Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 5th 2014 Contents B10
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, June 5, 2014
Sitting at a little food shack in
Charlotteville I find myself saying,
"Capitalism means nothing to ordi-
nary people in Tobago. Whether
you break even, make a little profit
or a loss, it really doesn t matter."
This doesn t apply to the restau-
rants, hotels and car rental compa-
nies in Crown Point or Cove Indus-
trial Park, the commercial hub of
But in the fishing village to the
north, watching the men weighing
their silvery catch, we eat a meal
prepared by a rasta who appears not
to be an entrepreneur. Several times
we offer him money. He replies,
"Could you please pay me after
you ve eaten?"
He leaves the kitchen and we go
looking for him along the waterfront,
eventually finding him at the far end
of the village. We shove the money
in his hand and thank him.
"Did he not want us to pay him?"
my girlfriend asks.
"Maybe it s a rasta thing?" I say.
From Mason Hall northwards,
Tobagonians live off the fat of the
land and the fruits of the sea. Profit
is pointless, by all appearances. The
economy is goats, cows, fish, fruit
and vegetables. Occasionally a prop-
erty might be turned into a guest-
house. Selling a little weed on a
sleepy street corner is a career path
I m not trying to denigrate Tobago
as a land of peasantry, and yes, I m
exaggerating the bucolic, non-prof-
it-driven island for reasons of com-
parison that will become obvious.
Tobago is actually not massively dif-
ferent from large swathes of
Trinidad. In Moruga, the price they
asked for freshly caught fish and
huge cassava felt like I was robbing
them. Guiltily, I gave them extra.
Trinidad to an outsider is like a
hybrid socialist/capitalist state---
The cultural difference between
the UK and T&T in terms of personal
finance vis-à-vis capitalist business
feels quite profound. It s not quite
as stark as, say, the difference
between Wall Street and the Islamic
banking system (where charging
people interest is seen as unethical),
but people here are less money-
grabbing than back home.
That makes back home sound like
kind of Dickensian or a Wild West
where everybody is out to
swindle.That s not the case, it s more
that anything to do with money,
consumption and the provision of
services and resources is so massively
regulated and tightly controlled that
it stifles and squeezes ordinary peo-
ple out of relatively small amounts
of money so corporations can max-
imise their already huge profit mar-
gins in a ruthless, uncompassionate
Two recent examples might illus-
trate the difference in mentality.
Last week it dawned on me I had-
n t paid my DirecTV bill for eight
weeks. I completely forgot. Instead
of a threatening letter telling me if
I don t pay within 14 days the arrears
will be passed on to a debt collection
agency, I had a phonecall from the
customer service centre offering me
a ten per cent discount on future
Back home, companies aren t so
Coming home to Trinidad last
week, my girlfriend brought with
her all the letters from the past six
months sent to my London address.
Amongst them I found one from a
credit-card company informing me
that, erroneously, my card had been
charged and that I owed them
money. The situation, unbeknownst
to me, had escalated.
The most recent letter reads: "We
are considering legal action to recover
your debt..." and "...we will shortly
commence further action..."
In Trinidad such a matter would
be cleared up with an explanation.
In Britain, companies pass on the
details to external credit agencies.
They aren t debt collectors, they are
more powerful: they determine
whether you will be allowed to bor-
row money, in the form of loans or
mortgages (essential life things). Bad
credit stays on your file for six years
and is difficult to remove, even when
you provide your explanations.
After reading my letters I took a
taxi into town and found I had no
small change in my wallet, just $100
"Doh beat up nuh man," the driver
told me, "next time, next time."
On other occasions I ve had com-
plete strangers pay my fare in taxis.
It s a relaxed and relaxing way of
life to assume honesty rather than
a default position that everybody is
out to cheat and avoid paying for
bills and services.
As I sat back and enjoyed the taxi
ride I thought of an incident on a
London bus last year, late at night,
with the wind and rain howling
along the high street, when a young
man got on and didn t have enough
for the fare.
People on the bus looked the other
way as he begged the driver for
clemency. Eventually, the driver
ordered him off the bus and closed
An honest dollar
Today is World Environ-
ment Day, the United Nations
principal vehicle for encour-
aging worldwide awareness
and action for the environ-
In Tobago, which was
recently called the "eco-
tourism capital of the
Caribbean" by USA Today, the
day will be celebrated with the
planting of 50 poui trees at the
Buccoo Cliff where the Grow-
ing Leaders Foundation and the
Healing with Horses Founda-
tion will be re-foresting the
land with children from the
The children will bury their
hopes and dreams on paper in
the roots of the plants, which
will be known as the Growing
Leaders Poui Trees, said a
release from Growing Leaders.
The Healing with Horses
Foundation has authorisation
from the Tobago House of
Assembly to use the land to
keep its horses and pro-
grammes in the rehabilitation
and development of special
needs, at risk and other youth
in the community.
The Growing Leaders Foun-
dation is the recipient of a
US$50,000 grant from The
Global Environmental Facility
Small Grants Programme,
implemented by UNDP in T&T.
The grant has been used to
implement Financial IQ training
programmes in 12 primary
schools by starting vertical bot-
tle gardens, reforestation ini-
tiatives and planting of lead-
ership trees all over the country.
On June 11, US-based Trinidadian
university professor Joanne Kilgour
Dowdy will launch Olympic Hero---
Lennox Kilgour s Story, a book that
pays tribute to her late father who
died ten years ago.
Lennox Kilgour won a bronze
medal in the sport of weightlifting
at the 1952 Summer Olympics in
The Kent State University profes-
sor said she had no plans to write
about her father until December
Unlike Dowdy s past literary out-
ings, this book was written with
children in mind, a release said.
Olympic Hero features illustrations
by Dillon Sedar, an art teacher at
Seiberling Elementary and an art
educator/artist at Kent State Uni-
Since she wasn t yet born when
her father won bronze, a lot of Kil-
gour Dowdy s information about his
Olympic journey came from the book
Trinidad Olympians by Dr Basil Ince.
Ince also reviewed Kilgour Dowdy s
drafts and gave her some much wel-
Alexander Chapman, a great sup-
port to Ince when he did his research
on the Olympian, also supported
Kilgour Dowdy on the project.
"As a girl I would shine his tro-
phies," Kilgour Dowdy said. "His life
as an athlete was all history to me,
When I started remembering his
days with me, he was painting, I was
a model for one of his paintings. He
was sculpting. I remember the bust
he made of Edward Taylor, the for-
mer mayor of Port of Spain. (Taylor)
was the only person who met Lennox
at the airport after he returned from
Helsinki with his bronze medal.
"That story is in the book because
I use it to show that Lennox did not
let that disappointment stop him
from pressing on to his subsequent
victories as an international athlete."
Tribute to an Olympian Dad Joanne
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