Economic Complexity – Creativity – Transportation are the focus of our discussion.

Chatting with Dr. Vaalmiki Arjoon about Economic Complexity; Jules Sobion Commander-In-Chief of Caesar’s Army about Creativity and Katherine Agong, Transportation Specialist about modernizing our transportation sector.

Dr. Vaalmiki Arjoon shares a synopsis of his research paper on “Economic Complexity” which takes economic diversification 10 steps ahead towards breaking our dependency on hydrocarbons. He suggests that using an Economic Complexity lens can help us design an ecosystem which places greater emphasis on using technical knowledge, innovation and superior technologies to produce a healthy mix of commodities for both local consumption and export.The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a complex production structure. Imagine if Trinidad & Tobago had a thriving pharmaceutical sector, we could have partnered with pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines. Our recovery strategy should focus on satisfying the unique pent-up demand which will soon be unleashed on the world. His paper on Economic Complexity considered 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries and concluded that a major hindering factor for growth is inequitable access to finance and foreign exchange from the commercial banks. Trinidad and Tobago has an opportunity to use the pandemic as a game changer by embracing the philosophy of Economic Complexity; transitioning from the model of a physical location to operating within a single digital space and removing the barriers which give us a low ranking on the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) ranking. At 18:00 minutes, the conversation shifts from discussing Economic Complexity with Dr. Vaalmiki Arjoon about to chatting with Jules Sobion

Commander-In-Chief of Caesar’s Army. Jules’s Pandemic Joys were understanding what Trinidad and Tobago has to offer as a destination; strengthening his storytelling muscles and nurturing his passion for building brands. His take on what is needed for creatives to thrive is to understand how the creative industry is evolving. Whether it is large events, music, art, theater, there is a need to understand how these sectors connect to the whole picture of Trinidad and Tobago. His biggest challenge as an entrepreneur was the feeling of “aloneness” as he created a different Carnival movement. Maybe there is a need for a space to teach creatives the fundamentals of business. The common problem experienced by Creatives is getting their brands onto larger world stages. Taking our local brands to the next level requires a willingness to create a runway for the traffic-jam of ideas and creatives waiting to take off. T&T’s future game will demand that we leverage technology to create experiences which combine in-person with virtual and the Entertainment Sector is uniquely poised to take the lead. As the Commander in Chief of Caesar’s Army exited the interview, his parting advice to younger creatives was that Rome was not built in a day. “Take things time by time, be resilient, be patient, and your fruits will bear.”

At 30:00 minutes, the Conversation welcomed Transportation Specialist, Katherine Agong, who represents the 30% of women operating in Transportation. Her interest in transportation started at the age of seven or eight when she experienced the anxiety of travelling from her home in Diego Martin to her primary school in Port of Spain and invariably arrived late to school. At that early stage, she wondered about solutions to the traffic problem.Fast forward a few years, Katherine is studying for her degree in Geography and Geology and discovers that there is actually a career to solve traffic and transport problems. A suggested solution to some of our problems is the creation of a national transportation planning and management agency like those that exist in the United States and across Europe. Our country CAN have a successful mass transit system, but we need to understand that people’s decision to travel is based on reliability, price, comfort, convenience, safety, and accessibility. The fact that 74% of our population use the car to get to and from work is an indication of their low level of trust in the system.There are solutions to our transportation problems. It is a question of how we implement those solutions. Park & Ride is a possibility, but mass transportation in our country can help towards our development, it can help towards people’s comforts and may improve people’s lives. She notes that other countries have solved their problems and so can we.

Demming Chronicles is happy to have chatted with Dr. Vaalmiki Arjoon about Economic Complexity; Jules Sobion Commander-In-Chief of Caesar’s Army about Creativity and Katherine Agong, Transportation Specialist about modernizing our transportation sector.

Today he used his power to try to get his son into national team, what will it be tomorrow?

