A modest proposal


Covid-19 has wrought more than its share of havoc on everyone. I don’t bother combing my hair unless I have a video conference, which is what I now call socializing. “Going out” now means “grocery store.”


The events of the past year, not to mention the past two weeks, have led me to avoid the media for the sake of my blood pressure and sanity. But on the whole, my hardship has mostly been annoyances (aside from my current paltry income), so I’m not complaining.


All of which is to say that I have not been on the islands for some time, so the bulk of my observations are based on memory. I can perhaps be accused of losing perspective.


When it comes to making the world a better place, I do not believe in silver bullets. International development, indeed development of all stripes, is littered with the carcasses of grandiose ideas that were supposed to completely solve all problems. I do, however, believe in using something that works, regardless of how incremental the improvement.


On that basis, I present a modest proposal for the improvement of public health and education in the Pacific islands: training select local students to an American standard, or equivalent, for emergency medical technicians or EMTs, people trained in out-of-hospital basic medical care.


I’m not expecting a sudden change to education or the public well-being, but it’s one potential way to address problems with health in general, and roadway safety in particular. Many places, Palau for instance, have recently acquired decent roads, an improvement over pothole studded scars, elevated sewer outlets, and exposed rebar that has killed more than one tire.


Good roads create opportunities for exchange. Good roads also let you drive fast and not pay attention. In a region where drunk driving is already a problem, good roads increase the chances of severe accidents. Potholes have advantages.