“In him we live and move and have our being.” – Acts 17:28

Canadian Christian minister, author and radio personality Eric Butterworth (1916-2003) wrote: “God is not in you in the same sense that a raisin is in a bun… God is in you as the ocean is in a wave. The wave is nothing more nor less than the ocean expressing as a wave.”

We have been treated on the web (pnm.org.tt) recently with a series of excellent “conversations” as Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley and his People’s National Movement (PNM) team present themselves as an alternative government for Trinidad and Tobago. The occasion is, of course, the lead up to the next general election in Trinidad and Tobago on September 7, 2015.

More in vogue in the Caribbean around election season is soap box ranting and raving as each party attempts to denigrate the other in the hope of convincing a more and more educated electorate to support one manifesto over that of the other party.

In contrast, the “conversation” begins with a moderator introducing the leader and his three team members who, in turn, speak for five to 10 minutes. After this, followers on the web as well as persons present at the event are asked to present their concerns to the panellists.

At a recent “conversation” in San Fernando, the second city in the country, one of the questions from the audience hit at the crux of the matter about the governance of the nation.

He opined that a general election, governed by the representation of the people’s act, is about the election of individuals who will represent the people in a given constituency in parliament. These nominees are selected by the appropriate party political process in each constituency.

Many of the elected representatives, who may have performed excellently in the representation role, are then thrust into ministerial positions to manage the business of the country, whether they are likely to be capable managers or not. Their representation responsibilities are often commensurately neglected.

The questioner preferred a model where the elected representative focuses on representing the people in the constituency to a level of excellence and then the Prime Minister, endorsed by parliament, selects the best available brains in the country to manage the ministerial portfolios.

Dr. Rowley, while empathising with the position taken by the member of the audience, drew attention to the fact that there is local government legislation in Trinidad and Tobago, which is designed for the effective management at the constituency level, but there are weaknesses in the system. If that legislation were supported by functional management of business systems, then the representation weakness could be alleviated.

In the context of selecting the best persons to manage the ministerial portfolios, that would mean a change in the constitution from the Westminster Model to a model such as the one which exists in the United States (I would also add Switzerland). However, this depends on the will of the people to empower the legislators to make that change.
Another question from the audience enquired about the diversification of the Trinidad and Tobago economy.

Although there was inadequate time at the “conversation” to address this question comprehensively, Dr. Rowley opined that the Trinidad and Tobago economy was too dependent on oil and gas and that there was need to diversify within the oil and gas sector as well as to look at other sectors of the economy.

A third question, which the moderator squeezed in at the end of the “conversation”, was about diversification in the creative industries sector and the provision of a supportive enabling environment for entrepreneurs. Dr. Rowley fully supported the development of the creative sectors, but time ran out before he could address entrepreneurship potential, the challenges of entrepreneurs and the promotion of enterprise development.

The Trinidad and Tobago market is replete with creativity and innovation and at present there are at least 16 initiatives which support enterprise development.

Under the Ministry of Labour and Small and Micro Enterprise Development, there are at least four entities: NEDCO, IBIS, FairShare and the Enterprise Investment Fund. Under the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, there are at least three entities: InvestTT, ExportTT and e TecK (making suitable real estate available). Under the Ministry of Community Development, there is at least one entity: ECCL (creating craft entrepreneurs).

Under the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, there are at least five entities: CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development (building capacity and capability for enterprise creation); Economic Development Board (reshaping strategies for economic development by facilitating diversification and achieving a diversified economy within the framework of sustainable development); Council for Competitiveness and Innovation (CCI – taking action to make firms more competitive and expand exports); Ideas to Innovation (i2i – a CCI competition to become a vehicle for the development of ideas with commercial potential); and Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC – a Jamaica Science Research Council/CARIRI partnership to increase enterprise development of local climate technologies). Under the Ministry of Finance and Economy, there is at least one entity: Trinidad and Tobago Investment Finance Centre (Investment fund).

Under the Ministry of Education, there is at least one entity: The Lok Jack Graduate School of Business, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine (BIZBOOSTER – primarily a SME growth centre and commercial business incubator). Then there is an NGO: Youth Business Trinidad and Tobago (helping young people to work for themselves by providing access to business loans and business mentoring). These initiatives need to be rationalised.

Let each and every one of us align ourselves with the ocean of good principles of national governance, so that as each wave breaks on the shores of life, the beach becomes an infinite repository of collective wisdom for the benefit of posterity.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)