Your Mental Health is important …

Mental wellness is the topic of discussion between Nirad Tewarie, CEO of Amcham, and Mental Health Counselor, Dennise Demming.

He commented that the importance of Mental Health was brought to his attention when he began to focus on the Health and Safety Track at the annual HSSE Conferences which Amcham has been hosting for more than 26 years.

His personal experience with the suicide of his cousin has motivated him to be an advocate for mental health. He commented on the need for people in organizations to use the services available to them in their EAP programmes as well as the importance of de-stigmatizing mental wealth.

We all need to recognize that our mental well-being is just as important as our physical wellness and sometimes requires even greater attention. It is indeed an investment in our overall well-being.

Transportation is a quality of life issue …

Trinidad and Tobago is not a healthy place, so how do we expect to be productive?  We are leaders in the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the region.  Heart disease accounts for 25% of all deaths annually while diabetes and hypertension each account for 12% of the deaths.  The contributing factors include overweight/obesity, lack of regular exercise, and some completely avoidable stresses of a chaotic transportation system.

There are neither quick fixes nor easy solutions to these problems.  There is a World Health Organization (WHO) report titled: “What Ministries of Transport Need to Know” and I wonder if it is available to our cabinet Ministers because our Ministers have clearly missed the concept that “transport is strongly linked with health, development and the environment”.

Express May 22, 2022

There is no question that an effective transportation system that increases access to work, education, and health care will positively impact our population.  If students did not spend so much time getting to and from school, there would be more time available to engage in sports or other productive activities and just maybe redirect them away from drugs and crime.

If parents didn’t spend so much time in the traffic, they might just be motivated to prepare healthier meals for themselves and their families.  Healthy foods and a balanced diet directly result in improved health.

If we all spent less time on the roads and in traffic, we might all be encouraged to be active and become engaged in more physical activity.

If we had an organized transportation system, Trinidad and Tobago would reduce its carbon emissions and help mitigate climate change and environmental damage.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago has not even bothered to create a Transportation Authority to regulate the chaos which now prevails on our roads.  As recently as March 17, 201, Dr. Trevor Townsend, who was at the time a Senior Lecturer at UWI said that: “Trinidad and Tobago needs a national Transit Authority to govern the public transportation sector and protect commuters like 18-year-old Ashanti Riley, who it is alleged lost her life at the hands of a “PH” driver.” 

Our leaders continue to ignore the evidence that poorly managed transportation systems adversely impact safety, health, and productivity.

The National Strategic Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) outlines the strategic direction but never references the role of transportation.  We continue to miss the mark when we take a siloed approach to governing.

If we truly believe that the health of a nation is a fundamental determinant of the quality of life of its citizens and therefore an instrument of development, then we must make every effort to create the policies and frameworks which will nudge our citizens in the direction of making positive lifestyle choices.   Transportation is a quality-of-life issue that can have a significant positive impact on our health and productivity.  

After World War Two (WW2) ended in 1945, Japan was hardly able to feed its population, but they realised the importance of transportation and re-focussed their journey to continue developing the dream train.  Today Japan leads the world in the development of fast trains.  I don’t expect us to do the same, but we must develop and implement a transportation framework that will positively impact our own development.

Caribbean Wellness in Focus

In this edition of Caribbean Wellness, Mental Health Counselor, Dennise Demming chats with Clinical Psychologist, Denise Jittan Johnson. The discussion focuses on mental wellness and the need to bring mental wellness to the forefront of our discussions.

Historically Trinidad and Tobago has stigmatized persons as either healthy or mad and this stigmatization limits people’s access to support and help. Conversations about mental well-being are important for us to understand that even if we are struggling emotionally, there is help available.

In commenting on the work environment, it was noted that healthy attitudes positively impact productivity and that workplace wellness activities should not be annual check box items but should be built into the day-to-day work environment. A simple recognition that there’s a human behind every job title can go a long way to changing our response to mental wellness.

