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A GOOD mixed bag at fifty
Celebrations of successes must be tempered by reflections on failures. The present emphasis on festivities must be followed by sober and serious debate and reflections on what ails the country and the construction of solutions for its betterment. We have many things for which to be grateful and thankful. With the exception of minor aberrations, all races and creeds do live together peacefully. In this regard the citizenry has shown great maturity.
The peaceful transition of power from one party to next, particularly the first governmental transition from the PNM to the NAR, is something to be really proud of; an example to the world at large on true democracy. Significant strides have also been made in that the country has elected Prime Ministers of different ethnicities, considered almost taboo in the early years of independence.
The gender glass ceiling has also been shattered with election of the first female Prime Minister. New political grounds were covered with the present multi-party coalition government. So on the political front, despite all the hot air emanating from the talk shows, ethnic social dynamics and coalition entropy, we have done well. On the cultural front, positive strides have been taken. Indo-Trinidadian culture, once the invisible step-child, has become a more visible sibling.
Recognition has been given to both the Baptist and East Indian communities through national holidays. The cultural centre shifted from it inherited colonial position to one that better reflected the realities of an independent and plural society. A significant portion of the society, if not the majority, accepts, appreciates and participates in the cultural rainbow that is T&T. We are viewed in many quarters as a model of cultural and ethnic diversity, one worthy of emulation.
Education, despite its many stumbles, has and continues to remain on the path of growth and progress. Universal pre-school education would place us on the highest peak of social development. This coupled with universal primary and secondary education and free tertiary education makes us the envy of both developed and developing countries. The unwavering focus on education by all governments is to be lauded. The institutionalising and articulation of new pathways for training and education is the result of progressive and enlightened thinking.
At independence, the economy was dominated by oil and sugar. The development and growth of the light manufacturing, gas, energy and the heavy industrial sectors were post-independent events. Tremendous insight and foresight were demonstrated for these industries have and continue to contribute the lion’s share of the country’s revenue.
The foray into the service sector and creative industries is adding value to the economy. So we have progressed, on the industrial and service front, quite well, so much so that our profile is atypical for a developing small-island state. Whilst Jamaica remains the regional sporting powerhouse, we have also done quite well.
Our presence in track and field events is acknowledged on the world stage and inroads have been made in other sports. In the area of T20 cricket we have defied odds and expectations by qualifying for the Champions League for a third time and being the losing finalist in the inaugural competition.
The cricketing genius Brian Lara developed right here in T&T. Our cricket and sporting infrastructure produces athletes who stride the international stage, doing us proud. On the creative front, our musicians are in demand in not only the Caribbean diasporas but they also have penetrated non-traditional developed markets.
Carnival is gaining more international prominence and other cultural art forms are growing in prominence. The artistry of Carnival bandleaders has been showcased to the world and at world events. Sons and daughters of the soil have excelled both here and abroad in just about every sphere of human endeavour—arts, academics, literature, music, medicine and sports, to just name a few.
The evidence clearly indicates that we are a talented and creative people and that we have punched above our weight class. We have done quite well in the areas indicated and we should celebrate these successes. We however need to reflect on the following questions: have we done as well as we could? How do we compare with other similar nations? Are we prepared to make the changes to become a great nation?
• Prakash Persad is the director of Swaha Inc
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