The absence of strategy at all levels in Trinidad and Tobago is deeply rooted and of historic significance. We continue to have the mentality of a colonized people. We have not yet decided to take charge of our destiny. Daily we keep asking for someone to provide solutions to our problems. We seem to have forgotten that we have sole responsibility for our future. Only us … YOU AND I, TOGETHER WILL SHAPE OUR DESTINY AND THE TIME HAS COME! NOT TOMORROW, NOT NEXT WEEK BUT RIGHT NOW!
By way of example of our colonial mentality, let us quickly reflect on our chocolate experience. Over the past 200 years we have exported our cocoa and reimported the same cocoa as chocolates at significantly higher prices. Imagine Cadbury once owned a cocoa estate in Trinidad with more than 430 acres. They rode the backs of our ancestors and built their empires for generations while we simply provided the labour. What has changed in that industry? Cadbury no longer owns the Ortinola Estate, our cocoa industry has declined, we are still importing chocolates and we have lost the taste for our own chocolate products. Even our palettes have been colonized!
I commend the resurgence of chocolatiers, planters and merchants but they need a home market and that’s where our population has to move away from our commitment to foreign goods and begin to appreciate what we produce locally.
This narrative is repeated in every sector – energy, agriculture, tourism. In the agriculture sector, we have been colonized by our brothers and sisters in Grenada and St. Vincent. They supply the dasheen, plantains and sapodillas which are on offer in the markets. Unless we can feed ourselves we are vulnerable. Feeding ourselves requires a shift in mental attitude and the design of the enabling systems and processes. Since the late Dr. Eric Williams our leaders have been so busy mimicking the metropole that they have not engaged or inspired our people to accept full responsibility for our destiny.
Over many years we have failed to develop a Tourism Industry in preference for a range of Tourism activities. Our determination to court Sandals is another example of an activity which will simply ensure that the profits flow outwards. Instead of institutionalizing a drain on the treasury, here is an opportunity for us to take a long term view and answer the question: “will this sustain us 50 to 100 years out?” Answering that question will take us away from the 5 year focus that currently informs our decision making.
Thinking 50 to 100 years out will force us to act in the interest of Trinidad and Tobago. The narrative must be changed from this is in the interest of Penal, Tobago, Laventille, UNC, COP, PNM or whatever is the latest symbol of our disaffection to “Is this good for all of Trinidad and Tobago?” Answering this one question will also encourage us to look beyond our political financiers and “eat ah food gangs”. It will inspire us to think differently about desired outcomes and perhaps help us to understand what it means to be an independent nation at 54.