Trinidad and Tobago has been a slave to a "boom/bust cycle" that will only change when more power is given to ordinary citizens, economist Hayden Blades and political analyst Michael Harris have said.
Speaking at the Movement For Social Justice's seminar on governance and the economy in San Fernando two weekends ago, the experts both agreed that the country's economics and politics were intrinsically linked and that politics must change in favour of the people before the economy could change.
Blades, who expressed concern about the present condition of the local economy, acknowledged that there were some critical structural issues with regard to how the country was governed.
He said: "If we don't get the politics right, if we don't get the governance right we can't get the economics right. It is simple. We have inherited the political system, we have inherited the economic system. We inherited those systems and they work hand in hand. The fact is we are stuck in a boom/bust cycle. We can't talk about creating new sectors of activity unless we are empowering people to get involved in other sectors of economic action across the board.
Because at the end of the day if the level of participation of the citizen in decision making remains as it has always been, this dynamic that we keep talking about, that we need to diversify the economy and drive new efforts in innovation, invention, redirecting investments into higher value added activity, that is not going to happen unless people can participate in a meaningful way."
He said there was a period of time when Trinidad and Tobago experienced a growth rate at 13 per cent and everybody was making money.
But for the past four years the economy has been contracting.
"That is our boom/bust cycle that we are slaves to because we have failed to restructure the nature of our economy. The economy still goes through these cycles and we are powerless to do anything about it because we never found a ways to restructure our economic platform," he said.
Blades said everybody was debating if the country was in a recession or not but whether it is called a recession, a slump or a regression, the fact of the matter is that the economy is not generating income growth.
"So incomes aren't growing, they are declining. So the bottom line of that scenario is that your purchasing power is declining so what you could have bought with a $100 in 2008 just about four years ago, is now significantly less."
Harris, who argued that without a system of governance in place there would never be a good government, admitted that a system of governance did not guarantee a good government.
"But without it, a system of governance, it does not matter how brilliant the men, how much money they have, we will never have good government and given the types of problems that this country has it will take time to change them and there will be hiccups."
He said constitutional reform was needed to give more power to the people because unless the people trusted the government enough to give it enough time and space to apply its solutions, they would never happen.
"How would the people come to trust if they know in the process of decision making they were given a fair voice and a reasonable chance to be heard. Government by itself cannot govern a country if the people are not involved. That is another reason why all of our governments have failed."
Politics must change to make it a joint effort between the people and the government, he added.