Learn from basketball: time-out required

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TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO is a tiny developing country of 1,980 square miles, with a population of approximately 1.4 million. Our main export is derived from petroleum and the petrochemical sector, supported by a fledgling manufacturing sector which caters to the regional Caricom market that affords protection against international competition, but does not allow for economies of scale.

We import most of what we need to survive, including intermediate inputs in what little we manufacture, while productivity levels are very low. Our output from the petroleum sector is so minuscule that we have no say in the world pricing mechanism. We also follow a democratic system of government more suited to developed countries.

Yet, our people, being exposed to the lifestyle of major developed countries, clamour for similar amenities and living standards. We imbibe the narrative that ‘this country has money’. Is it because of the number of vehicles on the roads, the size of our houses, our expenditure on entertainment-whisky drinking, etc?

Have petro-dollars and Government’s borrowings so propped up the economy that our people have become spoilt, living above our means, not understanding the true meaning of hard work, thrift and efficiency? Thus not preparing us for the vagaries of life-so that now that world economic conditions are forcing us to resort to innovation, creativity and technology in order to survive, we find ourselves unequal to the task?

And instead, firstly, we prefer to allocate blame to our leaders for decisions made (past and present); secondly, to embark upon industrial actions, in the hope of pressuring those in authority to manufacture solutions that will enable us to maintain our standard of living?

Whilst no one should quarrel with the questioning of economic policies pursued by our leaders, it should be accepted that long-term prosperity can only result from the implementation of a solid economic framework based on exports of competitive products capable of earning adequate foreign exchange, a thriving agricultural and agro-processing sector and a manufacturing sector that can cater to the majority of our local needs-import substitution. What is also clear is that despite the efforts of our leaders (past and present), this has not yet been achieved.

Further, and most importantly, this will not be achieved in an environment of heightened industrial action and work disruptions. Given our limitations of size, population, resources and poor work ethic, we must embrace technological knowledge and digitalisation in order to grow our gross domestic product (GDP) to provide the goods and services our citizens demand.

Some persons insist corruption is the root cause of our problems, and revolutionary political change resulting in a third force is the solution. Whatever the merits or demerits of this proposal, what is certain is that we as citizens must focus on preparing ourselves to face a changing world where knowledge, digitalisation, self-reliance and smart work will be key to survival.

It may be wise to say ‘wait a minute, let’s take a seven-to-ten-year breather where we focus all our energies on economic development-raising GDP while placing the political debate on the back burner’.

D Thomas Port of Spain