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Showing posts from 2011

A New Wave of Consciousness

April 2011 saw the release of a movie called Atlas Shrugged Part 1, based on a 1957 novel by the American science fiction writer Ayn Rand.  The author’s views on capitalism saw the movie being adopted by those in the American Tea Party movement.  Set in 2016, it shows a global society in a state of turmoil. 
The existing socio-political-economic framework is in a state of turmoil.  The year 2011 kicked off with the Arab spring sparked by rallies in Tunisia, but spread through to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, Syria and Libya.  Even nearby Israel saw 450 000 people marching over declining living standards.  Further north in Russia, anti-Putin dissidents took to the Moscow streets in the biggest protest in years.
Further east in China, there were calls on the internet for a “jasmine revolution”.  Corruption was at the top of the political agenda in India as thousands flocked to support campaigner Anna Hazare’s hunger strike, and India saw a slow-down in its growth forecasts by…

Life is about Relationships

In Trinidad and Tobago, at Christmas there is an energy that transforms our islands into an almost magical land.  I again find myself outside of Trinidad for Christmas, and so I miss this special brand of magic dearly.  Whether one is Christian or not, the end of December can also be a time of reflection.  Where has the year gone so quickly?  What is in store for us next year?  Normal questions indeed. For me this is a useful time to not just celebrate the spiritual significance of this holy season but to check whether I am where I believe I should be on my own spiritual journey.
It is so easy to get caught up in what my friend Marcus describes as the “day to day things”.  So caught up that it we forget that there is a God and we each exist to serve a purpose for which we have each been uniquely created.   Yet our “day to day” distractions ensnare us into chasing behind bigger cars, fancier homes, more expensive clothes, gadgets and the trappings of (what we perceive to be) power.  I…

Remembering Dr Cuthbert Joseph

I first met Dr Joseph in 2009 thanks to some mutual acquaintances.  It was around the time when the previous administration had issued for public comment, a document which proposed certain changes to our constitution.  There were also a series of public consultations on this most important of documents.  I was becoming dissatisfied with the level of public debate and as someone conscious about issues which would affect our children’s future, I decided to pay closer attention.  In so doing, Dr Joseph was among the learned minds I had the privilege of consulting.  When I can, I enjoy speaking with great minds on all sides of our political spectrum.
We were not related as he was originally from Siparia and my Joseph side of the family is originally from the hills of Belmont.  In the 1970’s, as a child in primary school, I do remember hearing his name as a Cabinet Minister and of course found it curious that we shared the same last name.  Back in mid-2009, what I thought would be a few b…

Bridging the Credibility Gap

Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks Trinidad and Tobago in position 91 out of 183 countries – falling from a 2010 rank of 73.  Remember this is a temperature check of how corrupt we perceive our own public sector to be.  So if you are a statistician; walk away – it is not a rigorous quantitative research methodology.  If you are a politician, listen-up, as perception drives voting patterns.
On one hand, it can be argued that this cannot be completely blamed on the present administration because it reflects a consistent slide from 2001 when we were ranked at 31.  The counterargument however, is that the 2010-2011 decline in trust of our public institutions has to be placed at the feet of the present administration as it is no longer sufficient to point fingers at the previous regime and shout – “at least we are not as bad as them”. 
We need only look at the actual simple index score.  After a gentle climb in confidence in public sector institutio…

Big Fish and Small Fish

Britain’s Channel 4 aired a documentary called Trinidad: Guns, Drugs and Secrets.  On the night in question, I deliberately avoided watching it.  The following day, as I signed onto Facebook, I saw links to it on so many profiles that I ended up watching the whole thing – twice. 
The two interviews that I found most interesting were the one with the resident from Laventille and the one with the Security Advisor to the Prime Minister.  For me, these two represented the opposing sides of this ongoing debate over the State of Emergency (SoE) and the current government’s approach to crime.
On one hand, the Laventille resident was adamant that the SoE was implemented too superficially to make any lasting impact.  Specifically, only “small fish” were being detained and as one was taken off the street, another took his place.  He was critical of the silence over the role of the “big fish” that oversee the drug trade and walk around with a false air of respectability in the wider society.  A…

freedom to speak my mind without fear or favour

Of all the topics on which I write; never do I receive passionate feedback as when I write about politics.  Needless to say, I always enjoy receiving feedback but there is something about politics that attracts Trolls in particular.  As described a few weeks back, Trolls is the term used to describe those who lack the will or courage to use their real names and instead hide behind pseudonyms in giving feedback.
So often I often wonder what it is about politics that engenders such emotion in us.  A comment on the Guardian website to my article on Trolls by someone calling himself / herself “Food for thought” suggested that I “undoubtedly enjoy certain freedoms and protection as a journalist”.  As a columnist (not a journalist) who also participates in other online forums using my real name, I enjoy no special privileges.  When I first started writing more publicly, the feedback I received from those who know me is respect for the courage that it takes to personally stand by ones posit…

Prophets and Predictions

So a political appointee recently predicted that the PNM will never return to power in Trinidad and Tobago.  Predicting the future is apparently big business.  Today I will try my hand at predicting the future.  Hopefully those who read my predictions will not be as disappointed as those who expected the rapture in October 2011.  Among those disappointed people are those that follow Harold Camping – the American pastor who predicted October 21st 2011 as the day the world was to come to an end.  Obviously his prediction failed – for at least the third time.  Over the years, followers have donated millions of dollars, given up jobs etc as they prepared for the rapture.
Then there are those who have been predicting global economic collapse.  Gerald Celente and many others have been quite active online predicting the collapse of the American dollar and the Euro.  The number of websites offering suggestions on how best to prepare for economic collapse is mushrooming.  One interesting site…

