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Out of time on crime

Thursday, July 6 2017

The United Nations’ Commission on Human Security defines human security as “…protecting the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment.” Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms – freedoms that are the essence of life. It means protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations.

“Citizen Security may be regarded as a dimension of human security.” The more overarching construct, human security, “is based on a fundamental understanding that Governments retain the primary role for ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of their citizens.” The concept of ‘citizen security’ is associated with security against the threat of crime or violence and involves those rights to which all members of a society are entitled, so that they can live with as little threat as possible to their personal security, their civic rights and their right to the use and enjoyment of their property.

We must ask ourselves, as citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, including those of us who are entrepreneurs, do we feel safe and secure? One only needs to read the newspapers daily to realize that the continuous rise in violence and crime – more recently against businessmen and women - has crippled our economy and our country. The obvious next question would be, with an ever increasing budgetary allocation to the Ministry of National Security, has there been any corresponding decrease in the level of crime? The Global Peace Index (GPI), which is the product of the Institute of Economics and Peace, attempts to measure the level of peacefulness within a country. In 2017, it ranked 163 countries and the index gauges the level of safety and security in society, the extent of domestic and international conflict and the degree of militarization.

Factors are both internal such as levels of violence and crime within the country and external such as military expenditure. The assertion is that low crime rates, minimal incidences of terrorist acts and violent demonstrations and a stable political scene can be equated with peacefulness. It is important to note that the main findings of the GPI are that peace is correlated to indicators such as income and schooling and that peaceful countries often have high levels of transparency of government and low corruption.

According to the GPI for 2017, of the 12 countries in the Caribbean region, five saw their scores deteriorate. The largest deteriorations were registered in Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago. In the latter case, this was on account of a rise in military expenditure as a percentage of GDP and weapons imports. In fact, for 2017, Trinidad and Tobago’s ranking has plummeted to 97th as compared to 84th in 2016 and 77th in 2009.

This places us behind countries such as Haiti and Jamaica. Interestingly in 2009, Haiti ranked 120th and Jamaica 89th, which means that, in spite of their many challenges, they have seen significant improvements.

According to the report, the economic cost of violence for Trinidad and Tobago was $6.5 billion representing almost 15% of GDP. As for societal safety and security, both Jamaica and Haiti, and even the Republic of Congo, ranked better than Trinidad and Tobago.

It is hoped that this is a wake-up call to our leaders and emphasises the need to treat with spiraling crime effectively. We are squandering massive resources in these parlous economic times without any positive impact. The monies being wasted could be directed towards treating with unemployment, poverty, health and education. For citizens to feel safe and secure, the perception of the government’s ability to ensure freedom from crime is also an integral part. We are fast running out of time.



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