But money, of course, comes first. Trade Minister Mariano Browne has promised that the country will know exactly how much was spent to host the Summit, and no doubt the Opposition will be filing the same question in Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity.
We expect that this particular accounting will come sooner rather than later, since the longer the Government takes, the more it will look as though they spent hundreds of millions of dollars with no thought for the morrow. Indeed, it is already clear that the Government has crossed its initial $500 million estimate for hosting this Summit and the coming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting on last weekend’s event alone.
On a longer time-horizon, citizens will also be looking to see if any of the promised benefits of these international conferences will materialise.
Will Trinidad and Tobago get increased foreign direct investment over the next year or two or even three? Will the country’s international profile be raised by us playing host to world leaders? It is often said that TT is a place of nine-day wonders, but citizens are more politically aware now, and the Government’s promises will be remembered in 2010.
In the immediate aftermath, however, a political accounting can be totted up now.
In the weeks leading up to the Summit, citizens experienced several inconveniences, mainly increased traffic due to the dry runs and security arrangements.
Over the weekend, people who live in the red zone became virtual prisoners in their households, not only because of the strong hints from security officials that that is what they should do, but also because of inefficiency which prevented them getting the promised accreditation that would have let them move about freely in their own country. And here we encounter the first political cost.
The fact is, in order to hold this Summit, the Government broke the laws of the country. The tint-removal exercise from vehicles, for example, was carried out by police officers who, as legal experts have pointed out, had no authority to order such an action. More importantly, the Government contravened the Constitution by instituting security zones in and around Port-of-Spain.
Section 4 (g) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of movement, and this right can only be suspended if a State of Emergency is declared. So the price for holding this Summit was a further undermining of the already shaky rule of law.
A more subtle, but perhaps even more damaging wound to the social fabric was inflicted by the many improvements made in the run-up to the Summit.
Here the Government proved that, once motivated, it can indeed provide public services, and even security, to citizens who have for years been complaining about lack of same. But what did it take to motivate the Government to do what it was elected to do? The presence of a handful of powerful persons from other countries.