Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 15th 2017 Contents viewpoint A21
Monday, May 15, 2017 guardian.co.tt
New buildings will not
New buildings, tall buildings, however
well designed or properly maintained are
no real guarantee that civil behaviour will
come from the occupants.
I take my lead from a conversation that
I had recently with a concerned citizen
who has complained about the lack of
civility that has become the norm in Trini-
dad and Tobago. My fellow citizen remind-
ed me that the dictionary's definition of
civility was "courtesy, polite behaviour and
consideration for others."
We were discussing the statements
made by the Prime Minister when the
Government Campus Plaza was opened
recently. Dr Rowley noted that he hoped
the new premises would lead to an
improvement in the productivity and
behaviour of the public servants. By that
reference to behaviour I took it to mean
The Government Campus Plaza will
house a number of key Government agen-
cies including the Board of Inland Reve-
nue, Customs and Excise Division of the
Ministry of Finance, Ministry of National
Security Immigration Division Building
and Ministry of the Attorney General and
Legal Affairs Tower.
The state of the buildings are not the
problem. Lack of civility has become a
norm in Trinidad and Tobago. If we take
a casual look around us we will observe
that a lot of uncivil behaviour takes place
whenever or wherever the people have
to deal with government officials at the
police stations, hospitals, health centres
and social welfare offices, even when the
buildings are well appointed.
Look at what happened recently with
the Muslim woman who recently reported
that she would not be given a job at MTS
because she was wearing a hijab. She said
the MTS official allegedly was "rough and
disgusting" toward her.
So are we then going to rely on the
physical circumstances in the several
buildings that house these departments
in order to get civil behaviour? Or are we
going to task our various national leaders
themselves to take the lead in guiding the
population toward more civility?
I am not unique. I came across a letter
from Winston Rudder of Petit Valley
published in a newspaper one year ago on
April 28, 2016. The headline was "Striving
for civility where disrespect reigns." He
looked at the politicians, noting "Polarisa-
tion between the major political parties
has deepened dramatically in recent
years." And he added, "Concurrently, civili-
ty has waned. Demonising opponents and
trading abusive remarks are regular fare
on radio talk show programmes and in the
press. Under the cloak of anonymity, social
media is also fully recruited in the cause."
In addition to the uncivil behaviour at
public offices there is also a crisis of civili-
ty in the education system. As the country
is aware, no level of schooling, from pri-
mary to tertiary, is free from incidents of
violence and bullying.
Mr Rudder suggests a twofold solution.
He wrote: "... our education system must
be reformed. A key goal must be the holis-
tic development of a more mindful, round-
ed and selfless citizenry in T&T as the
linchpin for creating a harmonious society.
"Additionally, we need to rebalance
power relations between citizen and poli-
tician to restore and maintain vibrancy in
I agree with him.
Last Sunday, in the Guardian, there
was a very heartening article from
the minister of Planning and Develop-
ment, Camille Robinson-Regis.
In this article she declared that
many buildings are being constructed
without proper authorisation from
the Town and Country Planning Divi-
sion. All you need to do is look around
to see that this is a burgeoning prob-
lem. For years I have been saying that
building rules and regulations have to
be adhered to, and enforced.
What we have today is an ex-
tremely unsafe, unsanitary, absolute-
ly hideous, maze of concrete blocks.
May I suggest this ministry, periodi-
cally, either send out via the media, or
print leaflets, to inform the populace
of the basic building rules. How many
feet from the road, how far from a
boundary wall a roof or wall must be
etc. And I implore this minister to be
stringent in her enforcement.
These rules are there for a pur-
pose. Everyone needs to know that
their own private space is protected
and that the authorities will deal
quickly with errant construction.
Spaces between walls and roofs are
there for safety reasons. They pre-
vent fires from spreading easily.
Some townhouse communities,
which have strict building codes,
are plagued by owners hell-bent on
adding illegal structures. One call to
the relevant authority should be all it
takes to stop this nonsense.
Madam Minister, I wish you well in
this endeavour; please send out your
enforcement crews forthwith.
Tax casinos before
property, Mr Minister
Can someone please explain why
the Minister of Finance is proceeding
post-haste with the implementation
of the property tax and setting a date
of operations of the Gambling Indus-
try Control Commission for 2018?
The Minister would have the na-
tion believe that the focus on the
Property Tax has to do with the need
for increased tax revenue, but is ig-
noring or delaying tax collection from
an acknowledged uncontrolled sector.
He accepts that casinos are a po-
tential source of money laundering
and has been outside of the tax net
for several years. The millions in tax
revenue foregone by the failure to
collect taxes from this sector would
easily exceed the take from the prop-
erty tax and contribute immensely to
bridging the fiscal gap.
Instead, he focuses on an area in
which the state is not even close to
being ready and which is receiving
almost universal condemnation, not
because of the Opposition or because
the population disagrees with it, but
because the necessary groundwork
has not been laid.
Most people accept the neces-
sity for the property tax but are
convinced that there are areas where
the state's attention would be better
Minister, the government would
be well advised to advance the time
table on the collection of taxes from
the people who are making vast
amounts of money from which the
country is not benefiting, and allow
more time for the population to pre-
pare itself more fully for the upcom-
ing property tax.
Fancy Indian masqueraders parade during the Traditional Mas part of the Point Fortin 37th anniversary Borough
Day celebrations, on Saturday, May 6. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL
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