Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 24th 2017 Contents AUGUST 24 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
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The decision by Prime Minister
Keith Rowley to appoint busi-
nessman Christian Mouttet as
the sole investigator into the
Cabo Star and Ocean Flower
2 fiasco last week came with
the typical noise and bacchanalia that is quin-
In the midst of the debates surrounding
Mouttet's competence to successfully ac-
complish his assigned task lies an interesting
web of subplots that deserve some exploring.
Mouttet noted that his reason for accepting
the role was based on his desire to offer himself
for "public service."
Why does Mouttet's statement matter?
Well firstly---and perhaps most important-
ly---it underlies a reality that may be less ev-
ident than what is seen: Christian Mouttet is
quite likely one among many businesspersons
in T&T who may desire to offer themselves for
public service, but choose not to for fear of the
backlash, criticisms and unending suspicion
that Mouttet himself is currently experiencing.
In essence, premature societal judgments
can restrict those willing and able to serve.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with the
public ventilating views on his appointment.
That said, any criticisms of Mouttet---or any
private sector individual committing to some
form of public service in general---should come
at the end, not the beginning.
Mouttet should be given the benefit of the
doubt to prove that he can "deliver the goods"
before being hauled over the coals and not the
other way around.
This further begs the question, after 55 years
of independence: is T&T benefiting from the
best and brightest that the private sector has
Or, put differently, is the public sector itself
profiting from the full talent pool that it can tap
into; talent that resides in the private sector?
The answers to both questions should be
There is no questioning Mouttet's success
and business acumen. In fact, one can argue
that ensuring T&T does well as a country is
directly in line with his interests since he has
significant investments in assets locally.
Additionally, this would also not be the first
time that Mouttet has given of himself in a
public capacity as he once served in the role
of chairman at majority state-owned TSTT.
The issue, therefore, should move from vil-
ifying those who come forward to serve from
the private sector, to incentivising more to
make such a move.
Truthfully, the prevailing climate in T&T
does very little to motivate such actions.
The Prime Minister, himself, is acutely aware
of the challenges to progress such vilification
"To demonise Mr Mouttet, all that will ac-
complish is that anytime in the future a mem-
ber of the public is asked to serve this country,
whether on a board or any investigation, they
will think twice and that is what some people
want to achieve," Rowley is on record as saying.
Such a statement should not be taken lightly
because, in a very practical sense, many of the
skills that these captains of industry would
have honed in the private sector are very much
applicable to the public sector.
Fundamentally, despite all the sidetracking
issues, there are really two main distinctions
that separate the private sector from the public
sector: leadership and culture.
In fact, these two issues are joined at the
hip as weak leadership in the public sector for
many years has influenced the current culture
that continues to exist.
Recognising the culture of the public sector
should be foremost on the minds of those in
private life who offer themselves for service.
They must recognise that whether they like it
or not, the public sector marches to the beat
of a different drum and should adapt their
approaches to suit.
Those who attempt to manage it like their
private enterprises often find themselves on
the receiving end of sheer contempt and a lack
of co-operation by those through whom they
must work to foster any progress.
The alchemy really lies in forming the right
blend of private sector know-how with public
Tilted too much in either direction almost
guarantees no progress.
The responsibility to get this blend right
resides with both parties. A good example of
private-sector involvement in public service
that bore much fruit was the transformation
of state-run BWIA to Caribbean Airlines.
Chaired by businessman Arthur Lok Jack, a
board comprising Massy CEO Gervase Warner,
bpTT CEO at the time Robert Riley, and then
senior partner at accounting firm PwC Wil-
liam Lucie-Smith, turned the airline around
to the point where it was profitable when their
Was the process to accomplish this easy?
But making tough decisions is something
that the private sector is especially adept at
doing and, in matters such as these, is nec-
essary to move tax-payers' interest forward.
Looked at from another angle, Mouttet's 30-
day engagement might perhaps be the best use
of private sector resources.
Where schedules and other commitments
conflict, introducing private sector know-how
for time- or event-specific activities, rather
than protracted board terms, could prove just
as beneficial for all involved.
While the country waits to see the outcome
of Mouttet's investigation, it is clear that
whatever the results, T&T's success hinges
on, among other things, the collaborative ef-
forts of private and public interests working
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