Originally published on wired868.com

1959: Then Minister of Home Affairs Patrick Solomon removed his stepson from the Woodbrook Police Station.

2002: Late Prime Minister Patrick Manning phoned the Marabella Police Station where his driver was being held.

2018: former Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte has an altercation with a police officer for the inconvenience caused at Dock Road.

2021: Lasana Liburd documented how Commissioner of Police (CoP) Gary Griffith Sr used his office in a manner beneficial to his son’s chances of winning selection to the national football team.

Photo: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith (left) has a word with then Soca Warriors head coach Terry Fenwick after training at the Police Barracks in St James on 3 July 2020.
(Copyright Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

Rivers flow into streams you say? It begins with raindrops! These are a sample of the stories which make it to the media.  

The first three are examples of ministerial interference with the Police, while in the fourth example, the Police is interfering with the Police. What is common in each story is an underlying philosophy that, unfortunately, official office in our country can be abused without consequence.  

It is a clear indication of the extent to which our system of governance has failed.  There is a popular view that if you know someone in office, you can literally get away with murder. This ‘who-know-you-syndrome’ is eating away at the core of our society and it seems to be reinforced daily by our officials.

People are not naturally inclined to follow rules but agreeing to be part of a society means you have entered into an explicit contract to obey the laws that protect all of us. If our leaders continuously break the contract, what do you expect of the ordinary citizen?! This broken system will only be fixed when the example is set from the top.

Image: Cutting in line…

The holder of the position of chief of police has a unique role; his actions must be beyond reproach. Once that facade becomes tainted, the moral authority of that position is also tainted and the consequences can be dire. Sometimes the only way to fix it is for that tainted person to step aside.  

My argument extends to any public office but those which impact law and order are particularly important.

A right-thinking leader will ensure that our institutions are not tainted, understanding that the entire ecosystem will suffer and collapse if any key player is allowed to continue functioning despite their compromise.  

There is a view that the CoP’s compromise occurred outside of his duty and function and therefore should not be considered. I disagree because persons carry their characters 24/7 and the action taken in their official capacity cannot be separated from those in an unofficial activity.

There is a recent case in the United States where big name parents were caught paying bribes to get their children into elite colleges. This eventually attracted the attention of the IRS and the parents are now investing huge sums of money in trying to stay out of jail.  

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago winger Gary Griffith III (right) runs down the flank while head coach Terry Fenwick looks on during a practice match against Police FC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 12 March 2021.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

The bigger lesson is that in the US, there are consequences for every action.  Unfortunately in Trinidad and Tobago such lessons are difficult to impart and there is a strong tendency to assume that the wrongdoing will be forgotten in nine days.  

My deeper fear is that the CoP will walk away from this malfeasance unscathed, only to engage more boldly in using his powers inappropriately.  

Today it was getting his son an undeserved spot on a football team; what will it be tomorrow?

Siana Teelucksingh chats about island states and energy renewables – Clint Williams talks encouraging creativity.

Guest Siana Teelucksingh is confident that just as our people are leading and working in traditional global energy companies, we have the talent and opportunity to develop a skilled global workforce to populate the renewables sector.

The isolation of being an island nation creates both our beauty and vulnerability and therefore requires a combined effort to ensure success at energy transition.

Siana states that Trinidad and Tobago is in a wonderful position to leap frog with the current momentum and existing skills to an economy driven by renewable energy. Her condition however is that we must be proactive and thoughtful to engage this energy transition. Maybe the biggest challenge lies in the cultural transformation needed to change ingrained practices developed over years of enjoying one of the lowest global electricity consumer rates.

Siana is a Senior Project Manager at the non profit Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI). Two projects included in her portfolio are support for the “Integrated Resource and Resilient Plan for Belize” and the development of renewable and resilient installations across the Caribbean.

“Our energy source is being used against our best interest?” is the title of her TEDxPortofSpain 2019 Talk.

