A Conversation with Dr. Marlene Attz, Developmental Economist at the University of the West Indies, and Adeline Gregoire

Sustainability and Development
Before delving into the issues around Trinidad and Tobago’s strategy for sustainable development Dr. Attz noted that there is a tendency to view sustainability through the environmental lens but the term was actually popularized in the 1980s when the Brundtland Commission published the first volume of “Our Common Future” which directed attention to the urgent need to intensify the focus on the world’s environmental and developmental problems as well as ensuring intergenerational equity.

Depressed Oil Prices
She commented that prior to March 2020, we were facing the specter of depressed oil and its negative impact on the economy. That problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic and we are now faced with the issues of social inequity, a poorly designed education system, and dodgy digital infrastructure.

Carnival as a Model
On an optimistic note, Dr. Attz identified our approach to Carnival as evidence of our fortitude, resilience, and capacity to achieve clear objectives under grueling circumstances. If there was one intervention she could make in our society it would be to ensure that decision-making at all levels is data-driven. She sees the reduced activity during this Covid period as an opportunity to redesign some of our systems and processes and speed up our digital transformation strategy.

Women and Gender Equity
At 18:31, the conversation switched focus to the role of women and gender equity with Artist/Curator and Activist, Adeline Gregoire. Adeline is also the founder of Women Everywhere (WE). She is motivated and inspired by everyday stories of human resilience and the human capacity to overcome challenges. Adeline paid homage to those marginalized persons who create success by showing up daily to serve their communities.

30% of our Parliament are Women
The conversation about equality and women’s rights is based on women’s inalienable right of women to have a seat at the table. Women’s equality is a birthright that is also articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Since women comprise 50% of the population, it should be natural for women to have equal access to education, remuneration, and opportunities for progress. A House of Parliament which comprises 30% women is unacceptable.

Safety and Protection
If she could impact one area of society it would be to make the safety and protection of citizens a core requirement. Adeline noted that if we are to make our country the very best it could be we have to be more inclusive and cater to satisfy the needs of all citizens. The success of our society will be measured by the way we treat our women and girls. Women Everywhere focus on ensuring that no one is left behind and has as its watchwords: diversity solidarity and inclusion.

Culture Change Needed at WASA too!

Originally publshed on @Wired868 July 26, 2021

Many years into the future when the name Dr Lennox Sealy is googled, the entries will tell a story of a successful management consultant and university lecturer who resigned because he failed to implement a transformation process at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) in a timely manner.  

The statement will be attributed to his line minister, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, and will likely be believed because of the positional power attributed to ministers of government.  

Photo: Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales.

The story will, however, be incomplete and damaging. One would have to read a recent article and opinion piece by veteran journalist Andy Johnson to ‘pick sense from nonsense’.

And so it continues. Prime ministers, ministers, mayors, members of parliament, counsellors, aldermen, assembly persons can apparently stick their fingers into the daily operations of state enterprises, ministries, regional authorities, borough councils, etc to influence decisions at all levels.  

From industrial relations issues to the award of multi-million dollar contracts, these politicians determine outcomes that are often not in the best interest of the citizens and the country.

As a postgraduate student, I spent many hours ‘being vex’ with management guru and author Peter Drucker who is credited with the statement ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast!’ Whether he was the originator or not, the point is that without specific interventions, culture overrides strategy and progress is stymied.  

More than 20 years later, the statement continues to ring true and its application here reinforces our ‘third world country’ status.

Photo: Former WASA CEO Lennox Sealy.

I believed the narrative that the cultural transformation needed for us to grow and develop would have occurred in 2015. Six years later, what we’ve had is more of the same, with the gutting of the Procurement Legislation being a powerful example.

My life’s work helps me understand the magnitude of the task of culture change. The fact that behaviour change is complex, difficult to implement, and iterative should inspire our leaders to take up the challenge. We all interface daily with our broken governmental systems, so it should not be difficult to accept that they have to be reimagined and redesigned to be geared for citizen assistance rather than oppression.

Few, if any of our ministers understand that they are servants, not masters; public employees, not royalty. That understanding is the first step before identifying a cadre of persons who have the capacity to lead the culture change process.

