Posted by: nastylittletruths | May 19, 2008

The Neo-Colonials

I have got to get back to some of the older posts where I promised to expand on topics. I zeroed in on this particular one yesterday from a month ago when I was explaining my blog’s tagline.

I stated then, “Outside of Port of Spain, no one really cares. “Development” by the way of tall buildings in every corner, yet a single story building to issue passports will never be built in Rio Claro. Not in my lifetime, not in yours. I have a theory about the reason behind the mindset, but that’s another post.” 

My pet theory for our lack of decentralisation can be better explained if I quote from Carlos Forment’s “Democracy in Latin America” first –

Neo-colonials continued to describe their compatriots like unruly children, beholden to passions and therefore morally and sociopolitically unfit to partake in public life… they still construed their fellow citizens as colonial officials portrayed them prior to independence…”

Does this sound familiar? Just recently our beloved PM was saying that TnT citizens were “not sophisticated enough” to accept an Executive President in defence of the Ellis Clarke’s Draft Constituton. Can you imagine what Dr. Eric Williams, an Oxford scholar, probably thought about us during the period 1956 to 1962 and then post independence?

Forment goes on – “true democrats and authoritarians struggled for the heart and minds of citizens…  democrat minded citizens, however, construed their fellow citizens as rational adults capable of restraining their passions and practising self-rule… neo-colonials were committed to using ‘law and order’ to inculcate ‘self-discipline’...”

And here’s the crux of the argument – will people exercise self-discipline, or have to be ‘whipped’ into doing the right thing? (You know my opinion when it comes to drivers in TnT :-) but we have to look at the bigger picture here).

My simplistic theory for our over-centralisation, therefore, stems from what I believe to be the lack of trust our newly minted leaders (but same mould) had in their fellow citizens post independence. In essence, we exchanged our expatriate colonial masters for home-grown ones.

Because the lack of trust at the beginning manifested itself in overly centralised processes, it sowed the seeds of opportunities for the few outlying bureaucrats and smooth talking smart men to make a buck. When corruption raised its ugly head, the centralised leadership tightened their grip to keep civil servants honest. And the more difficult and centralised it became to do business with government offices, the more opportunities were created. People are lining up to pay their fees to get what they want. Can’t reach PoS and line up for that electronic birth paper, someone knows someone working there who can sort it out for you.

By extension, no matter what plans the central government has for local government, it will never work. We understand that power is so centralised that talking to the regional corporations are a waste of time, so we harass our MPs to get our drains cleaned and grass cut, etc. Ask any MP who ever went up back for re-election and walking the roads – even up to the Prime Minister – and they can relate the small things their constituents expect them to get done. But that was how it all started… 

Soon we’ll be the paradox of development through our leaders’ shortsightedness. The capital will always have miles of traffic entering in the morning and leaving in the evening. Tall beautiful buildings in Port of Spain, million dollar and more vehicles, general affluence, but the further you get from that centre, minimal or no infrastructure, no services and abject poverty – even where the black gold is pumped out of the ground.

Read the tagline again.



  1. love the way you think!

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