I was happy to learn that the late Dr Yesu Persuad of Guyana had among his financial services offered by Demerara Bank Ltd an IPED plan to provide loans for small entrepreneurs. I am happy that he had the wisdom to provide loans (micro-financing) to help the ambitious and not grants to suppress the poor. I hope that the IPED desk at Demerara Bank Ltd could share with the public the challenges of this scheme to encourage entrepreneurship among lower-income groups in society.
‘Democracy-rule by the people’ has been misused by politicians to build vote banks. The poor, foolish, and the naïve are suffering because they have mortgaged their intelligence to politicians. And why this is so? It is only because they have opted for the easy way out “sit back and the politicians are going to take care of all our needs.”
It is now a matter of policy for the PNM government to take hampers to its supporters while ignoring those families it suspects are supporters of the Opposition. In fact, in several constituencies and electoral districts, the defeated PNM candidates have greater access to handouts from the coffers of the State for distribution than the elected representatives.
The obverse of this behavior has conditioned the UNC supporters to understand that the State does not exist to serve their welfare. They realized early o’clock that they are on their own. On the other hand, the PNM supporters have become totally dependent on the State for their survival-from the cradle to the grave.
“Is Democracy Good for the Poor?” Michael Ross of the University of California, Los Angeles in his research paper- “Is Democracy good for the poor?”- concluded that it is not the poor that benefits from the spending of democratic governments but the middle and upper classes. Looking at infant mortality among the poor, the research found that infant mortality increased from 7.3 percent to 10.5 percent in countries that had transitioned from dictatorship to democracy.
The poor have been hoodwinked by crumbs that keep them in perpetual dependency. Most, fearing that they may lose the little they are receiving, survive in this poverty-stricken state throughout their lives. What they fail to understand is that this dependency perpetuates itself from one generation to the next.
Instead of giving out handouts, it would be better for the government to focus on the quality of education the poor receive. Research has revealed that the worst-performing primary schools are in districts where the poor reside. Also, health care continues to be a challenge and access to quality housing, infrastructure, and most importantly, pipe-borne water remains elusive.
Farming communities in Trinidad and Tobago are caught in a poverty trap not because of their making but because of the failure of governments to provide the necessary incentives. Farmers and the self-employed have a determination to stand on their own feet, resisting the lure of the churches to make them addicted to freebies and hampers.
Hamper distribution is a curse. It is a sinister plot to break the backs of people who stand on their feet. It is a legacy of colonialism. Today this legacy continues to prevail in our society. Who gets to be the boss? It is certainly not the brightest and the most hardworking! It is the candidate who can kowtow to the demand of the political directorate. One can only look at processes in the appointment of a Commissioner of Police! It certainly leaves much to be desired!
The workplace is never about putting productivity first. It is always about power and social control. Now that the culture of square pegs in round holes has become entrenched, employees have come to rationalize discrimination in the workplace. The rigors of going to court for judicial review and the social pressures in the workplace have all conspired to discourage the dedicated workers from enjoying what is rightfully theirs.
Democracy is not only about voting but determining the candidate on the ballot. This choice is never given to the people. Instead, the political leader has always arrogated unto him this privilege. The result is a posse of candidates who owe their allegiance not to the party or an ideology but to the political leader, thus consolidating a culture of sycophancy.
It is not that democracy is bad but it becomes so when a political leader uses it to his/her personal advantage by suppressing the will of the people. Hamper distribution, CEPEP and URP are diabolical strategies to mobilize the dogs of war against anyone who foolishly challenges the status quo.
Is this dependency culture disguised as democracy going to be denounced? Today it is a noose around the necks of people. It not only breeds dependency but also a culture of crime. It is certainly not working in the best interest of the country. It is definitely used to mask poverty…a kind of balm for the conscience.
Let us shame those who indulge in this nefarious and dehumanizing act. Let us appeal to them to provide more positive development modules like skills developments, literacy, micro-financing, and other activities to put the poor on their feet…not to have them like beggars surviving on our fake generosity.