Finance Minister, Engineer Colm Imbert has once again demonstrated an attitude of arrogance when he tried to call out the Regional President of BPtt and almost with scorn said she relied on technocrats for advice as if that was a problem. Last time I checked, BPtt is a successful global organization managing a budget that is significantly larger than the national budget of Trinidad and Tobago. Maybe their success is because of their understanding of the value of collaboration and the importance of relying on technocrats and subject matter experts for advice. Maybe our failure as a nation is because we ignore the technocrats and rely on politicians like the current Minister of Finance who has no track record in Finance.
The Minister’s intemperance in referring to BPtt’s action is almost as bad as Roget’s infamous “take your platform and go”. I guarantee you that the decision to “pause” was not made singly by this Australian Accountant. It would have had major direction from BPtt’s global team. To add insult to injury, the “Engineer Finance Minister” referred to other operators in the market including Shell, EOG and BHP Billiton. I wonder what is he channelling!
A day later the “Engineer Finance Minister” attempted to explain that he simply meant to convey that “like any person without discipline-specific expertise, will need to rely on expert technical advice to arrive at an informed decision.” This was a good comeback but an oversized shoe is already in his mouth. I looked at the presentation in Parliament and made the following observations:
Firstly, the “Engineer Finance Minister” does not understand that organizations like BPtt are designed for seamless transition at the head. His comment that a lot is happening at BP is instructive. It reflects the approach used by our “Engineer Finance Minister” during the transition from the People’s Partnership to the PNM. Put everything on pause until I understand what is happening here.
He commented that Mrs. Fitzpatrick is neither a geologist nor a petroleum engineer but merely an accountant so in deciding to press “pause” she had to rely on advice. In his subsequent explanation of what he meant, he talked about the importance of being advised. I wonder what happened to the advice given by the now defunct Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) which he preferred to dissolve rather than take their advice.
My third observation is about the tone and I wonder if the head was a Mr. Fitzpatrick instead of woman, if he would have been so caustic in his remarks. Trinidad and Tobago would be well served if Mr. Imbert apologizes to the head of BPtt for any unintended conclusions which his intemperance may have conveyed.
This interview with Dr. Rowley and his constituents aggravated a deep wound in that area. What I saw and heard was a man from within the constituency reliving the pain of the shooting death of his mother WPC Bernadette James and asking for some assurance that the shooting death of the 14 year old female by a Police Officer would be investigated. Twice he mentioned that he was 7 years old when his mother was allegedly accidentally killed on the rifle range on a training exercise in Chaguaramas. He personalized the shootings for the Prime Minister by pointing out that the Prime Minister’s godson was shot on another occasion. This brought the issue of police shootings very close to the Prime Minister and made me ask the question: What can be done?
The optimum approach would be collaboration between the Government and the Opposition but with the recent arrest of a former Attorney General current Opposition Senator, collaboration seems highly unlikely. In 2015 under the Leadership of then Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago was listed as an adaptation partner in the Cure Violence programme which is having global success but as usual, when either the UNC or the PNM wrest power from each other, they simply discontinue initiatives and start over. The Cure Violence model to prevent violence is currently being implemented in 10 countries across more than 25 cities and 60 communities. Programs are expanding into new communities in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Latin America, as well as in the Middle East, including Syria. Seems to me that since Trinidad and Tobago has some experience with the programme, we could stretch across the aisle in Parliament, discuss the benefits that could be derived and work towards implementation. Read more about the Cure Violence model here.
The Cure Violence Programme came to my attention via a TED talk by Epidemiologist, Dr. Gary Slutkin who “applied lessons learned from more than a decade fighting epidemics in Africa and Asia to the creation of a public health model to reduce violence through behaviour change and disease control methods. He is an Ashoka Fellow, a Professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago, a senior advisor to the World Health Organization and the 2009 Winner of the Search for a Common Ground Award”.
A second area crying for attention is the thousands of people who have been impacted by deaths by shooting over the past 5 years. It is reported that we have had 2,000 deaths by shooting and if we assume that each death impacted 10 people, then we perhaps have 20,000 people suffering some kind of trauma associated with gun violence. Unless there is some meaningful intervention, it is likely that this trauma will lead to more violence.
Crime in Trinidad and Tobago is now at epidemic level and the solution lies in a collaborative approach. It is time to depoliticize crime in the interest of the citizens of our country.