The alternative to poverty is NOT crime

The alternative to poverty is NOT crime

January 6, 2018

Dear Editor,

The alternative to poverty is NOT crime

Please allow me space in your newspaper to reply to letter writer Noble Philip whose response to me was published in the Express (04/01/18).

In the interest of time and space, I would not address all of his contradictions, confusions, diversions, trivialities and ignoble, near-libellous accusations. I would prefer to focus on his main point i.e. that poverty is the cause of Afro-Trinidadian (African) involvement in crime.

Noble Philip

Photo : Noble Philip

Philip argued that poverty is the cause of under-achievement in schools, gang formation, violence, murders and robberies. He wrote: “The problem is a gang and poor people problem.”

He concluded his letter with a sigh, “Poor people.” By so doing, he is stereotyping the African community - an error which he has erroneously accused me of committing.

I expected Noble Philip as the head of the opinion surveying firm, Market Facts and Opinions (MFO), to be objective in his analysis. Now, one has to question the credibility of his findings.

There are many empirical studies which reveal that there are no statistically significant differences in poverty levels between Indo-Trinidadians (Indians) and Africans.

One study was done by Dr Ralph Henry et al. and published by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2006. The study found that the Gini ratios of the incomes of household heads by ethnicity were as follows: African 0:40; Indian 0:36; Mixed 0:41 and Other 0:39.

Henry et al. found that poor Africans were living in highly-visible, urban areas (e.g. Beetham) while poor Indians were found in hidden rural communities (e.g. Rio Claro).

There are likely to be more poor Indians than are usually reported because they are invisible, unemployed or under-employed individuals inhabiting swampy and/or agricultural lands in remote areas such as Siparia, Mayaro and Princes Town. 

According to the 2007 Kairi Consultants report, the number of poor Africans may be fewer than is usually reported because of the “probability of over sampling of Africans in the survey given the demographic composition of the sample and of the last Census” (page xxiii).

It would be a learning experience for Philip to compare Beetham with Bangladesh. He should view the documentary film on Bangladesh which can be found on the site

Bangladesh is a 40-year-old squatter, predominantly Indian settlement in St. Joseph. The residents have not demanded government jobs, hand-outs, grants, etc. by blocking roads and burning tires. They have neither been involved in gang warfare nor engaged in shoot-outs with police who patrol the area.

Bangladesh residents have also not been involved in robberies of commuters as well as in pelting vehicles on the nearby Priority Bus Route.

Compared to Beetham residents, Bangladesh dwellers have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps with little or no Government grants or support such as the massive TT $70. million basketball programme, “Hoop of Life.”

Philip should have looked at family structure and values as the main cause of crime. He should have studied the 2013 Report of the Committee on Young Males and

Crime in Trinidad and Tobago prepared by Professor Selwyn Ryan, Dr Indira Rampersad, Dr Lennox Bernard, Professor Patricia Mohammed and Dr Marjorie Thorpe.

The researchers recognized that young males are at risk when they come from single-parent families with absent or visiting fathers.

They found the majority of Mixed (52.3%) and African youths (50.2%) belonged to single-parent families (usually female-headed households) followed by a minority or one-third among Indians (33.1%) and Douglas (31%).

Philip should heed the advice of Jack Warner who said: “Have we as leaders told those very same young [deviant] black males, don't wear their pants on their buttocks, don't go into a life of crime, but take their books, focus on their studies?” (Express 2/09/11).

In the same speech, Warner pleaded to people like Philip: “The time has come, let us stop being apologists for young black people.”

Dr. Kumar Mahabir, Anthropologist,