Making Sport the weapon of choice for our youth …

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The Jamaican Olympic success has been simply phenomenal and I admire and congratulate the government and people of Jamaica.  I however worry about my own country because every four years we rehash the same discussion about what is Jamaica doing right and what we are doing wrong?  The solution is the same – we need a strategy for sport and consistent implementation.  Our leaders continue to fail us by not clearly communicating their vision.

In a recent address Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh said that “Childhood Obesity had doubled and that the Non Communicable Disease (NCD) policy, which is waiting on approval, will come on-stream soon”.   The fact that Minister Deyalsingh referenced the increase in obesity in children tells me that we are aware of the problem.  What is needed now is action to get our children moving.

During the 10 years I served as Secretary of the Witco Sports Foundation, I spent a lot of time with the late Lystra Lewis and one of the stories she often told was what led to our country sharing the World Netball Championship title with Australia and New Zealand in 1979.   This was the the fifth (5th) World Netball Championship which was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1979.   20 countries were represented.

10 years prior to this achievement, Lystra Lewis won the bid for Trinidad and Tobago to host the tournament.  At the time we did not have a stadium and she knew that good facilities were needed so she approach then Prime Minister Dr. Eric Williams to build the facility which is now known as the Jean Pierre Complex.  Her role was to implement a developmental plan which would see Netball being played across the country.  This resulted in the unearthing and fine tuning of talent at all levels of our society but it began with a focussed attempt, a strategic intent to create a winning netball team.

Unfortunately, we have not maintained that high performance, well oiled machinery and Netball has slid to un unthinkable level.

In every area of sport, Trinidad and Tobago has consistently demonstrated that we have the talent but we continue to underperform.  The missing element is there is no strategic intent.  I have not heard the Minister of Sport articulate such a strategic intent.  Once he makes the call, we would quickly need to deploy qualified physical education teachers into every school and provide them with a programme aimed at developing the specific athlete(s) we want to produce.  That’s what inspired leadership would look like.

During my Caribbean Games experience, my mantra was “Sport must become the weapon of choice for our youth”.   I still believe in the potential and possibility of this statement but it will only become a reality when we devote the time and effort to craft the strategy for the sport industry.  Of course, this has been done before but our leaders choose not to build on previously laid foundations but to smash any bases that exist.  As blood fertilizes our land and our people flounder, it is urgent that we put a strategic plan in place to capture the imagination of our youth and re-ignite our people’s passion for sport.  Whatever we do, there is the grim recognition that it may be another generation before we reap the rewards.  But if action is taken now, my generation may pass-on confident in the knowledge that our future sports persons will thrive in a nurturing, passionate environment.  The minimum outcome will be a reversal of the negative obesity trend amongst our children.

Revisiting the Colour Line: Cycles of Resistance or Empowerment?


Image courtesy of rjlohr on Flick

I have experienced tear gas twice in my life. First at a “black power march” in Port of Spain and secondly at that famous “Pele” football match in the Queen’s Park Oval.

These memories came flooding back to me on a recent site visit to the Queen’s Park Oval. It is amazing that the pungency of Tear Gas has never left my consciousness.

I was drawn to the 1970 revolution and I don’t know why! Was it because I lived that juxtaposition of poverty and plenty? Coming from behind the bridge, we used an out house while my school had water closets. Or was it because I challenged the fact that the banks appeared to be staffed only by lighter skinned young women? This was one of the complaints of the marchers in 1970. Or was it because when Ventures played hockey against Checkers, it looked like a white team versus a coloured team on the Princess Building grounds?

I was at a stage where although I sat next to a white Trinidadian in school and we are friends today, I was uncomfortable in the presence of white persons.

Of course I felt that my school friends were different. My school had very few “darkies”. In those days I had no opinion of girls of East Indian descent. I saw them as neither dark, coloured or negro. I don’t know how they were viewed.

School was a contrast of poverty and privilege, rich and poor, high status and commoner.

My sojourns to support the Black Power marches ended after the tear gas experience and I settled down to make the best of the opportunity for an education. I settled down as most of us do to allow the universe to unfold. However I kept a keen interest in anything associated with the Black Power movement. When Beverly Jones and Guy Harewood were killed I felt I had lost a sister and brother.

I met the late “Guy Harewood” through a friend who was at Queen’s Royal College. During the marches he would call me “smallie”. I saw this survivor of the Revolution recently and was deeply pained by how rough life has treated him. There is another survivor whom I met at a Gym in Central. We talked about the superficial but acknowledged the memories that were awakened. I remember the late Beverly Jones as a young woman appearing to be larger than life.