Opening Doors

The highlight of the week for those involved in the travel and tourism industry was the annual World Travel Market (WTM) here in London.  I was at WTM for one day to attend seminars on travel technology and to better understand trends in the European market.  In the early afternoon however, I escaped for about an hour, to look for some familiar faces at the Trinidad and Tobago booth.
I felt proud to see that as usual, the T&T booth was a strong contender for best destination booth.  I am sure that the Tourism Development Company (TDC) will upload some pictures onto their website in time – so do take a look.  Present were Brian Lara, Dwight Yorke and Anya Ayoung Chee.  The presence of these three celebrities, together with the food and soft drinks made all passersby feel welcome. 
When tourism decision makers slip up, we are quick to call for blood.  I believe that it is only fair that when they do something good, it should be acknowledged.  Congratulations to the team behind the …

Use your Real Name

I count myself among those that spend many hours on-line every day.  The political groups that I follow include those of all the main local political parties.  My membership does not mean that I am blindly loyal to any one particular political party.  Simply put, I respect and I enjoy understanding, varying points of view.
The concept of being able to dispassionately engage in idea exchanges is familiar to some but strange to others.  To help create an environment better suited to idea exchanges, one of the more forward thinking groups last week decided to update its policy.  A message from the moderator noted that “After a barrage of attacks and libelous posts, we will not allow any aliases in posting messages to our groups. Use your name.  It is unfair to others for you to hide behind aliases. If you can't use your name then your opinion is not worth anything.”
His message went on to say that “If you may be wondering why one or more of your posts are not published, it could be …

Loyalty vs. Competence

About 20 years ago, when I was in Form 6 at St Mary’s College, I had an interesting Economics teacher.  The goodly gentleman’s name was Mr Da Silva.  In discussing the concept of ‘utility’, he explained that everyone seeks to maximize their own interest.  He seemed to have an interest in politics and was fond of saying that a politician is driven by the desire for power, and once in power, he/she is driven by the desire to retain it. 
More recently, I was chatting with a friend and at the end of the discussion we had agreed that often one must choose between loyalty on one side and competence on the other.  The nature of our politics means that loyalty is held to a greater value than is competence.  To me, this helps explain so much of what we observe on an almost daily basis.  I give two examples.
First, there are Special Purpose State Enterprises (SPSEs).  It is arguable that many of the appointed Chairpersons, Board Members and appointed CEOs are not well suited to carrying out th…

The Great Equalisation

There is a recent TED Talk on YouTube featuring Niall Ferguson.  Niall is a Professor of History at Harvard University and a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.  I guess that part of his agenda was to promote his recently published book – Civilization; the West and the Rest.  His talk was about the growth of the East – China in particular.
It would take a psychic to predict what will eventually happen.  I remain suspicious of the predictions (or so called forecasts) of the big rating agencies and investment banks who seem to have been blind to recent economic bubbles.  Niall Ferguson does not hold back when he blows the trumpet for China.  He explained that China’s has been the biggest and fastest of all the industrialization revolutions. In the space of 26 years, China’s GDP grew by a factor of 10.  Ferguson points out that it took the U.K. 70 years after 1830 to grow by a factor of four but according to the International Monetary Fund, China’s share…

The Great Equalisation

There is a recent TED Talk on YouTube featuring Niall Ferguson.  Niall is a Professor of History at Harvard University and a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.  I guess that part of his agenda was to promote his recently published book – Civilization; the West and the Rest.  His talk was about the growth of the East – China in particular.

These days, it is very hard to escape all the rhetoric about the shift of wealth and power from the West to the East.  It is perhaps equally difficult to avoid the chatter about the West buckling under the weight of almost unimaginable levels of debt.  Opinion on the best way forward seems to fall into two camps.  On one extreme some think that it is the government’s responsibility to maintain spending levels to help maintain aggregate demand and prevent a downward spiral into, God forbid, another depression.  On the other extreme, others believe that we need to prepare for a sustained decline in global economic act…

Tourism and the 2012 Budget

The Budget is not meant to be a strategic plan. At the same time, we expect the Finance Minister’s statement to provide at least a sense of direction. One thing Trinidad and Tobago is not short of; is bright ideas. Every newspaper, every blog, every online group is full of bright ideas. Where we do consistently fail is in implementation. Returning to the Budget, as has always been the case regardless of which party is in power, there was the usual rhetoric about the need to diversify the economy.
 On page 14, the Minister’s speech writer points to the “new areas of economic potential that remain undeveloped across the landmass of Trinidad and Tobago, places like the North Coast, South-Western Peninsula and North-East of Tobago as well as in the missing sectors that must be developed in areas like … sports and medical tourism.”  Now please permit me to comment on three (3) tourism-related issues.
Issue #1 is governance. In the case of sport and medical tourism, the problem would be co…

A serious case of 'Blue-light-itis'

Memories of an experience I had years ago were stirred as I read media excerpts of what is purported to be the minutes of a board meeting in which the line minister to a Special Purpose State Enterprise (SPSE) is alleged to have pressured the board to promote one person whom they thought unqualified and to fire another, whom they thought had done no wrong. Again, while this is unfortunate, it certainly is not new. For those who may not have seen the story, the leaked minutes went on to say that the chairman of the SPSE is alleged to have stepped down on principle and one board member is alleged to have reminded the rest that they were all political appointees. This part in particular really got me thinking. If a government is expected to deliver on promises, it must have the freedom to appoint those whom they believe will deliver.

I remember after the Obama victory, reading about all the back room wheeling and dealing by those who hoped to be appointed to certain choice positions in th…