At 15:00 Clint Williams, CEO of Corbin Advertising takes us back to the the 14th century rise of the Medici Dynasty in Italy from which came the Medici Principles. The time has come for Trinidad and Tobago to create our own Medici Principles where we bring together a cross section of stakeholders and influencers to redesign a future to which we can all aspire.

He reminded us of the astonishing creative power of our people as evidenced by our ability to tell stories, strike up a rhythm and tell a joke about the simplest of exchanges. Covid has dealt a devastating blow to the creative sector but the fissures existed before March 2019. Creatives now have to dig deep to sell ideas to a screen full of dots and boxes while knowing that creativity requires the energy of the room for it flourish.

For the creative sector to thrive, there must be a movement away from the attitude of only valuing tangibles to placing equal value on ideas and concepts. Creativity allows us to develop an ecosystem which facilitates those moments of reflection which can move us in different directions.

Despite the disruption of the revenue streams in the advertising industry he is convinced that the creativity of our people will help in the shaping of the different future.

T&T can benefit by setting aside xenophobia and using systematic integration

First published on Saturday 12 June 2021 wired868.com

Why would a person willingly give up their family, job and community to embark on an illegal, dangerous journey to another country?  

In the case of the Venezuelans, it’s because they are generally running away from unbearable, life-threatening circumstances.

Photo: Venezuelans turn to desperate measures for water.
(via BMJ)

Our leaders are publicly pretending not to know that conditions in Venezuelan continue to deteriorate, while our borders are barely protected. People in both countries are benefiting financially by taking advantage of the minimal border monitoring and lack of safety regulations to facilitate the Venezuelan sea crossing into our country. This has resulted in loss of life by drowning as well importation of Covid-19 infections.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 5.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide and the majority of them are in Latin America and the Caribbean. If we do not take a systems-approach to this influx, the cultural face of Trinidad and Tobago will change rapidly in the foreseeable future.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has created the  (DTM) Displacement Tracking Matrix to track and monitor displaced populations. From a survey conducted, 74% of the respondents confirmed that their mode of transport to Trinidad was via boat.  

Last time I checked there is no formal ocean travel between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. I don’t think we have any fast ferries going to Venezuela. If 74% of them are coming via the ocean, who are the facilitators of this travel? Why are we not intercepting more of them on the ocean and landing areas? Is this another instance of us pretending not to know?

Photo: Venezuela flee their homeland by boat.

Given the size of the Venezuelan population when compared with ours, it is a valid consideration that this unchecked migration can overload our systems and cause further chaos, but appropriately thought-out applied systems, processes and procedures will help us manage the inflow.  

Our reality is that historically Venezuelans have migrated to Trinidad and Tobago both formally and informally. There are stories about men with families in both places, or as informally described ‘both sides of the water’.   

We should not view this as a zero-sum game where one side wins and the other side loses. We ought to be looking at how we can incorporate skilled Venezuelans into our population.  

The pre-Covid registration process was a good start. It needs to be continued and systematised. Legal job options for registered migrants can help us fill the gaps which exist in our ageing population.  

Once their status is normalised they will pay taxes, national insurance, health surcharge, etc, and contribute to our country as every other citizen. This is typically how legal immigrants, including T&T citizens, are integrated into society in other parts of the world.

Photo: A Venezuelan migrant.
(via UN News)

Globally, migrants generally do very well and add value to their host country. The factors that pushed them away from their home country motivate them to work harder in the host country, and fear of losing their immigrant status and thus deportation tends to keep them obeying the law.  

The host country, invariably benefits from the presence of migrants so this is a ready solution to some of our employment problems—especially since the data says that 50% of the migrants have had at least post secondary education, including tech-voc certification.

If past performance is any indication of future performance, then we know that promises to purchase more boats will not solve the problem. This problem requires a collaborative approach which focuses on the humanitarian side and presents a structured long term solution.  

Pretending not to know the extent to which the Venezuelans are here is kicking the can down the road, while endangering both T&T citizens and Venezuelan immigrants.

