Why boycott Trinidad? Try Obamaland


Friday, December 06, 2013    

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The political strategy crafted from the "Trinidad 13" incident is a cautionary tale. The USA, UK, Barbados are high-profile border control screw-ups. We are entitled and will not allow due process to prevail, except with powerful friends. We bully small people so our Caricom pals do not like us, as they disliked our parents in 1962. We seem victors, but are generational victims. Persistent poverty, insensitivity, scar tissue; everyone must hurt because we are having a bad day — in our case a bad life. We savage our friends as 96 per cent entry will not do. Trinidad must give us 100 per cent entry-entitlement!

We are the bully of the North and xenophobia is all over. Foreign workers are one-third of the Saudi population and they too deport. In the UK, even Australian kith and kin are hassled, and the trek from poor new EU members in January is also scaring London. The Dominican Republic is culling Haitians — we want a Single Economy with this lot? We ignore ethnic cleansing an hour away — Cariforum sham! Roma beggars on the streets of London evidence the success of the EU; rich members open up and take others' poor. We know CSME works when Mat's Corner windshield wipers are on the streets of Port of Spain and Jerry sells roots wine on the Savannah.

Our fathers voted "no" to Federation in 1962. They did the right thing for the wrong reasons and created an inter-generational deficit of trust. Caricom's joys came a decade later then a few years ago, our leaders quietly signed us into the CSME Federation. It may be feasible for islands clustered in the south, but not for us. Cabinets do no due diligence on this 40-year-old device. This must not stand!

The "Trinidad 13" is about entitlement. Who presents papers to get "Myrie money"? Minister Winston Dookeran's visit portrays what is wrong with our values. We threaten, they come — big island blackmail. We can't get the right result the wrong way. We are in an ethical wasteland. Why not tell people our rate of entry to Trinidad is better than to the US and UK? We show them "hol down tek weh!" works, and so business exploits the crisis. T&T is not for our massive. Our skilled people go, but it's our jobless, poor who need a bly. Tell Jamaicans the truth. It will not happen. They can't absorb our poor, so whatever they sign it's not on. Eastern Caribbean people love us, but we never paid them any mind until Obamaland shut the door. We call them "small islanders"; show no respect; nor copy their solid economic policies or laud their Nobel winner. Friends are not conveniences. Is there an business Svengali behind this boycott threat? Follow the money.

Boycott Trinidad? Nonsense! We be friends. We need to build trust. Trinidad is a guardian to us. We were rude when bauxite cash was running and they were poor. Yes, we have a trade deficit with them, but we have a massive one with the USA — in 2010, some US$4b; 2011, US$5b; 2012 US$5b. The USA owns us, yet we can produce much of what we buy — we could eat local chicken instead of their chassis. If a deficit is reason to boycott, why not the USA ? T&T exports natural gas, fuels, steel, fertiliser. Ours? Bauxite, sugar, rum, scrap iron. From America we buy chicken back, salt beef, eggs, drinks, corn, soya. We can produce some of what we buy from America, but can we the near US$1b of fuel we buy from T&T?

Money problem? The USA is our neighbour and friend, but never gave us cash. Trinidad gave us cash with no security, no conditions and we repaid only after they embarrassed us. We always "too bruk" to lend anyone. Trust is important, and we need travel to bond with Trini people not politicians. We need to meet them in Woodford Square; so be patient, forgiving, don't build up aggro. Let's get past this.

Energy problem? Our deficit with Trinidad is mainly for fuel. Why not buy from the USA? T&T is cheaper! If we had oil would we do as T&T, or let citizens bawl about JPS bills?

We have the largest trade deficit with the USA. Who has taken up a placard? Who pays protestors to boycott American goods? Do we protest the containers of chicken back? cheeses? bagels, croissants? chemical drinks? Did God make soya milk? Flippin' hell, will we import bull cow tea? The USA has energy subsidies in the welfare system and it is less taxed, so the USA produces cheaper than us. Boycott? "Duppy kno hoo to frigtin!" We have to be fair to all partners. The sun shines so we have the energy to build this country, but we need leaders, innovation and the mind to work. We do not need all the oil we import. We can do it!

Deportee, visa problem? We are our own enemy. A few years ago the UK sent back a planeload of us and we "suck it up!" — silent night! They tax diaspora airline tickets, we use due process, not boycott. Senator Nicholson is a sweetheart, but Minister Dookeran's visit confirms we only bully our small friends. Our citizens misbehave in many lands, maybe not this time, but why not let the process work as in the Shanique Myrie case? We are targeted globally for a reason. Every time you take off your shoes at an airport thank a Jamaican. If a sniper shoots in America and they intern Jamaicans, thank Mr Malvo. I admire a country that uses its one asset to prosper itself and give to its people. We had two, bauxite and tourism — we missed! I like one that lends us cash, too. Let us curb "attitude" and entitlement. We are family. Arise and build Jamaica!

FDI problem? Trinidad is our second largest source of FDI. No one invests where they are not liked; they like us. We invested in BOJ paper. They took risks in business. Yet, as soon as they bought the Cement Company we fly the gate so anyone could set up another. What a friend we have in Jesus! They have half our population and are twice as rich, based on retooling, early adoption of technology, oil. To get cheap oil ask Cabinet to roll back taxes to T&T levels — easy! What is friendly about asking the T&T state to raise oil prices to their citizens to suit us? Do we make a quality toilet tissue to sell them? I struggle with a local paper towel and poor perforations mean waste of half the roll. Get quality up for locals first.

My Trini friends know we are wonderful people; our angst is evidence of decadal stress over 40 years. Our leaders, lost us in the wilderness, made us the laughing stock of the region and into an unfeasible union in 2005. We must resist CSME. We are distressed, but we do not grovel. We have "attitude" — it is our asset and our liability. We are poor, live on credit, do not buildout own country, but expect to be respected. They do not say it to our face, but if you can't prosper your own country your personal wealth is an embarrassment, not a virtue. As things get harder we will see strange tactics. And, since we dare not upset Obamaland, our Caricom partners will get pressure — a scorched earth trade policy with countries we can bully. Hard times breed hard tactics. The promised land is just over the hill but "old school" can't get us there. Do not lose your humour, optimism or your "attitude", but saffron it with education and virtue. Let us choose new, adept leaders and hold their feet to the fire. Stay conscious, my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education.





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