An easy entry point is to re-imagine the role of our members of parliament so they understand that they should allow the subject matter experts to do the jobs for which they were hired. As long as our officials see themselves as divinely appointed to do whatever they wish, we shall continue to fail at culture change.

And I will remain vex that Drucker is still right: ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast!’ 

Demming Choronicles chats with Idi Stewart, President – T&T Registered Nurses Association & Dr. Gabrielle Hosein, Teacher/Gender Advocate

Demming Chronicles chats with Idi Stewart, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association about the state of the health care sector & Dr. Gabrielle Hosein, Teacher/Researcher/Gender Advocate about developing a society based on equity and nonviolence.

Health Sector Imperatives

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) Idi Stuart reflects on our health care sector and the small steps which can be taken to provide a better experience for citizens. While there is continued investment in the sector, the focus is on buildings and infrastructure with little attention being paid to the people who populate the institutions. Many of the solutions to our health care problems are contained in the Gladys Gafoor Report of 2004, which was submitted to his Excellency the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, April 13, 2007.

Healthy Lifestyles & Nursing

He comments that the focus ought to be more on maintaining healthy lifestyles than on taking care of persons after they become ill. Nurses are fundamental to making that pivot to a more robust primary health care strategy. However several challenges face our Nursing community including low remuneration and few opportunities for skill upgrade. These result in migration being very attractive. Some countries offer our nurses a sign-on bonus that is equivalent to 3 times their monthly salary.

Better Healthcare

The TTRNA is confident in our country’s capacity to improve the health care system but it requires a strategic focus on inclusion for decision making. He identified the 3 tactical measures which need focused attention as legislation to make continuing education mandatory; inclusion of Nursing representation in the Regulatory Authority and development of a strategy to retain the Nurses who are educated by our country.

Gender Equity and nonviolence.

At minute 15, the conversation turns to the protection of girls and women with our guest Dr. Gabrielle Hosein (Gaby). It is noted that Gaby, her mother, and her daughter all carry the middle name “Jamela”.

Gaby expressed her continued inspiration to be the young women who advocate for the rights of women and girls; the bold young men who are not afraid or ashamed to be described as feminists; and the need to transform our space into one which is protective of the most vulnerable amongst us. A strong theme in this interview is the need for us to care for each other and care 7 generations into the future.

Non Violence and Gender

Her long-term vision is for a society where violence in all its manifestations is removed and we live in peaceful harmony. The conversations about what women want are conversations about how to ensure equity. A Parliament which comprises 30% women is unacceptable and should be transformed to reflect all manifestations of our population including the differently-abled and persons whose gender expression is different. Although over the past 20 years women have dominated tertiary level education their presence is not reflected in the leadership of organizations and institutions.

Social transformation

She commented that none of our political parties have gender or sexual harassment policies. Neither are there clear expressions of their expectations of a society based on equity. Transforming our society to one based on equity and non-violence requires patience and deep listening to understand the needs and aspirations of our most vulnerable.

Using our creativity to live safely alongside Covid-19

Originally published on https://wired868.com/ Friday 16 July 2021

It is almost impossible to fight an enemy which is unseeable to the naked eye, nimble, ruthless and devoid of conscience. Hopefully we have learned that lockdowns are destroying our economy and not containing the spread. The pattern of the virus globally seems to be periods of intermittent spikes, so that is what is likely to continue happening locally.  

More importantly, the lockdowns have decimated our already weakened economy. We also have no sound data on the extent of unemployment or the closure of businesses. Those of us in the ‘gig’ economy understand the devastation of not having a cheque deposited into your bank account for more than a year.  

Image: Life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the other hand if you are a public servant or a politician, the ‘cha-ching’ of the deposits have neither reduced in frequency nor quantum.

There is a thin path at the pinnacle of a steep-sided mountain. One cliffside is the terror of dying from Covid; the other cliff is the justifiable nightmare of starving to death. That thin, uncertain footpath is just big enough for one person, walking carefully to avoid falling. 

This is where most people exist, not knowing where the next meal is coming from or what to say to the landlord or remembering what a hundred dollar bill looks like in their pocket, and everyone walking that path is praying for the winds to die down.

Then the government flies past in a helicopter, and scores of people are lost.

