Newly-elected City Hall councillor, James Samuels turns 90 tomorrow and says he is shocked that most people have focused on his age instead of what he can bring to making his constituency and by extension the country better.
He plans as soon as possible to begin implementation of policies he campaigned for so that his community can start on a developmental path.
“I am an 89-year-old boy,” Samuels said earnestly as he sat down for an interview with Stabroek News yesterday.
“In myself I feel capable. I don’t know if others my age feel themselves capable…Why this big focus on age? I feel I am capable through experience, through acquired skills and through my will to get better done. That is what should be the focus here ‘Who is capable of getting the job done anywhere’”, he added.
At the March 18th Local Government Elections (LGE), Samuels who was APNU+AFC’s First-Past- The-Post candidate for Constituency 15, Meadowbank-Agricola, beat out his two competitors with 938 votes compared to the PPP/C’s 293 and Team Benchop’s 27.
He said that he expected a low turnout for the Local Government Elections but never imagined it would be less than 50 percent. “I was surprised at the turnout. I expected a low turnout but I thought it would be in the 70s not this low,” he said.
Nonetheless, he stressed that he was glad that he had won but is now focused on implementing policies he campaigned on and first on that list is tackling the issue of unemployment of youths.
“There will be different levels of implementation of policies but all is catered for the holistic development of youth and to create jobs for them. There are things we can do in the constituency that is one level. Then there are things we can do at the council that is another level and then you have things the central government can do so it’s working in unison for the development of country. The main one I am focusing on is getting those (youths) employed that is on the economic side, especially in Agricola,” he posited.
“Mind you and we must take this into consideration, that there is a wider scope now for youth. When I was young, youth was under 21 (years old) now youth is all to 35(years old) so the gap is bigger and therefore it means more persons to cater for. As of now, we have a high percentage of unemployment and under employment and when I talk about employment and we creating jobs for them, I am not talking about labourers. I am talking meaningful jobs that brings in meaningful incomes to our youth. Getting some self employed by getting them to acquire skills so that they can become marketable, skills they can offer for employment… we can start with entrepreneurial skills and sell whatever it is up to them. They can sell produce there is so much entrepreneurs they are a class by themselves. Get them to start thinking big,” he added.
He said that employment can also help with lowering the crime rate across the country and other areas in his constituency but at Agricola his programme’s focus “can help to take out a section of the crime pool”.
While he lives on the Mc Doom Public Road, he said that he has been the victim of theft multiple times with his home being broken into three times during the day last year.
Samuels, a former telecommunications worker, had in a pre-election interview with this newspaper said that he would push to make his constituency the hub of computer technicians and telecommunications. He said that such a programme would create opportunities for employment. Samuels said he has already written the director of technical education seeking permission to establish classes.
He added that he would advocate for his constituency to impose heavy fines to curb the culture of littering and would also seek to have drains cleaned to prevent mosquito-borne diseases.
He further stated that he would bring City Hall’s attention to the Agricola cemetery which he described as a section of the Amazon rainforest. He said that the cemetery is an eyesore and it is time that it be cleaned and spruced up.
Samuels stated that he would also advocate to have his community be serviced with street lights and treated water. “Sometimes the water pressure is low and it is very red… we need water that don’t stain our homes’ bathrooms and utensils”, he said. When asked about funding for his proposed line-up of projects, he said that he would look at the possibilities of City Hall being able to fund some and the government through the different ministries. However, he said that he would ask residents to help fund the street lights projects and help pay the bills.
Samuels added that he would also seek to address the rates and taxes paid by owners of properties. “This is probably the only city in the Caribbean where the taxes are so low… we can’t have that any more”, he said stating that he would seek discussion in City Hall to review the taxes.
He said that he is going to also recommend that there be high quality surveillance cameras to help stop crime. “We have some cameras but when you go to look at the face you can’t see anything… so we need cameras that are able to capture quality images”, he said.
He echoed all of his promises yesterday saying that his age is not and will never be a hindrance to the passion he has dedicated in getting the things he promised executed.
The holder of a Bachelor’s of Science
Degree in Economics and Management and Master’s Degree in Telecommunications, which he gained in his 40s and 50s respectively, Samuels wants to be an inspiration for seniors who have dreams. “I want to say to persons whatever age you are, if you think you are and feel capable and want to pursue a dream just go ahead and do it. What is there to lose? Older people, especially in developing countries like ours have so much to offer,” Samuels asserted.
“In the United States I worked until I was 64 and then retired. Here at 55 they send you off, to do what? …Older persons are valuable. Take former Mayor Hamilton Green, he can teach so much and I would say to him if he feels he wants to go work in another sector, go ahead. My age has never bothered me nor will it now,” he added.
On a lighter note, Samuels said that he will continue to do the things that have kept him active at 90. “I don’t eat much but I eat everything, cook-up rice, bacon you name it. I keep active and this is what has kept me to this age. I spend at least 9 hours every day on the computer surfing the internet. I have to keep up to date with what is happening. I have desktop, laptop, I-pad, cellphone you name it,” he said.