Presidential “boof” is insufficient!

A ‘boof’ from your ‘tantie’ will sting, but it will not necessarily lead to any improvement of the undesirable behaviour it was aimed to correct.

At the opening of the refurbished parliament building, called ‘The Red House’ for over a century, our president, Paula-Mae Weekes, fondly re-named ‘Auntie/Tantie President’, ‘pelt a good boof” at the 41 members of parliament and reminded them that the country is hurting. I wonder what response she is expecting, or more importantly, will these pointed remarks catalyse any positive behaviour change in her 41 ‘children’?

Photo: President Paula-Mae Weekes at Red House re-opening (via

On both sides of the aisle, the parties seem stuck in their ruts, unable to redefine themselves in any meaningful way. On the government’s side, we know that election is in the air, with the paving of roadways and the increased rhetoric about transformation. Those of us who have been around the block a couple of times smell this for what it is—cheap, lazy electioneering.

On the opposition side, I was impressed with yet another ‘makeover’ of the leader of the opposition (new haircut and all), and on this occasion, an un-slurred delivery of her remarks at the opening of the refurbished Red House. A closer listen told me that the UNC is smelling victory, but a look at the stable reveals very little to hope for.

When government is weak or unhealthy, everyone suffers and that is what we are suffering from—the malaise of weak institutions and even weaker leadership. I struggle to identify the systemic changes that indicate things are moving in the right direction. Instead, there is the continuous din of accusatory statements about the displaced opposition and a high-pitched tone about a turnaround, which we are all looking for.

The world looks at the ease of doing business ranking as an indicator that a country is on a growth path, but when I see that in four years, we have slipped from 62 to 105 on the index, I have no reason to be happy. Some of the countries ahead of us include Jamaica, St Lucia, Rwanda and Kenya. One of the reasons that this indicator is important is that the easier it is to do business in a country, the more likely it is to attract new investment, which in turn propels growth.

Trinidad and Tobago is at a place where no band-aid can help. What we need is deep systemic change, which can be accomplished by putting to work a team of bright young minds who can take a solutions-oriented approach to at least one of our problems. We continue to suffer because there isn’t the political will to take such a bold move. Instead, we seem to think that advertising campaigns will trick our people into believing that the work has begun.

Photo: PNM supporters celebrate their 2007 General Elections victory.
(Copyright Pedro Rey/AFP 2015)

Annually, there are companies that stage rally-type meetings, engaging the minds and hearts of their employees, but these visioning sessions are supported by work, plans and key performance indicators (KPIs) so that that progress is measurable. Our country is stuck at the rally stage and no amount of boofing from a well-intentioned Aunti/Tantie President will change that.

Maybe at her weekly meeting with the prime minister, the president can demand that he identify one specific goal, supported by action plans and KPIs to prevent her from having to resort to this public boofing at the next opportunity. Meanwhile, thanks for the reality check, Auntie/Tantie.

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