My “Black Power Kit” comprised denim jeans, black vest, a jacket, bandana and a lime.

There was some illusion that rubbing lime on your bandana before tying it over your nose and mouth would reduce the burning sensation of Tear Gas. I never had the chance to test this illusion because the Tear Gas was swift and powerful enough to confine me to my home whenever there was a march. My late mother’s mocking question echoed in my head: “Aye, Aye .. yuh not black powering today? … dey in de square yuh know!”

Years later, the international environment is punctuated by incidents of brutality against people of colour.

The schisms between black and white are once again intense and black people have to find a place in the world and indeed in Trinidad.

We are still marginalised and at the bottom of the rung. People still use latrines in many parts of the country. The conditions of today remind me of 1970. Our reality is being revisited daily. Is it that there were no lessons of 1970?

By Dennise Demming
Volunteer, TEDxPortofSpain

Support Plastikeep!

This space was occupied by a Plastikeep bin!
In a short few days, it has been transformed to –
A dump …  An eyesore!

Responsible Minister, get your finger out and do what you were voted in to do – help us to make this a better place.  Otherwise, you stand accused of facilitating the complete degradation of our environment.

Plastikeep was doing a good job.  They encouraged us to separate and dispose of our plastics in a responsible manner.  With the absence of their collection bins now, our trash will revert to an “all in” approach which adds to our high level of plastic pollution.

What I don’t understand is  why the monies in the Green Fund are no longer available to Platikeep.  In addition, the green fund levy was increased in the last budget.  By way of explanation, “The green fund levy is payable by all companies and unincorporated entities, including partnerships” … taken from the Parliament Website.

Why is this not simply a process of drawing down on the available funds to carry out the project?

Plastikeep needs our support.  We can survive problematic politicians, corrupt decision makers but not a contaminated  environment.


Decision Making Requires Data …

“In making a case for domestic tourism, Tourism Minister
Shamfa Cudjoe said Trinidadian residents vacationing in Tobago
spent over TTD 500 million, which translates to about 59 percent
of Total Domestic Travel Expenditure. Persons from Tobago
visiting Trinidad spent approximately TTD 250 million”.

Minister of Tourism, thanks for supporting the case for the need for a robust approach to data collection in this country.  A poor approach to data collection and analysis has paralysed several sectors over the years.   We are often making decisions based on bad data and false conclusions.  The Ministry of Tourism is no exception.  If someone with a small guest house, takes your $1billion statistic seriously and expands his/operation that person can suffer significant losses and be left asking what went wrong?Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 14.03.24

If the Ministry of Tourism is using such data to boast about the impact on our economy, please take an open approach to your data and share it with the average citizen. Government as well as the person supplying food on Store Bay need to make decisions using robust data.

My biggest challenge with this data is that since we do not fill out landing cards between Trinidad and Tobago, reliable data collection becomes problematic and unreliable. I can’t even contemplate the period during which the data was collected because it “revealed that 263,300 overnight domestic trips were taken by Trinidad and Tobago households over the survey period”.  If on average there are 50 flights per day (and that’s generous) then simplistic maths reveal that your data collection period was at least one year and each passenger was surveyed.

In addition to providing us with the data, we need to know the distinction between the Trade strategy and the Tourism strategy.  Speak to the average Tobagonian and she will tell you that she shops in Trinidad because of the exorbitant prices in the supermarkets.  She will complain that if she needs a visa she still has to come to Trinidad and we’ve all heard the laments about Title Deeds.  There is significant inter island travel to satisfy a range of basic needs.  When I travel to Tobago to conduct a training programme, I hope I am not viewed as a tourist or when a lawyer travels to represent a client, this is not leisure.

There is an excellent case for domestic tourism and the “Stay to Get Away” campaign is a good one but please be careful with overpraising and sensationalising what is a business case.  We need data driven decision making not sensational headline grabbing data.

So here are three lessons in this:  Firstly, the citizens are interested in your trade strategy versus your domestic tourism strategy, secondly we must organise a robust method for data collection and thirdly, citizens are wary about taking official word as gospel.

Thank You Ingrid Lashley!

Hi Ingrid Lashley … You made me proud.  You are a champion black woman with the confidence and competence to continue making a difference.
Here’s what I learned from your experience and let me share these learnings with Corporation Sole and his Designates!

