A Barbadian journalist with whom I became friends over the past year was getting very agitated about policy inertia when dealing with what is seen as a national problem in Barbados, in this case, praedial larceny. The story that got his goat was about thefts from a rabbit farm (see Nation article): thieves stole the best does stock and their young from a female farmer who had decided to fill the gap as a breeder after the government stepped out of that activity and providing replacement stock 15 years ago. She would now have to incur costs in trying to restock by importing good breeding animals.
In the Caribbean (and also in the British Commonwealth), praedial larceny is an expression that crops up (pun unintended) often as we read about farm livestock and crops being stolen, or of prize animals disappearing. The same practices exist world-wide, but it’s not clear that they take on the same relative proportions or significance, not least because of the much bigger size of farm holdings in some countries.
My friend begged for resources, especially police regular and temporary, to be given to dealing with this problem, in the same way that special attention is given to attacking white-collar crime. He suggested special police patrols. How about deputized constables (who could be in plain clothes, and wear arm bands identifying them as such–though, I’m not sure if that would not open the door to some scammers who could then pretend to be law enforcers but were really thieves)? How about civilian volunteer police, who would jump at the chance to do something – anything. How about devoting resources to criminal detection? Tagging of livestock, tax credits for installation of camera/security systems, electric fences. As he said “It’s the inertia that gets me, not the lack of ideas.”
Concerned citizens often feel aggrieved at what they see as inertia.
As I look out at my yard this morning, after a double dose of violent storms hit the Greater Washington area, I hear in the news comments about the many households without electricity, and imagine the galling sense of unfairness felt by American who normally scoff at so-called Third World dysfunction. I hear questions about issues that have been discussed for the 20 years or so that I have lived in this area, on and off. The problem of trees near power lines and the fact that overhead electricity supply is so much more problematic than wires laid underground: in a region that has trees all through its urban areas, it should have been a major public project decades ago to get those wires underground. Yes, it’s a big task, but it wont get easier with delay. The limbs hanging on wires from last week tell me that clearing them is like painting a bridge–never done. Questions about the ability of PEPCO to deal with power outages quickly are also hitting the airwaves and the pages of the papers. Having sat through a five-hour outage last week, I can understand the frustrations, but I don’t know what is really reasonable, when there may be a need to cut down trees or limbs and then reconnect cables. At least, we could find some candles amongst the packing boxes through which we were working. Our gas stove had electric ignition, so we needed to get matches. We have hurricane lamps in the garage, but they had not used by us for years and on checking the wicks were done and they had no oil.
I’m sure that many of those who work for the various agencies that seem to not do what we want them to really do care about us as customers, clients, or whatever the term is, but somehow they seem to not get it right. Their expressed concerns never deal with the actual problems. I’m sure they can understand that, so is it expecting too much for action to come with the concerns?