Covid-19 may be here to stay and the only way for us to survive is to learn to live with and work around it. But like the dark and cloudy smoke from the car in front of you which hasn’t seen maintenance in almost a year, so some clear action items need to be applied to that statement.

Photo: A taxi driver in San Fernando waits for passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic on 23 April 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

Our biggest challenge is that in a post-colonial era, leaders and the led have to re-define their relationship. Leaders at all levels of society have to step into their authority and protect anyone under their authority. They have to throttle back on their perceived power to control and instead direct and enable the led to take appropriate action.  

An example of this was touted by one of the leaders in the maxi taxi sector who asked for the implementation of the rule of ‘one passenger per window’. It is brilliantly illustrative and requires little thought to understand or obey.

We have to renew our focus on cleanliness as a fundamental rule of engagement. My childhood was spent in a 16 foot by 16 foot structure with no running water, two siblings and our mother. You dared not enter her mansion without wiping your feet at the door or removing your shoes. I don’t recall why there was a bucket of water at the entrance but maybe there is a lesson there.  

Covid has forced us to remember to clean and sanitise before engaging.

Happily, we are opening up restaurants and food outlets for curbside pick up. We can learn several lessons from The Republic of Korea where they now operate ‘drive-ins’ for everything from veterinary services to cinemas.  

Photo: A customer takes her meal to go, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This might require some infrastructural change which entrepreneurs will happily invest in if they are assured that this will be the context for operating in the medium term.

Since the 1970s, most of our restaurant infrastructure has been built on the assumption that spaces are air-conditioned. The near term future of entertainment could be the utilisation of outdoor spaces and a one-person-per-umbrella policy.

As we focus on sending children back to school, why not make it their first activity to collectively engage in a creative project for the development of a social distancing apparatus.

We all want a life in which the hand of authority is not heavy and directive; but to achieve that the environment must change, and the leaders must signal their interest and intention to facilitate the necessary change. Because Covid-19 is unlikely to be stopped or erased soon, we have to stop focusing on the life we had before, so our imaginations can work out new ways to live and thrive despite the disease. 

Harry Potter fans will likely remember headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s advice: ‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.’

Featuring Urban Planner Renelle Sarjeant and Chromatics master mind Richard Rajkumar

Revitalizing urban spaces Urban Planner, Renelle Sargeant is interested in how we develop our spaces. She comments that Trinidad and Tobago can revitalize our cities, towns and villages by re-designing our urban spaces so they became welcoming spaces for men, women and children. In order to measure the effective use of a space we need to observe if the space is being well used and who uses it. Is the space free and designed for general use? Was the space designed with women in mind? These answers will give an indication of the extent to which the space is user friendly. Design solutions Urban planning is about more than the development of plans and programmes for the use of land but more about how community is created for citizens to thrive. Our country has focussed on heavy engineering solutions and maybe the time has come for us to lean into people centred design solutions. Renelle comments that our public spaces are our hidden wealth and Urban Planners can help us get closer to designing the smart cities of the future. Chromatics Music At 18:28 … Richard Rajkumar (Chromatics) shares his journey from a “Hip Hop” artist, through “Calypso” to “New Age Rapso” and the other genres which spoke to him. In referencing “Kisskadee Karavan” he commented that that opportunity to perform inspired his contemporaries to take a greater interest in local music. Recording Studio Richard is completely dedicated to music and culture as his way of living and in addition to performances he manages a recording studio and rehearsal room for performers across all genres and generations. From his recording studio, he has moved to capitalizing on various streaming platforms which allows him to understand his musical reach and count his return on investment. Prior to this use of technology he would not have understood the span of his own music footprint which now includes Europe, Africa, Japan and the US. Future Vison He future vision is one where artists operate with signed contracts outlining roles and responsibilities. On the national landscape his wish is for the realization of the concept of Festival Tourism which will stimulate participation by the public and performers and open our doors for the world to experience our rich culture.

Demming Chronicales chats with Digital Coach Keron Rose & Communication Consultant Lisa Joseph

Trini born/Canadian Keron Rose decided to give the country of his birth a chance at a time when his contemporaries were heading to other parts of the world. Six years later his global business has clients who pay him online and he continues to thrive. He sees Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean region as a place with intractable problems which need solutions and that’s where he focusses. He has created a coaching business which helps entrepreneurs find and implement solutions to these problems. His specific focus is to discover digital solutions to our many problems.