Photo: Venezuelans have pored over their borders in search of better lives.
(via Caracas Chronicles)

Demming Chronicles chats with Carnival Entrepreneur Alvern Porter and Restauranteur Dale Ramirez

Sharing his experience about how storming a J’Ouvert Band led to the creation of a successful enterprise, Event Organizer, Videographer, J’Ouvert Band Producer Alvern Porter suggests that a period of normalcy is unlikely to return to Trinidad and Tobago before 2023. While his local and International event planning business has screeched to a halt, there has been the opening up of online events as possible income generators for him and his colleagues.

Alvern commented that Trinidad and Tobago has traditionally launched the global Carnival experience but that leadership role may be threatened by Covid 19 and we risk some other country assuming that role.

As a Cultural Entrepreneur, he urged other creatives to understand their skill sets and find ways to quickly pivot to other income generating activities. The business side of creativity is where opportunities lie. Having a vision, being passionate about that vision and developing a tolerance for risk can help cultural entrepreneurs create new and different products for a post Covid market.

At 14:19, the conversation changed to Restauranteur Dale Ramirez who shared his business ethos which made Drink Wine Bar and the Loft Art Gallery successful. While both business are casualties of the Covid war, he looks forward to a re-invigorated Woodbrook area where the Parks could be used as open air entertainment spaces. Such an approach is likely to encourage persons to venture out into open spaces to enjoy entertainment and food.

While he likened the current pandemic to a slow motion war where things are vanishing off the face of our cities and towns, he is confident that the recovery will be different once confidence in safety returns. Two enabling factors will be the investment in technology and the ramping up of the infrastructure to create and support cashless transactions.

To young entrepreneurs he cautioned them to see and understand the new needs which will emerge and spend a lot more time on researching and “marinating” their concepts. Dale commented that he and another entrepreneur “Roses” have joined forces to retain some employees and provide a different offering “Punch and Pie”.

His parting request was for us as a society to think out of the box and figure out ways to allow healthy citizens to return to income generation.

Anya Ayoung-Chee & Fabian Carter show up as their authentic selves on Demming Chronicles.

Activist, fashion designer, model -Anya Ayoung-Chee shows up as her authentic self on Demming Chronicles. In this riveting conversation, she comments on the need to change the culture of punishing non-conformance and urges Trinidadians to continue showing up as our authentic selves locally and internationally.

Anya cautions that while retaining your authenticity can be punishing, help is available from those who have travelled the path before, so having a mentor could lighten the load. Her three asks of successful women are: to share the cheat codes with younger women; be open to offering mentorships and open the doors especially if you are in the gate keeping role.

Talking about her survival strategy Anya shares that she spends time understanding the values of her ancestry and acknowledging the value each collaborator brings to the table. Her dream is for the Nudge project to become a regional movement where people are actively engaged in creating and living a sustainable life while experiencing the joy of activating their dreams.

She currently directs her energies to a collaboration with Massy Stores called “Nudge” and the feminist empowerment movement “Who She Feel She Is”.

At 16:32, Demming Chronicles engages Fabian Carter, Mixologist, Culinary Entrepreneur and Customer Service Specialist. He boasts of the unique experiences of being the specially selected server to HER MAJESTY Queen Elizabeth II when she opened the CHOGM conference in 2009. His other boast is being selected to serve US President Barack Obama at the Summit of the Americas Conference which was held in Trinidad in 2009.

Fabian established his company K Code Ltd in 2010 and after moving away from the hotel industry in. 2017, he re-ignited his company and strengthened his business model. Carnival 2019 was particularly successful for Fabian and K-Code but came to a screeching halt with the Covid outbreak. He has changed his business model and focusses on personalizing his offerings to his customers.

His mantra is that success comes from what you do more than from what you hope. He spends his time taking action to refine his offerings to keep him and his customers safe while maintaining high quality standards. His learnings from the Covid-19 pandemic are fail, learn and grow.