Patriotic can be the game-changer

The consummation of this deal with Pa­tri­ot­ic En­er­gies and Tech­nolo­gies Com­pa­ny Ltd (PET­CL) might be the game-changer we have been looking for to change the work ethic of Trinidad and Tobago. But it will require a level of collaboration that we have not experienced in recent times.

From one perspective, the Petrotrin Refinery failed because employees were overpaid, produced very little and the union was unbending in its demands. From another perspective, the failure occurred because successive governments ensured that incompetent party supporters held top positions for which they were unqualified and unprepared. Both the PNM and the UNC are culpable.

Photo: Oil refinery at Point-a-Pierre

If you are a former Petrotrin employee, please rethink the automatic role you see for yourself at Patriotic. If you and Petrotrin were in noise about some industrial relations issue, please do not apply. If you got your job either because of your PNM or your UNC strings, please slink away quietly because you were part of the problem. And if you were just an innocent bystander making no positive contribution, you also have no place at Patriotic.

Whatever the final financial arrangements, the rebuilding of this refinery will require a different mindset, one which is goal-oriented and focussed on objective criteria. Plans, processes and procedures will have to be king. The people who occupy the space will ultimately be responsible for the success or failure of this new venture, and it is at this point that I begin to worry.

What is the system that will be implemented to ensure the human resources engaged in this new arrangement are fit for purpose? How will we mitigate against being re-infected by the former entitlement culture? No doubt Trinidad and Tobago has the talent, but there is a deficit when it comes to matching talent to task.

Assuming we get all the physics and science right, I worry about how the new organization will motivate and inspire the people to do their best in an external environment that epitomises lack of productivity and rewards mediocrity. For this new entity to be successful, it must treat the host environment as a highly contagious disease and ring-fence its operations to prevent itself from being infected.

The statistic of moving from position 64 to 105 in the ease of doing business index in four years has implications for every aspect of the functioning of this new organization. Ease of doing business is not simply a ranking, it is a statement about the country’s capacity to succeed. For anyone who wishes to challenge the data, please remember that the World Bank has been engaged in this analysis over the past 16 years, and it is now saying to Trinidad and Tobago that the following 11 areas of doing business are becoming more difficult: “starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and labour market regulation”. Trinidad and Tobago has to get these indicators moving in the opposite direction if we wish to be successful with this new venture.

For citizens who believe that this country can change, this is an exciting opportunity to be part of a game-changing initiative. Human resource companies, technology companies and talented citizens should be beating a path to this new organization, not with greed in their eyes, but with a view to making a difference. This is an opportunity to redefine the relationship between labour and capital in such a way that we understand that prioritizing people over profits will ensure our future profits.

History will remember kindly those who grasped this opportunity and made a difference!

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