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BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 2013 • WEEK FIVE
There was a hearing on energy in Latin America and the
Caribbean in Washington in early April and the Caribbean
was absent. This was not because the region was not on the
agenda of the members of the House Sub-committee on
Foreign Relations who posed questions to panels that included
senior representatives from the State Department and other
In fact, the Caribbean seemed to be of major interest to
the members considering the many questions posed about
Yes, there were the obligatory questions on PetroCaribe,
but more importantly, there were questions on whether the
administration has been doing enough to engage a key neigh-
bour. For the Caribbean, the opportunity was missed to
outline from a regional perspective, the importance of energy
to Caribbean competitiveness.
In essence, there was no one to discuss the enormous cost
of electricity to the public and private sector. There was no
one to talk of the need for improved disaster preparedness
support for the existing distribution network, and no one to
press for proven technology deployment of energy efficiency
technology and renewables.
There was also no one to request that the requisite funding
mechanisms to deploy new technologies in the small markets
of the region be made available and finally, there was no one
there even to talk up the region s recent and much vaunted
achievement in the energy front; the Caricom energy policy.
This policy sets a goal of 2027 as the date for the region to
source 47 per cent of its energy needs from renewable energy
On that last point, it should be highlighted that the very
development of regional energy policy has been supported,
in part, by funding from the United States. Maybe the region
could have been there to express thanks for some of this
support and ask for more.
Instead, the Caribbean and its energy policy and needs
were left to parties with minimal knowledge and interest in
We must ask ourselves why the Caribbean does not see
this type of opportunity as beneficial to advance its own
interests. While this hearing was specific to energy, it is
important to point out one is given the impression that the
modus operandi of the region is to be more absent than
present when there are hearings on issues important to its
future. Even more apparent is the continued absence of
Caribbean advocacy on Capitol Hill, which is the impression
of congressional representatives and their staff.
Was the Caribbean absent from this hearing because the
region is unaware of this and other briefings of relevance to
its interests? Maybe, though there are list-serve mechanisms
that allow one to track hearing schedules.
Quite possibly, it was that no one had in their budget the
money to fly to Washington to testify, though a response to
that would be that the region has embassies in this space
and effective representatives who could present comments.
At the very least, one would expect that the Caribbean or
a relevant entity in Washington representing it could submit
comments to the record. Well, alas, at last check, this has
not been done.
Rather, what we experienced is a continued trend of the
region to ignore opportunities to advocate for its own interests
and highlight positive steps that it is taking to address critical
obstacles that it faces.
Sadly and most importantly, it allows policy to be con-
structed on behalf of the region without its input by entities
and individuals with limited knowledge, when it is questionable
as to whether they even care.
Even in the cases of those who do and are well intentioned,
the lack of Caribbean input will result in less than fully
formed programmes and regional dissatisfaction that the
Caribbean was not consulted.
Missed opportunities to advocate
Here is a quick primer on how the system works.
The Congress appropriates money and the administration
spends it. Without input in requesting support, monies are
not allocated for one s needs and, clearly, without engagement
in the design stage, one can hardly expect programmes that
address its needs.
The Caribbean regularly misses the opportunity to advocate
for its interests on both counts.
Back to the hearing and heartening was a response by
State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Rooney
that sought to delegitimise the often stated and ill-conceived
notion that the Venezuela--Caribbean relationship on energy
was one driven by political leanings of Caribbean leaders.
Rooney explained the truthful and practical realities that the
region faced at the height of oil pricing that led many in the
Caribbean to depend on Venezuela.
Continued on Page 13
Though I have spoken on many occasions about the
diversification of our economy, I have never discussed what
products and services we should offer.
I have discussed the use of foresighting to define both
the innovation system (IS) and to choose the socio-eco-
nomic-technological framework within which we should
embark upon creating the elements of the IS; the SMEs,
institutions, networking and interlinkages (local and inter-
national). Both of these processes require the involvement
of the population and its agreement.
First, the choice of the form of the IS was done via pan-
chayats among the population, which resulted in the general
acceptance of the Innovation Diamond.
The second requires a foresighting exercise; not a unilateral
dictate of the government---ship building and repair, film,
tourism, agriculture, off shore medical school etc---but a
formal multi-sectoral consultation with the experts, the
people, the diaspora. This is yet to be done.
Whatever socioeconomic elements we invest in, one of
the important outputs has to be that we produce globally
competitive exports, particularly so if we have a comparative
advantage upon which we can base our knowledge-rich
products and services.
The two options before us are to engage in the traditional
activities of the global economy or, in recognition of the
current chaos, crises, in the global economy, engage in
activities derived from the current global paradigm change.
The traditional activities include the development of mobile
telecoms and its apps, digital entertainment products,
financial services, internet businesses and the like.
But the paradigm shift is being driven by climate change,
global warming, population growth, personal and national
security, depletion of commodities---copper, iron ore, rare
earths, local depletion of petroleum---and facilitated by the
technologies of large computing and information storage
capacity, nano technology, genetically modification products,
synthetic/genomics, etc. Prof Anthony Clayton of UWI,
Mona, gives us the following advice.
"We cannot serve the region if our aspirations are not
global; We cannot sleepwalk into the future and expect to
survive; Incremental change is a high risk strategy. We
need game changers."
Our choice, then, should be activities that primarily
emanate from the global paradigm shift; to replace/com-
plement our multi-billion dollar energy sector, they should
be game changers. Surely we should also encourage within
the IS, serendipity; the lone inventor, for example, those
the current i2i competitions are seeking.
But our game changers have a higher probability of occur-
ring if we establish the knowledge-based institutions and
the linkages that facilitate such innovations. This process
of foresighting differs depending on whether we are a
developing or a developed country.
In the latter, the IS already exists and it is only necessary
to choose technologies that optimise the existing facilities
in that economy. For a developing country, devoid of such
an underlying capacity, like T&T, it is important that this
exercise be broader and more socially oriented, yet, exten-
sively instructed by technology concerns.
Our technology choices must facilitate game changers,
and drive development across many sectors of the economy.
These choices will be influenced by social, cultural and
political factors in how, when and what technologies we
assume and develop.
For example, it is insufficient to invest in renewable
energy as an option for our diversification if all we do is
simply install the artefacts of the technology to light playing
fields and police posts on the highways. We have to under-
stand the underlying technologies and make the things, so
developing the experiences that drive innovation in a com-
plex, adaptive economy.
These factors that are driving the global economic par-
adigm shift should be the platform for our foresighting
Mary K King
Who's your advocate?
Our game changing
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