10 Feb 2018

Police shortage limboing along

The Express of 8 January 2018 quoted DCP Dulalchan as saying the police service needs approximately 1,100 officers. It’s a rather astounding statistic, much in similarity with Imbert’s announcement that the country was short of approximately 1,500 doctors.

The astonishment isn’t that the figures are high. The astonishment is that the ‘authorities’ seem to have awoken from some deep slumber to realise the deficiency. What is not a surprise is that the shortage didn’t happen overnight, although the ‘powers-that-be’ appear to be caught with their pants down. No, this situation was some time in the making.

Where does the problem lie? Well to start with, it’s the President who is responsible for appointing persons to the various Commissions, which in turn are responsible for appointments. Since the ‘lame duck’ in office had neglected to appoint a full Police Services Commission (PSC) in the past year, we can now see the effects of his negligence, especially in the doubtful state of whether the current PSC is even legal without a full complement of bodies, as revealed by the search for a Police Commissioner

My concern is not so much finding bodies to place in office, any person with 5 ‘O’ levels will qualify - and grade 3 at that. The real problem is that by starting with the bar so low, the bar scarcely raises during their careers. The bar, as I noted before, is very much like a limbo bar, where the police believe success is to keep lowering it and not falling flat on their collective behinds. The question is whether any Government has the political willpower to effect the necessary changes to make an efficient police service.

7 Feb 2018

straight answers, please

This is an open letter, with some questions addressed to the following persons:

The Commissioner of Police,

The Minister of National Security,

The Prime Minister,

The Leader of the Opposition,

The President,

                                of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

I read today, in the TT Express of 6th February 2017, that the ‘murder toll’ has reached 67. This means that if the current rate of about 2 per day is sustained on average, that by the end of the year we can expect there will be some 700 homicides (aka murders). Anything approaching that sort of figure is plainly ridiculous, and (not to mention) outrageous for a country with only 1.3 Million people.

The efficacy of the police service to carry out an investigation to the point of achieving a complete prosecution by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and deter homicides, has been called into question for the past decade or so. With no clear signs of abatement regarding the current status quo, I ask the following questions which require very straight and full answers:

  1. What percentage of all the homicides in the last 5 years have been successfully prosecuted?
  2. Does the police service have sufficient manpower and resources to effectively investigate all cases on record and those to come?
  3. In its current configuration to date, is the police service effective in controlling or deterring serious crime? [A straight yes or no would do].
  4. If ‘yes’ to the above, what percentage reduction in the homicide rate can the public expect to see - per annum - averaged over the next 5 years? [Using the average annual rate over the preceding 5 years].
  5. Is the country being held to ransom by criminals?

A prompt answer (within 14 consecutive days of the date of this letter) is required.

30 Jan 2018

Impossible Culture

Culture is a complex matrix. No doubt about that. It is also easily misunderstood. When people talk of ‘culture’ they usually mean: “the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively”, but forget the other definition:

the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society”.

We can therefore talk about Caribbean culture, which would be common throughout the Caribbean, but we can also talk about Trinidad and Tobago (Trinbagonian or ‘Trini’) culture, specific to the two islands. That is not to say that there will not be overlap, eh.

Why am I bringing up culture when I really want to talk about the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the major faux pas it made in recommending Deodath Dulalchan for the (allegedly unapplied for) post of Police Commissioner? Well, culture shapes us in a myriad of ways that we aren’t aware of. We have biases and opinions based upon our cultural exposure.

A Trini man ‘sooting’ a woman walking by? Culture.

A wine for Carnival without permission? Culture.

Going to work late? Culture.

Skipping work/school for a beach lime? Culture.

Doubles, roti, bake and shark, and a red Solo? Culture.

We inherit it, mimic it, live it because we are immersed in it day in and day out, and adopt and adapt to fit into the society around us. Which is why the PSC made the glaring error that people external to themselves can see but not the members. It isn’t and wasn’t the first time it happened, and it will happen again.

