The solution to our impending national crisis is not just financial or economic. It is not just about gas, oil and forex. The solution lies in the lap of the political economy. It is also political. Economic recovery and growth will only successfully arise through political and institutional growth.
Downturn offers us a time and space to invest in non-financial-intensive forms of growth. The following is an example of investment in political, institutional growth, which is imperative for economic growth.
The planet is veering towards a point in time, when our metropolitan and national governments would be too weak to take care of us, the ordinary citizens. This is why we, ordinary citizens, must now start, from now, to shift the load of governance, from the backs, shoulders and heads of governments onto our own.
What do we mean by this? Are we ready, ready for this responsibility?
As we shall see, within the next twenty years, metropolitan governments, and our own national government, would lose their capacity to provide for the rudimentary needs of our ordinary citizens.
For example, in the 21st century, metropolitan governments are going to be overwhelmed by perpetual trade conflicts, war, and recessionary cycles. Let us not be fooled or side-tracked. Our job is to be our brother’s keepers. In other words, not side with, or take medicine for, other people’s sickness; but treat with our own fellow citizens, on the ground, next to us.
Likewise, within the next twenty years our national government would become overwhelmed; unable to effectively respond to the rudimentary needs of ordinary citizens. Most of its oil and gas income, the big Christmas tree of our economy, would be diminished. Trinidad and Tobago cannot, cannot, any longer produce oil and gas at globally competitive rates. Much of our government’s thinning income will go towards burgeoning public sector debt. Most of this income will go towards paying public sector salaries and wages.
Climate change means big water events: rising sea levels, mudslides, floods, which would pose a severe threat to the capacity of national government. State bureaucracies will, through scarcity, incapacity, error, become more impotent. They will not be able to protect. To serve. To give proper health, education, justice.
This means that the time for the people is now. When the current government says local government reform, we must ensure that it does it properly. Sincerely. That it means serious constitutional reform of this aspect of government. Reform must be constitutional, serious, deep and comprehensive. It must be revolutionary. If we want to survive well in the 21st century, we must seize the opportunity to relieve the national government of the burden of power on its back.
The Tobago House of Assembly model points the way; but we need much more, revolutionarily more.
Our centralized halls of justice cannot serve our brothers and sisters justly. Too much unresolved chuchoor, confusion, unregulated revenge attacks, on the ground. A system of local stipendiary magistracies and courts is imperative if we are to save justice itself.
Our doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers, licencing officers immunize us from total breakdown, chaos. But this immune system is tired, breaking down. We must bring them, their health clinics, police stations, schools, licencing offices, ODPM centers, closer to the people on the ground.
Our own immune systems are breaking down, leading to the possibility of epidemics, disease. Horticulture and agriculture, led by local leadership and local residents, utilizing commons, food parks, ecological assets will transform our drinks, food , and our forex culture.
Our holiday sports camp, the one-off clinic, the extra curricula club, the part-time gym mentor, the U.S. scholarship cannot lead us to transformative success in sports. A program-based local sports infrastructure, sewn into schools and communities, is imperative for transformative collective success.
These are just some items on the checklist for local government transformation. There are scores of others. The point is, to put it dramatically, when the proverbial tsunami hits, the bureaucrat will be far up there, far up in the Twin Tower. She, or he, will not be able to respond rapidly or effectively. It is your brother, right down the road, with the bulldozer, the life support kit, the locally-elected public manager, your neighbour, the least amongst you, who will be your ultimate keeper.
Let us be our brothers’, sisters’, keepers. And let us work towards the happy task of finding the cutting edge of our own power. Let us work towards new responsibilities, helping the central government relieve itself of the overwhelming power on its back, and putting it on our own.