An essay on the collapse and coming execution of the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) in Trinidad is essentially a dirge, a death song on the vision failure of its creator Dr. Eric Williams. And the failure of the People’s National Movement to this day.
Many other government-funded bodies like WASA exist in the country and share the same creator. Most, if not all, are similarly non performing, subsidy sucking monsters overdue for execution.
How did it come to this for WASA to be hogtied on the butcher table ready to get its throat cut? How is it that the alleged champion historian Dr. Williams never saw this coming?
“Apart from being overstaffed by over 50 per cent, charging among the lowest rates, poor infrastructure, mismanagement, and corruption, the committee found WASA to be inefficient in almost every area of performance,” says a recent newspaper report.
There’s also decades of poor governance and inept management, deeply entrenched deficiencies in all the core aspects of its business, vicious spiral of decline, non-progressive culture that largely ignores customers’ needs, top heavy management, apparently being run by the union rather than the management, enormous overtime bills, lying to the line minister about water supply, half the country cannot get reliable water supply, unacceptable water loss from leaky mains, on and on.
Bap ray, is there anything good about WASA? It seems not. What about its fellows in crime like the civil service? The port authority? The police service? Electricity service? Transport Authority? State enterprises? National Carnival Commission? Judiciary?
Rewind to 1956 when political novice Dr. Williams and his PNM scrape a narrow victory over the veteran politicians like Bhadase Maraj, Albert Gomes, and TUB Butler. His base of black supporters rejoiced their messiah had delivered them from the hands of the white colonial massa and claimed their reward.
Williams felt his black base deserved what had been denied them so long. Good permanent jobs, lifetime security which couldn’t be taken away by the nasty white man, and all that went with such jobs and security. He decided to give it to them.
Williams threw out the white English from the government funded bodies as fast as he could and handed the plum jobs to his base whether they were qualified or not, whether they could do the job or not. First mistake.
He was concerned about some later government taking away the gains he had handed to his black people, so he set about rigging the political system so his PNM would keep political power permanently. Second mistake.
All black people had to do for Dr. Williams in return was to keep voting PNM to keep their jobs and their benefits. They didn’t have to perform on the job, they didn’t really have to be efficient or to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. All they had to do was vote PNM and they would be set for life. Third mistake.
Somehow Dr. Williams forgot or didn’t care that black people were a minority of less than 40% of the population. There were other people in Trinidad, like the Indians who were even larger than the blacks and no less deprived of opportunity and advancement. But to Williams the Indians were the enemy who didn’t deserve to get any of the government milk. Fourth major mistake.
Williams had no national vision at all. In no sense was he a national leader. His vision was all for black people. Indians in his eyes were irrelevant and disposable. Fifth catastrophic mistake.
How could an Oxford educated historian have been so stupid? A head of government should at least pretend to govern for the whole country.
And so Williams and his PNM hired as many of the black population as income would allow, by my count about three quarters of the black working age people. He allowed them to cut up the jobs so as many of the boys and girls could get a salary, told them they didn’t really have to perform on the job, they couldn’t be fired or retrenched, just put your X near the PNM balisier symbol on election day and all will be fine.
To handle the all important water supply, the PNM merged the old efficient Central Water Distribution Authority and several other bodies that treated water and sewage into WASA in 1965. They filled it up with hundreds and thousands of the gang and it’s been all downhill ever since.
I’ve been told that maybe 20% of the WASA workers actually tried to give a fair day’s work for a very fair day’s pay. That is about the number of Indians who were able to get these prized jobs in WASA! But even some of the Indians went with the “less work more pay” philosophy of the time. A business where 80% of the staff is non performing is a slow motion train wreck.
In a similar fashion Dr. Williams and the PNM filled up the civil service, police service, army, utilities, state enterprises with the same gang and same conditions, and yes it’s been all downhill for them too. Is any government funded entity in Trinidad either efficient or profitable? Somebody surprise me. Why work hard if there is no penalty for failing to do so?
Would Dr. Williams have approved of the WASA of today if he were alive? I think he wanted something better for his black people than to be a pack of lazy slackers drawing good pay for poor work or no work.
WASA is a national disgrace and the whole thing has to be thrown on the scrap heap, the 20% passable workers and the 80% idlers together. Who could separate the sheep from the goats, the clueless top heavy management?
The replacement company would be mad to hire a single one of the 5,000 workers or to entertain that lunatic trade union. They may have to start with a new slate of workers, a very small slate, and contract out the big jobs like mains replacement and maintenance to private companies and workers who do not have to be put on the government payroll.
Will the PNM actually throw on the breadline those workers and their families numbering maybe 10,000 members of the voter base? That I will have to see.
So in the final reckoning who takes the cake and who takes the shame for this master blaster of a disaster that is WASA and its fellows?
Dr. Eric Williams the creator of the PNM and WASA must take the major blame for his failure of vision for his people, his racist and anti-national views on the spoils of election victory. He doomed the country to division and government employees to perpetual failure. But he is dead some 40 years now.
The PNM of today and the past two generations must take big shame for blindly continuing along with the floundering vision of Dr. Williams for the nation and their people. How many decades does it take for a huge, powerful party to step out of the shadow of its founder and onto a brighter road?
I have a little sympathy for the bewildered and outraged WASA workers now facing public anger and the retrenchment axe. From their point of view, they did only what their hero Dr. Williams asked them to do. Take the good job for life, work or don’t work as you please but make sure to vote PNM on election day. How is that same PNM now talking about efficiency, meeting customer needs and overstaffing when nobody brings those up for 55 years? How come you talking about water for those country areas now when all the time PNM telling us don’t bother with them Indian areas them is the enemy?
The bottom line is that the PNM government just cannot afford to keep subsidizing so many unproductive freeloaders as the WASA gang, and the WASA massacre has to take place. Innocent will go with the guilty. The port comes next and down the line there is a long list of government funded bodies whose workers are shaking in their boots.
Prime Minister Keith Rowley and his party cannot pretend WASA is a strange animal they have just discovered. WASA is their baby and has been so for 55 years. They can’t pin the donkey tail on the UNC or the Indians. Dr. Williams must be turning in his grave like a windmill.
Let the executions begin.