June marks the start of the rainy season for us in T&T and also the start of the annual hurricane season. During the period June 1–November 30 countries affected by storms and hurricanes, including us in the Caribbean, can expect to witness 4–8 hurricanes, and 2–4 major hurricanes.
All in all, this is described by experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA as a “near normal” hurricane season. NOAA is an American scientific agency within the United States Department of Commerce that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere. The NOAA predictions aside, we in T&T have to prepare for our own storms that are gathering—literally and figuratively.
The crisis in Venezuela has dominated local news headlines as thousands flee their homeland and seek refuge here, among other places. This plight was highlighted in the Catholic News several months ago, before it reached the alarming levels, we are now witnessing in Trinidad and Tobago. This storm is brewing before us—thousands of migrants trying to adjust to a new, unfamiliar, and in some cases hostile reality.
Among these migrants are children plucked from what they call home and brought to a “strange land” with strange-sounding people—Trini dialect doesn’t pass for Spanish.
With friends and relatives left behind, men and women are earnestly seeking jobs and trying to keep body and soul together. The question of what provisions are being, or should be made for migrants arises—what about health care? What about education? What about access to jobs?
The Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago has estimated that the cost of the gathering migrant storm on T&T’s economy could be several millions of dollars, in the region of $620 million. It would make sense to prepare for that gathering storm rather than to pretend it doesn’t exist.
The recent whirlwind tour to global energy giants perhaps portends another gathering storm. A statement released from the Office of the Prime Minister at the end of the tour (https://www.opm.gov.tt/prime-ministers-talking-points-on-energy-tour-of-duty-may-june-2019/) speaks of negotiations between the T&T high powered delegation and the likes of BP and Shell “…resulting in more favourable terms for the people of Trinidad and Tobago…”
Alas the public didn’t know the “terms” before and after the tour we still are in the dark. What we do know based on the mid-year review, is that the future of Atlantic LNG, in which BP is a stakeholder, is a cause for concern.
In fact, the PM’s statement speaks of “…phase two of the negotiations which will be focused on the future of Atlantic LNG and the restructuring of same…” The economic forecast might well read “cloudy skies ahead”.
The rainy season traditionally brings floods—the agony of many last year will not easily be forgotten. This could well be exacerbated this year given the severe drought and almost ubiquitous bush fires experienced.
Are we prepared? Has a coherent, holistic plan been thought through beyond registration of the migrants? Some of them already are integrated into T&T, and many I’ve encountered have positive work ethic. Are we prepared for the migrant experience?
In the face of the natural and economic storms ahead, it would be prudent to “batten down the hatches” and develop a plan for resilience that recognises and addresses our many vulnerabilities. That’s just my point of view.