What error? The cultural error of not following due process and procedure. Taking a ‘shortcut’ if you will. It happened with several Integrity Commissions, with the President’s shortcuts to appointing members to different Service Commissions and so too to Government appointments to important State Boards.

Which leaves us with square pegs in round holes, or ‘lame ducks’ as one newspaper aptly described it. It is a cultural condition in Trinidad and Tobago to take the easiest and shortest route. It is culturally why we, the people, fail to progress. A culture to wine and dine, where ‘after 12 is lunch’ mentality leads to teenage pregnancies and STDs, and a call for girls to keep their legs closed brings a scathing backlash.

You may detect a trace of bitterness in this message. It’s because I realise that we need to change a whole culture. And that – might be impossible.

27 Jan 2018

Thought of the Day

“[T]he poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he; and therefore truly, sir, I think it’s clear that every man that is to live under a government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that government.”

Thomas Rainborough

21 Jan 2018

Forex issues ahead

The Cap'n hasn't said much in probably over a year. Well this morning I decided to put in a few words on the Forex situation on the Rock.

The background is that there has been a big forex problem for well over a year. Ordinary people and some businesses have suffered.

Word from ground level is that despite various reassurances, the situation is only going to get worse.

If you don't care what your money is worth on the 'world stage', you need read no further. But if you do care you may have been wondering 'What the hell to do?'.

Well this post is not to be taken as advice or implied advice. I'm throwing up a few ideas for consideration.

There was recently 'advice' given by some bigwig in the TT Express Business Section, about Bitcoin. The advice was correct, in that fiat currency (which is about forex) is needed to purchase Bitcoin. In addition 'punters' have to contend with price fluctuations of Bitcoin which are wild over the last 6 months - if they could get their hands on fiat currency to purchase it. That's a bad gamble.

Bitcoin is only a 'vehicle of value' to move value elsewhere. So it's not rocket science to think that there may be other less volatile vehicles of value that can be transferred. Anything that could be bought on the Rock and legitimately sold abroad is a vehicle of value.

Rock-crawlers may wish to consider things like diamonds, gold and other jewellery. Immediately people start bawling about getting conned and 'Wheddah price ah gold go drop' etc. So hol' on what about the price of the T&T dollar dropping? How does dat compare to any probable fall in price of gold? Eef anybody dee take dee time before opening dey trap [Notice I break out into local broken English], dey would see that the price of gold has actually been appreciating in the last 4 months.

Dee value of yuh cyash could fall 30% or more from dee time you fly out of dee Rock and land in Miami. But dee equivalent value of gold most unlikely to fall dat much in the same time or over a few days. In fact yuh gold necklace bracelet etc could be worth 3 - 10% more over the same journey in a stronger US Dollar currency. So in dat scenario yuh eh bothered eef yuh lorse say 10% in reselling yuh gold. Eh heh? Yes - eh heh! Hol' on, I eh here to advise people how tuh do dee above safely, so eef yuh get yuh gold jewellery t'ief orf yuh, or eef yuh get conned on purchase or resale, doh blame me! All I doing is exploring the expected probabilistic gains to losses. I eh doing a spreadsheet fuh yuh on costs of moving gold out versus gains. So i's up to you to work it out if it makes sense. If it doh make sense tuh you, leave it out.

Right - back into proper Queen's English. I'm not telling people what to do! It's a free country - they say. So, people could decide for themselves to do something or do nothing.

What is the probability of the T&T dollar devaluing? Well ask yourself a question: 'Would I be buying TT dollars and expecting it to go up in value in 6 months?' If your answer is, "Sure!" - then you need to keep your money right there on the Rock. If your answer is, "No!" - then you may wish to think a bit more deeply and possibly take action at your own risk.

I know of no lawful restriction on people buying gold or precious items and moving it out of T&T as their personal possessions. I am totally not interested in your money  - you who reads this - whether you have money to move - or whether you want to move it. I eh selling nutn! And to be clear - I am not selling gold or any precious items.

Back to bathing your dog, or bison or whatever - sorry for taking up your time.