The Mind Set Challenge

According to Keron our biggest stumbling block is our collective mind set which causes us to not trust our institutions while our institutions seem reluctant to educate and prepare our citizens to embrace a digital world. In reflecting on the fact that the Trini created global payment platform WiPay is now based in Jamaica, Keron lamented the negative conversation about digitization. We need “all hands on deck” to onboard all citizens to the digital space. From Government Ministers and officials to the unemployed, the conversation has to be about embracing the digital world to transform our societies.

Lisa Ann Joseph – Communications Consultant

At 17:00 minutes, the show transitioned to a conversation with Reputation Management Consultant Lisa Ann Joseph who finds great joy in the sense of humour which surfaces at every turn. From the online memes to the “bad jokes” there is always something to chuckle about.

Democractizing Communications

She noted that social media has democratized communication and empowered citizens to take on the role of professional communicators. In her role as Counsel to CEOs and C-suite executives, she laments that communicating is not usually seen as part of the key requirements for leaders. Her advice is to take an inside/out approach to understand the issues that are important and invest time and resources in deep listening. In responding to a questions about what is required to succeed at Corporate Communications, Lisa suggested the combination of experience, academics and hard work. Her dream for the future is for our communication to be kinder and littered with softer words.

Bring back graciousness and civility to Parliament, Annisette-George can lead the way …

Originally published on Sunday 4 July 2021 Wired868 – Guest Columns

Don’t let the young cricketer look at the ‘unorthodoxy’ of Richie Richardson, until he has been exposed to orthodox form of a master batsman like Desmond Haynes. 

This was the advice my husband got from the Harvard cricket coach Dwight Day when our sons were introduced to Sunday morning cricket. What Dwight meant was that they needed to master the classic form of the game before experimenting with unorthodox methods. It’s a life lesson I have taken seriously.

Photo: West Indies cricket legend Sir Desmond Haynes had flawless batting technique.
(Copyright Wisden)

In an earlier time, the behaviour in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago was seen as the classic model for behaviour that was gracious and dignified. Not so today! We have totally abandoned any form of classic structured, civil behaviour. 

When I look at the Parliament Channel I feel ashamed for both sides—for men and women, for leaders and the led. I wonder who the behaviour models are for our aspiring young politicians. Indeed, what kind of tone is the Parliament setting for our citizens?

Maybe the early statement from a government minister in Parliament, ‘…we in charge now, so deal with it!’ set the stage. Or maybe the perception of bias by the previous Speaker of the House has encouraged an over-compensatory response by the current Speaker.

Whatever the reason, the current Parliament Channel brings to citizens a parade of indecency, crudeness and lack of dignity.

Photo: UNC Senator Anil Roberts.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

While the position that the Parliament is merely a reflection of the society may not be easily refuted, I wish to counter that leadership has a critical role and people take their cues from our leaders. There is a great responsibility on the part of the persons who sit in the Parliament to signal a change in tone, communicating that we should act with grace and dignity.  

The emptiness of the terms ‘Madam Speaker’ and the ‘honourable member’ are often followed by sarcasm and rancour.

Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George has an opportunity to change the tone and craft a different mode of behaviour amongst her colleagues.  She has the power to host a private dialogue with the 41 members of Parliament aimed at transforming the tone of their parliamentary dialogue. It will not be an easy conversation but it is a necessary one for the good of the country.

What a legacy Speaker Annisette-George would leave if she leads the transformation of our Parliament to one where verbal expression and dialogue can occur with dignity and respect!  

Photo: Speaker of the House Bridgid Annisette-George on her legs in Parliament on 31 June 2021.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament

As a long shot, when this behaviour change is successful it will seep into our day to day interactions and even notch down the aggression and verbal abuse which is becoming the norm.

Former Speaker Arnold Thomasos is recalled as the longest serving Speaker of the House for his service from 1961-1981.  My bold wish is for Speaker Bridgid Annisette-George to be remembered as the female game changer who brought back dignity and civility to our House of Parliament.  

No one else has the credibility to do that job in the current configuration.