Honesty, not spin, should be the basis of the manifestos that parties contesting the August 10 General Election present to the electorate in the coming days. They should contain concrete strategies for taking the country forward, not pie-in-the-sky promises that cannot be kept.
It won’t be campaigning as usual in the coming weeks. COVID-19 imposes on all candidates an obligation to conform to public health standards. This new normal presents opportunities for creativity, ways of presenting plans for national development without the distractions of noisy mass gatherings.
The social media space, where parties can now mount platforms in their quest for votes, allows the smaller parties to present their cases in new and different ways and get a hearing alongside the larger contenders.
This allows for honest, sober assessments of the state of T&T and the steps that need to be taken.
Those aspiring to occupy Whitehall, the seat of political power, owe it to the electorate to put forward practical plans to restore law and order to a nation that has been ravaged by crime for too long. Proposals for economic revitalisation and sustainable social development should also be priority issues in the parties’ manifestos.
This should be the focus, not the mauvais langue, picong and mamaguy that have emanated from political platforms in the past.
The PNM and UNC have already cranked up their election machinery and some of their candidates are already on the ground. Smaller parties, some of whom are joining forces to improve their chances in the polls, need to come with strong proposals based in reality if they are serious about winning votes.
This is not the time for the usual blaming and shaming. Issues should be based on real problems in urgent need of solutions facing citizens.
The biggest issue is crime. Although T&T Police Service’s 2019 statistics show a 4.2 per cent decrease in overall serious criminal activity, the number of murders and gang-related violence in the first half of this year indicate the situation is getting worse, not better.
None of the major political contenders can claim any success on the crime front, not when the 539 murders recorded last year fit in with a disturbing trend that has prevailed for more than a decade. In a population of approximately 1.4 million, this is an untenable situation, particularly when one considers only about one-third of violent crimes result in arrests and there are even fewer that end with prosecutions.
The other national problem for which practical solutions are needed is the state of the economy. Things were already shaky and got considerably worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic and depressed energy prices.
Containment measures required to protect against major shocks from the pandemic required digging deep into the country’s limited financial reserves. There is a weakening labour market and revenue streams have been depleted.
A safer, more prosperous T&T is a goal only attainable if honest, realistic measures are implemented. The electorate is thus owed manifestos based on truth.