Friday, April 18, 2008

My 2 Cents

Okay, well, yes. Even though everything in the previous post is true, the tone was set more by the fact that I was tired and just felt like complaining.

It looks like there won't be an island-wide blackout--at least not this weekend. According to this morning's paper, CUC (Commonwealth Utility Corp.) was able to buy another 1300+ barrels of fuel to help tide us over. There will be rolling blackouts, probably for an indefinite period, but we've gotten used to those and they're not really that big of a deal as long as CUC sticks to the schedule (ahem). It's usually only for a couple of hours a day. Sometimes twice a day....

Actually, this could turn out to be a time of opportunities. The major problem here on island is the government. The government is run by the indigenous minority--the majority of the people here are non-resident (hence non-voting) contract workers. People get into office--and there are a few exceptions--by courting the votes of their extended family with promises of jobs or forgiveness of debts (including tax debts), and sometimes with just cases of beer. I think generally they make good on the job promises because the government is bloated with deadwood employees who haven't got the skills or education to do anything even if they had the gumption. Which they don't.

In the effort to come up with enough jobs to fill those promises, the government has made itself the provider of many services that would be better supplied by private companies (i.e., utilities). Initially, this may also have been because there was nobody else interested in supplying the service, but over time it became the status quo. The heads of these services departments are appointed by the governor so there is a massive turnover every four years. For instance, the head of the health department may be a Health Administrator or a medical doctor or just someone the governor really owes and is stupid enough to think they can run a hospital/public health department. CUC is supposedly a semi-autonomous agency, but ultimately the governor can run the show and pretty much does.

So the problems we have now with CUC, PSS (public school system), CHC (health), etc., are the results of years of inconsistent, politically-driven leadership. Every time someone gets in that seems to know what they're doing, they often get booted when a new governor comes regardless of if they are in the process of getting things on track or not.

So, the opportunity part. What I think is that if things get bad enough (and you'd think we'd have been there and back again by now), that the government will have to let go of some of the services they've been hanging on to (like hemo, emergency medical services, utilities, etc.), and let private companies have at it. If the government would get out of the private businesses way (like putting exhorbitant fees on RFP's for privatization of power), then maybe we can still pull out of this mess.

I also think that the time may ripe for more non-native islander legislators. I've heard one idea of getting rid of everyone on Capital Hill and hiring something along the lines of a city manager/professional management company to come in and take over.

Islanders are much more complacent than people in the U.S., but maybe as they lose desired services, prices climb higher and higher, and many of those who were "gifted" jobs lose them they will let go of the "family" voting and get real.

How much is a rain barrel anyway?


Calandria said...

I imagine that things would have to get pretty bad for the native islanders to turn over power to non-natives. It sounds like they've put up with a lot already. That's too bad.

Lee said...

We pay $7.50 for a gallon of gas. Its high but I think Americans pay to little. I noticed last summer that kids still 'cruz' when they are bored. What a waste of fuel. Kids certainly can't do that here. They'd go broke.

Guess people need a big shocker before they start appreciating what they have. The Dutch have a saying, 'The calf has to drown before the well is covered'. There's some truth in that with all people all over the world.

I wouldn't hold my breath with the family vote change. Culture seems to be stronger then common sense.

Hope you guys have enough water - hope we have enough fuel to pump water out! Two thirds of the country is under sea level.

Anonymous said...

First of all, the islanders that live there now are NOT the islanders that have been through a lot. Those have all but died off. Second, I see no problem with the US government trying to keep the oil prices low. I don't think Americans "pay too little." Third - I've read it, I've thought about it, and I STILL don't see why you want to live there. Why can't dad just do what he does here in the States? Or at least in Canada? Or even Mexico! At least those two are connected to the same continent. Even Argentina - it's in the same land mass. Any of those would be more practical.

ML said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ML said...

Mal, I'm sorry if I scared you with the cholera joke in the previous post--not very funny.
I don't think Calandria was referring to WWII experiences, but to my comments about the current local government. The islanders here have put up with a lot--too much. But Lee is right that cultural influences are very strong. In fact, it's largely our own cultural norms that influence our feelings of frustration with other people's ways.

Lee, you're probably right that people in the U.S. pay too little for fuel--from what I've been reading on the internet many Americans agree with you. We've had a similar experience with our electrical rates. For years we have been way undercharged for power--the government was able to subsidize. But now the ability to subsidize is gone and every time the utility tries to raise rates or apply a surcharge, the legislature overturns it. Too politically unattractive.... Look where that's gotten us!

It would be nice to move back to the States--I would love that! But then I remember how we happened to come here in the first place and I know that I wouldn't want us to be anywhere else. We'll know if and when the time comes to make a change. I know we haven't been forgotten, so I can be patient.