Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 13th 2014 Contents SBG14 FEEDBACK
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 13 • 2014
The Sunday Business
Guardian of July 6, 2014,
carried a story in which the
Minister of Planning said he
had commissioned an IDB
funded study on the state of
innovation in this country.
The objective of the study is to understand
the state of the innovation eco-system of
T&T by undertaking a comprehensive
The study will map the main actors, sup-
port structures, linkages, key issues and will
assess the strengths and gaps of the nation s
innovation system. The study inclusive of
recommendations will provide the basis of
planning the future strategic direction of
innovation in T&T. This is a typical example
of study ad infinitum of a problem without
moving to do something about it.
The Minister of Planning was the pro vice
chancellor (PVC) planning at the UWI when
under its strategic planning exercise, it
appointed a committee which I chaired. This
committee was to advise UWI on its future
role in research and development (R&D) and
innovation, as well as taking a more direct
role in the economic development of the
region. The PVC planning was, in fact,
responsible for the work of this committee.
This committee did a comprehensive
study, the results of which were put before
its peers at regional conferences and pre-
sented to our university colleagues at the
highest levels. The first decision that the
committee took was that UWI could not
go this alone; it had to be part of a larger
system, an innovation system, which we
based on an adaptation of the general Triple
Helix framework (initiated by Prof
Etzkowitz). This was a peer relationship
among university, private sector and gov-
We agreed that there was absolutely no
local or regional innovation system in place
and moreso, the private sector had no inter-
est in innovation; a conclusion also arrived
at by a recent IDB report which referred to
the regional economies as being in "eco-
This is where certain players in the private
sector were able to capture the rents of the
service or commodity economies via favours
and incentives from the political elite, not
to further develop the economy, but to fatten
their profits. This phenomenon is also
referred to by Thomas Piketty in his book,
"Capital in the Twenty first Century."
Hence our team recommended the cre-
ation of an embryonic innovation system
to be implanted into the current commodity
based economy---the on-shore, off-shore
plantation described lucidly over the years
by Lloyd Best---and protected from the cur-
rent economic ecosystem, if we were really
interested in creating a globally competitive
economy in the context of depleting oil
reserves and competition from cheap shale
gas in the global market.
In other words, we have to create a new
private sector and given the overarching
research culture at UWI, build new centres
of excellence (an entrepreneurial university)
where the object is R&D geared to the chal-
lenges of economic development and not
curiosity driven R&D as is the practice at
present at UWI.
This fits with Prof Anthony Clayton of
UWI who says that regional economic devel-
opment depends on innovation and gener-
ating game changers, as opposed to simply
an increase in productivity.
Our committee consisted of three full
professors, two of whom have obtained
international patents, the other (via the
high-tech company he spun out of UWI)
holds copyrights for software systems still
running in the technology based utilities.
The fourth member holds a patent in electric
motor control and is at present courting US
companies for its implementation. No such
companies or opportunities exist locally to
exploit this patent. The Faculty of Engi-
neering is indeed a test bed for innovation
Further, this team is au courant with the
economic and business mores of T&T
through its members own experiences,
research and knowledge of the works of our
regional economists: Sir Arthur, Best, Beck-
ford, Girvan, Pantin etc.
Additionally, one of the team members
is proceeding with the commercialisation
of the patents earned, testing the innovation
system proposed by the committee. This is
giving us valuable and unique information
on the downstream requirements of the
For example, how to develop a flexible
manufacturing facility to support fabrication
of the product as well as the kind of national
and international linkages we require.
In my humble opinion this expertise exists
nowhere else in the country or region and
though the group s ability and capacity may
be equalled by other groups in the world,
we are probably unequalled in the world
with respect to indigenous knowledge, expe-
rience and are in possession of and already
testing a National Innovation System.
Therefore, the Minister of Planning ought
to have known of the continuing work of
this group and it is inconceivable that we
are now saddled with an IDB consultant to
answer obvious questions in the quest to
build an innovation system.
