The Importance of Memory

Thanks for the reminder.

I am writing this article on Friday 13th October 2017, which is the first time T&T has had a national holiday to honour the memory of our First Peoples.

These holidays are important, not only in the literal sense of having a day-off, but also marking certain critical events so that the collective memory could be preserved. That process of intentionally preserving important memories is seminal to the development of a civilisation. This extends to our business and professional life, even being decisive for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Our official record is so often vacant, by design, that one can scarcely assess the real situation or reliably make projections as to the likely outcomes of proposals. The Public Sector is a huge part of the national business, so it is critical how that sector conducts itself and how its ‘lessons learned’ are recorded. Ours is a sorry story of the public…

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Strike 3 against Prime Minister Rowley!



Enter a capture – Parlview October 15, 2017

The Prime Minister’s recent “grooming” statement did not surprise me.  Indeed it was at least the 3rd occasion in which his reference to women has been unfortunate.  What has left me stunned is the image of 2 female Members of Parliament sitting behind him who obviously enjoyed the insult and verbal abuse.   Even the Minister of National Security exhibited his total enjoyment of this unfortunate statement.  How can I feel safe when the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Security, the Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and the Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, holding the portfolios of Gender and Child Affairs, Ecclesiastical Affairs and Central Administration Services, Tobago all publicly demonstrate their support for this unfortunate characterization?

When the women’s movement fought for women’s representation in government, we did not expect that female MPs would participate in such negative portrayals of women.  We expected you to be shocked, or at the very least you would remain expressionless in the face of such abuse but instead you enjoyed the boy’s room expression and by your behaviour, gave it your unspoken approval. We did not expect you to publicly support such anti-woman banter. Did you even recognise it as anti-woman?

I wonder how you explained to your daughters what the Prime Minister meant by “grooming” or by “it turns into pasture”.  I wonder how you explained the delight on your face and the face of your leader to your mother or sister or elder in church.  Are you and your female colleagues on the government bench still rolling over with laughter?  I am reminded of a statement by Albert Einstein: … the world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.”

The women of this country expect you and every woman in Parliament to clearly and firmly object to negative characterizations of women every time that it occurs, because words are powerful and what is said reveals inner thoughts and views about the subject. Words like these also send powerful cues to other men about the lack of esteem that women are given so each woman in Parliament has a responsibility to ensure that our male MPs honour women through their expressions.

The women of this country expect you to uphold the dignity of all women, because our country will only thrive when we dignify each other, and the leadership has a huge role to play in demonstrating that capacity to lead with dignity.

The women of this country also expect you to call out our leaders when they fall below expectations because that is how we will collectively improve.  If this was the first unfortunate statement, it might be forgivable, but there is a consistent denigration of women by our Prime Minister. If you called him out in private, then please receive my private commendation, but publicly, my expectation is for us to speak well, do well and treat each other with kindness.

We owe it to ourselves and the children of our future.

Imbert … neither the love nor the likes!

Jamaican reggie artist Chronixx does it for the “love, not the likes”.  That is the line that dominated my mind in the recent hurricane of lashes that the Minister of Finance received from his post budget discussion.


I am convinced that Minister Imbert does it neither for the love nor the likes.  He has been returned to office by his constituents for the past 25 years and this reassures him (the way a battered woman reassures her abuser) that the population will always love him. But politics and spousal abuse are not the same and it is only a matter of time before his constituents say, “enough is enough.”  While I recognize that the vote is for the brand (ie. the party), the representative will either add value or diminish the brand by his actions and words, and at the moment the brand seems to be going in the wrong direction.

Minister Imbert, like the leadership of the current Cabinet represents a cohort which refuses to believe that our future politics will be determined on social media. He is stuck in a paradigm which died at the turn of the last century.  Public figures and indeed politicians whose salaries WE PAY, MUST engage us respectfully.  Communicating in an age of social media means that your every communication must be based on a wellthought through strategy that considers (a) your target audience and (b) the outcomes you wish.  Once your strategy is agreed, and the target audience identified, then you shape the message and decide on the messenger.

