4 Jun 2008

What sets First and Third worlds apart

I thought I'd reprint this from 2005 to accompany the photo.

I have been reading time and time again about Vision 2020, and what needs to be achieved. Thinking about it, I realised that to become First World, we need to change our attitudes. Let me explain by illustrating with a few examples.

After living in T&T for 35 years, I moved to the UK. I was immediately impressed by how smooth and levelled the roads were.

Remarkable when you think that England has no huge Pitch Lake like T&T. There is an Institute of Asphalt Technology that oversees: development of asphalt technology!

The roads are colour-coded so that certain traffic lanes are barred to certain types of vehicles. The drivers have to undergo a rigid road and theory test before obtaining a driver's permit. There are speed limits that are adhered to, and heavy fines, as well as points deducted for non-compliance.

Congestion charges in London encourage car pooling and there are areas where an entire lane may be blocked to force traffic onto the other lane. Speed bumps abound everywhere. The result: traffic is forced to slow down, curbing the temptation to speed.

Simple things that work.

Police officers are on the beat in pairs. Most visible in their uniform, which is worn with pride. In less than 5 minutes apart, I've counted 9 pairs of police officers on patrol.

It's their attitude that is different, though.

I spoke to an English football coach who came to T&T for Carnival, and he demonstrated the difference in attitude through something as simple as the stance of a police officer on duty.

Police in England stand at attention when not on the move, body straight, head upright.

imageHe further showed me his observation of policemen in T&T.

Picture this. An officer standing slouched. One leg slightly in front of the other. One arm crossed over the chest, wrist hanging limply with a baton dangling weakly from it.

The other arm resting upon the wrist of the first, propping the chin, and the hat slouched over the eyes, with vision masked no doubt.

Work rules are different. A very large computer business, recently fired a new employee... he turned up ten minutes late for work twice in the first four days he was employed.

As a manager, I have had to discipline employees for similar practices. Bad weather or no, the general consensus is that an

employee is paid for 35 hours and he should work all of those hours.

Even Members of Parliament are not exempt.

No cushy armchairs here for these fat cats in which to fall asleep. They sit on benches, shoulder to shoulder with their notes on their laps.

Perhaps the new building Mr Manning has in mind will be similarly designed? MP's freely criticise their own party as well as others.

Accountability is a must.

The blame always falls somewhere. This encourages performance. A job is always on the line. Now that's incentive to work.

The senior police officer in charge of the officers who shot Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Station will most likely face charges. This is still developing.

The Home Secretary David Blunkett was forced to resign after using his office to fast-track a visa application for the nanny of a former lover.

T&T politicians have the skins of old goats, it seems. No matter how badly their reputations take a beating, they do not have the self-respect or honour to do what is right: to take themselves out of the picture to even leave a semblance of impartiality, to allow enquiries to be transparent.

They instead dig in their heels and entrench themselves deeply, as if to say, "I here to stay, and nobody moving meh."

No matter what, at the end of the day, it's all in the attitude.

First World, and Third World.