medicine. They do not fear the institutional rituals of governance. They grew and developed by doing things, achieving goals and sharing wealth and power, as these were acquired, with families and close friends. 

So when our choices of governance lie with these two disparate choices, and with nothing in between, we need to understand that we are in deep trouble. And before we go further let us acknowledge that corruption is embedded in both of these Parties, among all of these people, and accepted and supported by the vast majority of our population, “irregardless” of whom we support at the polls. The differences lie in how we play our corrupt hands.

The chronic corruption which exists at lower levels of administration—getting driving permits, house plans passed, goods cleared by Customs, VAT returns or almost every basic face-to-face government service delivered-- continues to thrive regardless of which party is governing us. 

The next step up in our universal corruption lies in areas like the ongoing operation of whorehouses, which are clearly involved in human trafficking, and protection of drug dealers (although petty drug dealers get their “protection” at the lower or local level). All of these things thrive, and thrive comfortably whether it is PNM, UNC, PP or You and Me ruling the country. The differences in our corruption come at the upper levels, in the big deals, the big favours, and how we publicly treat our friends. 

If we did a study (which I have not done, these thoughts come from observation rather than hard data collection) on the history of our corruption over the years, we would see the differences in methodology. Big-time corruption comes in many forms, and is not always manifest in direct cash payoffs for deals consummated, although that is a major component.

When the PNM rules, major corruption is confined to the few. And it tends to be carefully wrought, and structured to appear that the rules are still being observed. The Johnny O’Hallorans, Calder Harts, and others who have benefitted from our largesse, worked along careful paths, and the PNM set up many “facilitating agencies” which were meant to ease projects and schemes through the bureaucracy, and everything was carefully concealed. We must not rock the bureaucracy, you see.

Our more “entrepreneurial” governments are not fettered by these rules. Once in power, they behave exactly as they did when they ran their businesses. They employ friends and family, award contracts on the same basis, bring their families to reside in the Palace—all because this is how they always lived. We should expect different?

Of course not! We rant and rave, but we accept all this, and we now give them turns to rule and rape. Just look at our history: with all the years of corruption of which we are all aware, nicely exposed in countless Commissions and Investigations, we have never convicted a single Minister, Financier, or indeed anyone of influence. And we never will, but we will return to this.

The coming bye-election for the Chaguanas West Constituency is going to be a proving point for my argument. Will an electorate, so starved for representation by and service from their representatives, vote for someone with many allegations hanging over him? Remember in our history, “allegations” is all we ever have! And what will this mean for our politics hereafter?

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai