When the Golden Arrowhead replaced the Union Jack, most of the country’s institutions and infrastructures were in immaculate condition. Georgetown was clean, drains unclogged, and the few street lights in existence were functional.
Education and health care were intact, teachers were well trained and students were performing extremely well at both the ordinary and advanced levels of the General Certificate of Education. Our roads were in good shape and we inherited a railway system that connected Rosignol to Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop to Parika. Agriculture, mainly rice and sugar were flourishing and were primary foreign currency earners.
Driver’s permits recorded one’s driving record, permits were required for dogs, and bicycles were inspected at the local police station before being given a tag to be used on the nation’s roadway.
Forests were patrolled by forest rangers, water wastage and leaks were monitored, the streets were policed, sanitation inspectors visited homes and properties to ensure that the environment
was kept clean.
Children’s health was monitored by health officers who visited the homes and schools and it was a serious offence for children to be away from school. Communities were maintained by a local government structure of counties and wards that ensured that drains were kept clean and street signs, bridges and roads were maintained.
Crime and corruption existed but there were no metal bars on windows and doors. Relationship between the police, post office, magistrates’ courts, the warden’s office and the communities was cordial. The performance of these offices was not dependent on who was the Prime Minister; there were rules and regulations that governed how one performed. By now one ought to get the picture of a structured government that functioned well.
Today most of the structures we inherited have fallen apart. It seems that their functions were not fully understood by those upon whom independence was thrust.The railway system has been dismantled, agricultural especially rice and sugar; once our primary foreign currency earners are in disarray, a large portion of the farmlands are uncultivated, the roadways have degenerated and some of the waterways are clogged.
And there exists a local government structure that is totally not in sync with what is required to build and sustain a community.
Fifty years after independence, youths are still exposed to a poor education and health care system, a dilapidated infrastructure, an increase in crime, and a sense of hopelessness that pervades society.
Those responsible for maintaining law and order have themselves become the lawbreakers.The justice system is woefully slow and government services are unreliable.The notion of intolerance is toxic, having the potential to fuel conflict.
There is no national development strategy that is rooted in medium to long-term committment, underpinned by active cross-party involvement and support. And there are no formal political arrangements to guarantee genuine participation across party lines in the decision-making process.
Today, there is disaffection in the country linked to a growing disconnect between the public and the leaders.
To prevent further decay and decline in the quality of life for our citizens we must first respect one another, nurture tolerance and restore hope in a society that seemingly is in disarray. We must urgently put in place an appropriate structure of governance that meets specific objectives. Among them must be the reduction of crime, rebuilding of communities, repair of our infrastructure and a traffic management plan that reduces traffic accidents and fatalities on the roadways.
We must develop a robust agricultural and industrial plan and a new model for economic growth and sustainability.The government must no longer, under the guise of regulations, apply political muscle to restrict potential rivals or debar legitimate opposition from participating in the political process and advancing their ideas.
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