Mental wellness begins with the individual taking time off to check-in with themselves and really approaching that self-recognition from a space of kindness. People who are kind to themselves can extend that kindness outward to others and recognize that others are also dealing with their own stuff.

The PNM will win the next elections unless????

There is a continuous stream of commentary about how badly the country is doing particularly in terms of the economy and crime.  Despite this dissatisfaction, if general elections were called in the morning, my prediction is that the People’s National Movement (PNM) will retain power.

Cultural commentator David Rudder was spot on when he sang: “…how we vote is not how we party!”  Except for The Organisation for National Reconstruction’s (ONR) defeat in 1981 and the 33/3 victory of the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) in 1986, we have been stuck voting based on race, religion, and skepticism for anything new and different.  

Recall the 1981 general election where the ONR received the second-highest number of votes and failed to win one single seat (“Not a dam’ seat for them!” is the line from the calypso ringing in my ears).  These were exceptions and while one may argue that the mood of the people is changing, I am willing to put a little bit of money that the PNM will win.  The failed experiment of the People’s Partnership (PP) demonstrated the potential for coalition governments to succeed but there are too many “open wounds” for that partnership to be re-established and gain traction in the approximately 39 months left until the 2025 elections.

There are currently 3 clear entities out on the streets: Watson Duke’s Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP);  Gary Griffith’s National Transformation Alliance (NTA) and Phillip Alexander’s Progressive Empowerment Party (PEA).  So far, Makela Panday has not indicated her intentions for the next general elections and I won’t be surprised at anything she and her daddy, former Prime Minister Basdeo Panday might dream up.  Given our history, it is simple to conclude that neither of these entities on their own will cause the groundswell necessary to remove the incumbent.

If this were a movie, all that would be necessary is to identify a figurehead under whose leadership they could all function and provide a third choice to the voting public.  But this is the politically complex Trinidad and Tobago, so that is unlikely to happen

In the 2020 general elections, the PNM received 322,180 votes which represented 49.05% of the voter turnout while the United National Congress (UNC) received 309,654 representing 47.14% of the votes.  Since then, the PNM has been working hard to keep its supporters happy and while they are in control of the treasury, there isn’t enough money to trickle down.  Once things remain the same, that 49.05% of the voter turnout will vote as they are accustomed to, and we are likely to continue along this slippery slope. 

The “wild card” in the equation is the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) who boldly left their hometown in Tobago to brazenly challenge homeboy “Rowley” in Trinidad in the upcoming local government elections.  A good thrashing in those elections is likely to send the PDP leader Watson Duke back home to focus on repeating the strategic success that A. N. R. Robinson and Winston Murray experienced because of their retention of the Tobago seats.

There is another possible scenario. The UNC can experiment with a major change in its leadership, but that is problematic because, since former Minister of Trade, Vasant Bharath lost the campaign for political leadership to Kamla Persad Bissessar, he has spoken out in an individual capacity.  The other name whispered under one’s breath is Dr. Roodal Moonilal but he appears to not have a high level of trust within the Party.

Politics is not T20 cricket.  It can be more likened to a test match, which is won based on strategy and building partnerships.  With each passing over, the required run rate increases, leading to risky strokes and increasing the likelihood of wickets falling rapidly.

The PNM just needs to be patient and bowl a reasonable line and length and they will win the game.  There is power in incumbency.  A PNM win will be unfortunate for the country because thus far Dr. Rowley and his team have not demonstrated the intellectual competence to change the trajectory of our country.

The local government elections will indeed provide a good sense of the temperature of the country and if the PNM is successful, it might just provide an opportunity to call early general elections and therefore allow the PNM to extend its stay in office.  Either way, the road will be rough. 

Lessons from the Board Room (April 28, 2022)

Oliver Jordan and I discuss lessons from the board room at a conference hosted by @TheCaribbeanCorporateGovernanceInstitute.

In this candid discussion about governance, the presenters comment that private sector organizations are motivated by the return on investment for the shareholders while State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) often operate on the basis of subventions. The point is made that there is an even greater need for adherence to the highest accounting and investment principles because SOEs are using taxpayer funds.