The facts are: we have no innovation sys-
tem in T&T, there are no current actors in
an innovation system and there are no
strengths or gaps in our innovation system
which does not exist.
The driver of any innovation system will
be the entity that funds it. In our case, this
falls to government and such funding from
our rents will compete against the exorbitant
charge on the economy by welfare.
If government cannot bring itself to make
this sacrifice, then the best that can be done,
is for the university to engage in a small
experiment (as it is doing de facto) to
demonstrate the validity of the group s ideas.
St Clair A King
Pensions are fixed, and the cost of living
is rising constantly. Since pensions
are determined by salary at retirement,
and since salaries and the cost of living
have risen at rapid rates in the last
fifty years, it has been obvious for
some time that persons who retired a long time ago
receive pensions that do not bear any realistic relation
to the cost of living or to the medical needs of older
This problem exists for retired teachers, judges,
civil servants, and a host of other salaried persons.
In considering this problem we should note that
old age pension and national insurance are woefully
We can register that all pensions are not equal.
Some citizens get larger pensions than others because
they were in receipt of larger salaries related to qual-
ifications, skills, and work experience. There are
others who get larger pensions than the majority:
some retired people who were salaried benefited from
making monthly contributions to their own pensions,
these contributions being matched or doubled by
However we look at it, a number of retired and
elderly human beings in our society are living in
abject poverty. Many do not own a house. Many are
not able to provide for the education of their children,
a parental responsibility that is usually rewarded by
employed children who are able to help out. Many
cannot afford healthcare.
Pensions are not based on the notion that some
people are better than others. Pensions are earned
by years of service, and they recognise need. I do
not think that treating retired judges as a special case
is the way to begin to solve the problem of pensions.
Nor should we introduce piecemeal legislation that
will end up as exceptions to well-thought out leg-
islation about pensions applicable to the whole soci-
ety.It is hard that pensions are not adjusted in sync
with the cost of living, and I recognise that many
citizens, including judges, have suffered because of
this. I am aware, too, that forbidding judges from
taking up employment as people in the legal profession
for ten years after retirement has caused hardship
(and may even be a sanctioned infringement of a
So, for now, if the Government wants to do some-
thing for retired judges, they should decide on a figure
that a couple with a house can live on (between
$15,000 and $20,000 per month?), decide that the
whole payment will be given to a surviving spouse,
carry out a thorough means test and then make the
award. The award should also include healthcare.
This should not be done as pension legislation. There
can be found some other way of approving it in Par-
Then promise to come up with a pension plan for
the whole society before the 2015 general elections.
With regard to the story "British firm owing millions to T&T con-
tractors" published in last Thursday s Business Guardian:
1. No attempt was made to contact either the High Commissioner,
UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) representatives or myself to check
the facts of this article or request comment.
2. The British High Commission has undertaken no lobbying with
either Labidco or the Government of the Republic of T&T on behalf
of HS Ocean.
3. We did host a workshop on June 22, 2012 at the British High
Commission at the request of HS Ocean, at which Mr Deo Gosine
of Labidco attended. Hosting such events is part of UKTI s normal
service and is made available to all UK companies.
4. Whereas High Commissioner Arthur Snell did visit Labidco,
on April 24, 2012, this was a courtesy visit as part of the British High
Commission s normal commercial business outreach activities. This
was unrelated to, and predating, the HS Ocean event.
5. Companies are expected to undertake their own due diligence
in conducting business with any companies. The British High Com-
mission is not responsible for conducting due diligence.
UK High Commission
Editor s note:
Energy journalist, Curtis Williams, who wrote the story "British firm owing
millions to T&T contractors" rejects the UK High Commission s assertion that
he did not make any attempt to contact either the High Commissioner, UK
Trade & Investment (UKTI) representatives or myself. Mr Williams says he
attempted to contact the UK High Commission on three occasions on July 8,
calling the PBX number on their Web site and failing to get an answer.
Statement from UK High Commission
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