  1. Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 15.58.21Appoint competent subject matter experts to lead organisations?
  2. Hire someone who is a team leader.
  3. Communicate your expectations as clearly as possible?
  4. Appoint a Board which understands their role?
  5. Give the CEO the space to develop the systems and procedures to manage the organization.
  6. Allow the CEO to hire best in class.
  7. Schedule your check in periods.
  8. Demonstrate your respect for CEO.
  9. Leave the CEO ALONE to do what he/she is hired to do.
  10. Go back to Parliament and do what you do best.


Interesting perspective from Tanzania!

The Economist of May 28, 2016 carried an interesting article on the President of Tanzania.  Here’s a quote:

“The president, nicknamed “the Bulldozer”, has delighted Tanzanians with an anti-corruption drive and public displays of austerity. Within weeks of taking office last November he had banned all but the most urgent foreign travel for government officials. He spent Tanzania’s Independence Day picking up litter by hand. He has fired officials suspected of incompetence or dishonesty and purged 10,000 “ghost workers” from the public payroll. However, he has a worrying tendency not to think things through.

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Here’s the full article:


Measuring Happiness …

Trinidad and Tobago boy

Portrait of a boy with the flag of Trinidad and Tobago painted on his face. Courtesy Daman Gandhi, Flickr

At it’s core the challenge of establishing an organization’s HSSE excellence agenda as a path-way to sustainability is walking a tight-rope which balances short term and long term requirements. This challenge is made even more intense because the culture which surrounds the organization is characterized by lawlessness, short termism and perfecting the art of the “work around”.
Caribbean societies and those defined as developing countries were organized to focus on the immediate exploitation of natural resources. Our societies were never organized with a longer term vision in mind. Unfortunately in the 50 odd years that we have taken charge of our development, little action has been taken to change this method of operation so we continue to operate in a manner that is not sustainable.
Global organizations have historically acted in their own interest and taken the minimalist approach to issues of sustainability. In the past 10-15 years, the compass has been shifting towards a more meaningful approach to sustainability and the global alignment of operating practices. There is now heightened demand for balancing economic outcomes with sustainable practices. In the Harvard Business School working paper “The Impact of a Corporate
Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behaviour and Performance”
by Robert G. Eccles, Ioannis Ioannou, and George Serafeim, the authors provide evidence that: “High Sustainability companies significantly outperform their counterparts over the long-term, both in terms of stock market and accounting performance. The outperformance is stronger in sectors where the customers are individual consumers, companies compete on the basis of brands and reputation, and in sectors where companies’ products significantly depend upon extracting large amounts of natural resources”.
If we escalate this notion and look at national indicators, there is an exciting growing movement promoting the need to change the big national indicator from (Gross Domestic Product) GDP to (Gross National Happiness) GDH. This movement was given a significant boost when the former French President in 2008 established a Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. The headline from that report quotes President Sarkozy, as saying that GDP ignored other factors vital to the well-being. He urged business leaders “to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being”.
A similar movement has been exploding in the small land locked country of Bhutan located between India and China, where they King has challenged the notion that the more we produce the happier we will be and is using GDH to determine the success of his country.
Household incomes in Bhutan remain among the world’s lowest however life expectancy increased by 19 years from 1984 to 1998, jumping to 66 years. The country which requires that at least 60 percent of its lands remain forested, welcomes a limited stream of wealthy tourists and exports hydropower to India.
“We have to think of human well-being in broader terms,” said Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, Bhutan’s home minister and ex-prime minister. “Material well-being is only one component. That doesn’t ensure that you’re at peace with your environment and in harmony with each other.”
Herein lies a whole different notion of how to define sustainability and what are the key indicators. When workers connect the dots between their daily contribution, the firms profitability and their family’s long term happiness, their productivity is guaranteed to rise to unprecedented heights.
The current mode of mass consumption is simply driving consumers to want more and more. Why should one country use enough resources to power a ski slope in a dessert while another country struggles with greater than 60% unemployment figures?
A recent sound bite on television showed a former executive from the motor car industry questioning the evidence about global warming. A visit to another executive’s home showed a fully air conditioned house. With the launch of every new mobile device, you need a different charger, shell, etc. Business leaders have to re-design the consumption model and cater for cradle to cradle design and innovation. The world cannot continue to feed the consumption habit. At some point citizens will rail against the fact of 25% of global resources is being consumed by 5% of the population.
The major challenge is how to balance economic development with the emotional and spiritual well-being of people. That’s the real challenge of HSSE excellence as a path-way to sustainability.

Previously published in Newsday – May 2014


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