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Showing posts from October, 2011

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…