I wish all our Members and other readers a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Prosperous 2018, which as a perpetual optimist I am confident will meet some, if not all my wishes for you.
The local scenario may seem fairly bleak with challenges in the shape of rising crime, decreasing availability of currency - both foreign USD to cover import needs and TTD as job tenure becomes less certain - even with Carnival season upon us, T&T is hurting. World energy prices have made small gains reflected in a major profit recovery by Shell allegedly supported by gas, not oil and a justification of their high-priced purchase of BG which will hopefully point to a recovery in the fortunes of T&T. So, my optimism may not be too far-fetched in the coming months and years?
But how long will it be before the better figures of the energy giants in the region feed down to the “man-in-the-street” and we can breathe a sigh of relief confirming again that “God is a Trini”? Too long for many of us, I suspect. Have we made the most of things while the going was difficult and are we able and prepared to take full advantage of the recovery when it comes?
In a recent conversation with Marla Dukharan, former US Ambassador - John Estrada, identified several areas of our society requiring immediate attention, and words he used several times were accountability, leadership (both of which he suggested were short in T&T) and corruption, of which there was a significant surplus! He also postulated that white-collar crime and the lack of any convictions, the failure of extradition of alleged criminals were setting a very bad example to the (often very young) gang members that crime does pay in the absence of male role models to follow in their home and in our society. He made other points worthy of note that the crime problem has deteriorated over successive governments, that it was quite unrelated to the state of the economy and that solving it needed a long-term plan - not the luxury of politicians whose effective term in office was a matter of a few years until the next election.
So, how can businesses operate in this environment satisfying their customers, their stockholders, but always having to be aware of the less obvious but increasingly effective criminal classes who bring havoc and mayhem to our society?
We require, in my opinion, a resolve by both government and opposition to join in a “generational” plan that speaks with one voice - in the home, in the schoolroom, in the church, in the workplace, that crime will no longer be tolerated in the country and the protective services will be given the necessary tools and training to tackle it from the “broken window” upwards until it is no longer fashionable to live by crime, and this applies from the petty thieving youths to the major criminals who consider themselves above the law and are too big and powerful to conform.
How does this all relate to the activities of a small but dedicated Chamber such as ours? We only have few voices, but we support whistle-blowers, we believe in transparency and good governance, and oppose corrupt practices and will join with others of like mind to shout out “We do not like it so”! And one thing is very clear - if we do nothing, nothing will change, and when good men say and do nothing, evil will prevail.