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BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt NOVEMBER 2013 • WEEK TWO
Driving out of Cascade this morning, I saw
a young and healthy looking man who was look-
ing into bins for something to eat, and thought,
what a tragedy. This is especially so when you
keep seeing all kinds of complaints from business
people that they have many positions for employ-
ment which are not being filled.
Note, business people claim their plants and
companies are operating at roughly 75 per cent
of their capacity when they should be at 95 per
cent filled by additional employees. In the next
breath, these business people would blame the
Government s URP and CEPEP s programmes
for skimming off these potential employees.
They may be right to some extent, but this
doesn t solve their problem of their labour short-
So let s say, for argument s sake, that URP
and CEPEP programmes absorb 50 per cent of
these potential workers. What about the other
50 per cent? It would be interesting for these
business people to work out the opportunity
cost of how much revenue and profit they forgo
by not having these additional employees?
Many business people would then say it is
the responsibility of the people who want jobs
to seek out potential jobs. This, of course,
assumes these potential employees have com-
puters, have the financial wherewithal to pay
for Internet bills, for cell bills to call around to
find out about various employment options, etc.
Business people are judging others from their
pedestals, where these facilities are readily avail-
able. However, I am convinced if the various
associations, such as the T&T Chamber of Com-
merce, all the regional chambers as well as the
TTMA and AmCham, decide to create databases
of all potential employees who need jobs in their
respective areas, then these databases can be
shared with their various company members,
which would help to solve much of this problem.
I know this information doesn t exist because
we have tried to access this. And even if it does,
it is not very user friendly. This is one of many
other things which could be done to mitigate
this problem. All that is required is for the busi-
ness people to put pressure on their respective
organisations to set up to the template to get
these things done.
Bottom line: the easiest thing to do is to blame
the Government for whatever problems we have,
which removes the responsibility from ourselves
for doing what we have control over.
So come on, business people, stop complain-
ing, find solutions, increase your revenue lines,
and help the less fortunate find employment.
We are our brother s keeper!
The Ministry of Planning is advertising
its second discussion on the "Human Imag-
ination at Work: Driving Competitiveness,
Powering Innovation", in preparation for the
America s Competitive Forum in T&T in
Also, the chairman of the Economic Diver-
sification Board, Richard Young, in a media
interview spoke of the importance of encour-
aging young entrepreneurs to diversify our
economy in a situation of depleting oil/gas.
Young saw no shortage of budding entre-
preneurs: from a business selling fruit on
the street to an online sales company unto
The major hold up in these projects was
access to funding which the local low risk
banking system would not provide. Hence,
YBTT with a grant of $1 million from the
IDB and the government innovation fund
of $10 million an attempt is being made to
Young commented positively on the cre-
ative ability of our people and quoted the
responses to "i2i" as evidence.
One cannot question the good intentions
behind the above projects. But are these
sufficient or point to methods to diversify
or transform our petroleum based plantation
economy; should we be discussing these at
the upcoming Competitive Forum as serious
attempts at economic transformation?
I attended the recent lecture held at UWI
by Prof Calestous Juma, the celebrated devel-
opment economist from Harvard University,
and was pleased that his recommendations
for economic transformation paralleled those
arrived at by the Research and Innovation
Committee (which I chaired) set up by UWI
at the Faculty of Engineering some years
The first and fundamental point that Prof
Juma made was that the transformation of
our economy, which depends on T&T
becoming globally competitive in areas it
may choose, depends on the institutional
acquisition of knowledge of some emerging
technologies, their use and their expansion
If we become top class in the chosen
technologies, their applications to various
products and services depend only on the
imagination and innovation of our people.
A binding corollary is that imagination and
creativity come to nought if we are not top
notch in these technologies. Therefore, the
projects Young has discussed and the "i21"
competition in a country without the capa-
bility in emerging technologies do little to
transform our economy.
Prof Juma reminded us of the experiences
of Taiwan that moved from being an exporter
of mushrooms and asparagus to semicon-
ductors, the ascent of Samsung and LG in
South Korea from small domestic agents in
a basket economy to the export colossus
they are today and the global success of
Chile as an exporter of farmed salmon.
These transformations depended on the
indigenous acquisition of emerging tech-
nologies, applying and enhancing them to
produce globally competitive products.
T&T is not a knowledge-based innovative
economy and this is directly related to the
preponderance of its petroleum-based
Day after day we are producing gas and
oil and depend on the large rents from the
industry. We are not involved in creating or
developing the industry s mining and pro-
duction technologies, hence our indigenous
economic development in oil and gas as
defined herein is non-existent.
In general, our overall export capability
remains technologically backward and eco-
nomic transformation is virtually impossible
unless a considered intervention (and some
say by government) is made.
No such intervention is on the horizon
despite Government s talk about creating
an innovation policy, Competitive Council,
Economic Diversification Board, Cairi is
innovation, the "i2i" competition, etc. Eco-
nomic transformation will remain a mirage
as we deplete our petroleum resources.
St Clair A King,
Faculty of Engineering, UWI
Mirage of economic transformation
need to go
'outside the box'
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