Communicating in a digital age means that audiences want quick, easily digestible messages.  They will not engage with the 3-hour budget presentation or the full clip of the exchange at the post-budget discussion.  They will receive whatever is trending and unfortunately in this instance, what was consumed was an articulate black women taking on a sullen faced white politician.  No legal threat or manoeuvre could erase that impact.

The current government has been weak at traditional Communications and they are even weaker at communicating in a digital age. What is needed is a total re-design of the engagement strategy of the government at every level, from the budget presentation to the employment practices of public servants.  Systems re-design is the only way to become effective.

Here’s a CNBC comment that could put some reality to the dinosaur-like thinking that is passing for communications and leadership.

“At 2.01 billion, Facebook has more monthly active users than WhatsApp (500 million), Twitter (284 million) and Instagram (200 million)—combined.  (Source: CNBC)”.

Minister Imbert doesn’t seem to care for the love nor the likes so it’s licks for the population.


Our new “Oil” is “Tourism” and this Keith Rowley-led Government better understand that, if they want to provide any kind of hope to this country. There aScreen Shot 2017-09-24 at 19.30.14re 3 areas for urgent action: destination marketing, increasing international arrivals and having a well-trained and certified labour supply.

The 2017 budgetary allocation by the Government towards the marketing and promotion of Trinidad & Tobago’s Tourism products was TT$19M (nineteen million TT dollars).  When compared to allocations in 2015 of TT$50M (fifty million TT dollars), this represents a significant fall by 62%. Two months ago, in July, the Ministry of Tourism confirmed that only TT$8M of the $19M was actually spent.  Spending TT$8M to market a diverse destination such as T&T is a waste of money.  You’ve got to either do it properly or not at all.  In addition to this lack of spend, the contracts for all of our overseas marketing representatives (except for the UK) were cancelled in October 2016 by the Ministry of Tourism with no replacement providers appointed. Thus, Destination Trinidad & Tobago has NOT been promoted in most of our main tourist source markets for the past year.

Consistent with this lack of spend is the fall in international arrivals.  The data says that over the first eight months of 2015 (i.e. by August), we welcomed 300,000 overseas visitors. For a similar period in 2017, overseas visitors has fallen to 275,000, representing an 8% reduction. This has had a direct negative impact on both hotel occupancy as well as room taxation remitted to the Government.

If you combine the reduced budgetary allocation, the lack of destination marketing spend as well as the Government’s continued and prejudicial withholding of GATE reimbursements and recurrent subvention payments to the Trinidad and Tobago Hospitality and Tourism Institute (TTHTI), what emerges is a Tourism Sector which is on the brink of collapse.

To avoid this collapse, the 2018 budget cater for the following:

  • Ramp up the destination marketing allocation to the Tourism sector to at least the TT$60M which is remitted annually by hoteliers to the Government as proceeds from the room tax collected every time someone sleeps in a hotel.
  • Sufficient allocations must also be provided to the Ministry of Education honour its GATE reimbursement commitments to a number of tertiary level institutions in Trinidad & Tobago.

The budget presentation is really an exercise in accountability. What is needed at stages 2 & 3 are wide collaboration on the plan for the sector and transparency with regard to how the plans will be executed.

Let’s do This …  Minister of Finance!

Lead or Preside over Chaos!


Minister of Agriculture’s Chacachacare haul 2017!

We post our clean-up pictures, talk about the after-clean-up lime, feel a sense of accomplishment, and wait for the International Coastal Clean-Up to roll around next year to go over the ritual again.

Meanwhile, beach-goers continue to litter the same beaches; disposable cups and containers cover defile the Gulf of Paria, and the crockery of choice at most high level functions is the styrofoam container. (FYI – a Google search reveals that Styrofoam takes 500 years to biodegrade!)

It is not difficult to understand why our coastlines are so polluted.  As an island, our trash gets to the ocean quickly. I long for the day when this annual “beach clean-up” ritual is not so high on our “things to do” list because the beaches are cleaned routinely and citizens take their litter home or dispose of it in an appropriate, appointed bin.  But this will not happen unless there is a robust awareness programme on one hand and a consequence management approach on the other hand.


I often focus on consequence management because it is one way of ensuring that we are all accountable for our actions.  Citizens must feel the penalties for littering, and it must be swift.  Unfortunately, the implementation of these penalties lies with the TTPS who demonstrate time and time again their reluctance to do their jobs and are not being held accountable.  If half the level of enthusiasm demonstrated when the TTPS enacted their “day of total policing” is applied to the small tasks of issuing litter tickets, it can have a massive impact on our environment and indeed our understanding of our responsibility to dispose of trash.


There is a view that if you are not engaging in consequence management, you are in fact leading the chaos.  We have systemic problems in several areas and we selected a party who promised to lead the change in the way we do things.  The citizens who voted for, and are paying you to keep your campaign promises are still waiting for delivery of the promises.  Let’s do this!

Looking for Leadership!

Let's do thisFrom the simplicity of a medical check-up to the complexity of being in intensive care, the message is clear; even the leaders of our government have no faith in our public medical institutions. If they have no faith in our medical institutions, how can I?  The difference is that John and Jane Public have zero resources to draw from and therefore will have to face whatever public hospital that is nearest to them.

By electing to have his medical treatment conducted abroad, the Prime Minister has squandered an opportunity to demonstrate faith in our institutions and by extension, in ourselves. Instead, the message is “go elsewhere whenever you can,” when it could have been: “Let’s do this, we’re in it together”.

Six months ago, the draft diversification roadmap was presented by the Economic Development Advisory Board, (EDAB) to the Government.  The committee highlighted health as one of the factors to be overcome in our process of development.  There has been no further update on the status of that submission and from his action, the Prime Minister is clearly aware that our institutions cannot even carry out a medical check-up.

Trinidad and Tobago is ripe for a transformation exercise but it must begin with a clear articulation of the goal that is expected to be achieved.  Once that goal is articulated, citizens will then be able to identify the personal impact, figure out their benefit or loss, work out whether the result will be fair, and decide how much support they are willing to give to the plan.

It is a cliché to say, “nature abhors a vacuum,” but the reality is that in the absence of clearly articulated goals and objectives, the vacuum is being filled by chatter about the extent to which the government continues to fail in its election promise.  Worse than that, the actions of members of the government continue to reinforce that notion that we cannot do better.
In its 2030 vision, the aspiration is for a healthy population.  We will not achieve that aspiration with the current approach.  What is needed is an energized government willing to rally Team Trinidad and Tobago behind it.

Come on Prime Minister, “Let’s do this!”

DJK missing at the Barber Shop!

I missed DJK in the Barber Shop on Saturday! Oh I forgot! He went to California (no, not the one in Trinidad) for his medical check-up! Consistency is important when you pick up a new career so I am awaiting the schedule for my favourite DJ!

Until then, I ponder, “Whither goest thou my sweet TnT?” What’s the plan? “Diversification” is the word being bandied about, but how is that manifested? I continue to believe that citizens are just longing for a leader who will level with us and explain where we are heading and how are we to line up. It’s an easy lesson from Carnival; people get in their sections before crossing the stage, and that’s because they know the stage and understand the expectations when the leader makes the call.

After two years in office, the government continues on an unclear path. What is the diversification strategy, and how are we going to get there? Instead the most recent noise is about the opposition not attending the Independence celebrations. That is not new; you are in fact flogging a dead horse and draining your resources with this attack, when you could be engaging our citizens on what the priorities are for the next 55 years.

What kind of TnT do you envisage? What kind of TnT would you like to have shaped? For someone who has been in government on either side since 1987, the benefits of any experience gained over the years have not been evident.

Emeralds are the symbol of 55th Anniversaries but like all gemstones they need to be polished and cared for, otherwise their beauty and shine is lost. Here is an opportunity to unearth our Emeralds and help them shine.

There are citizens who want to make a difference but there is no framework for them to become engaged. It may be beneficial to have some agency that will accept observations and suggestions from the general public and sift through them for ways to improve all facets of life in T&T.

Communication is the engine of behaviour change but our leader needs to communicate!