Rallying round T&T
Perhaps because he was addressing a private-sector veteran in the person of Finance Minister and former banker Larry Howai, a top business executive made bold to step out of his crease and offer the Government management advice. Gervase Warner, chief executive of Neal and Massy, went further to offer skilled, hands-on help in, among other areas, the running of police stations.
In a plain-talking presentation to a T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce post-budget forum, Mr Warner fingered the public administration weaknesses that contribute to the country’s low competitive ratings. No surprise, he mentioned failures in “execution” and shortcomings in leadership and talent.
That the private sector has reached the point of publicly offering to help the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration speaks volumes about its evaluation of the Government’s performance and effectiveness in critical areas of national governance. Mr Warner’s offer of a more hands-on involvement also says a lot about his own judgment about the usefulness of the private sector’s input in the many State initiatives for which its members have been co-opted. These would include the significant number of private sector representatives who sit on State boards, as well as on such new entities as the Economic Development Board and the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation.
Unless the remit of these bodies is very narrowly defined, one would imagine their micro-agendas would dovetail into a macro-agenda that underscores the critical importance of public safety and security to the well-being of the economy and the nation. Whatever the quality of the input, however, Mr Warner was clearly saying the output was falling short and the private sector was prepared to provide more direct assistance.
By itself, Gervase Warner’s offer is admirable in its civic-mindedness and presents the private sector as committed to the national well-being.
However, the modalities by which such an offer could be translated into reality is an altogether different matter. By their nature, the deficiencies that have created the problems that prompted Mr Warner’s offer might very well militate against any useful response by the Government. The Government itself must have the capacity to accommodate such support and to manage it in the national interest.
One option that might have lent itself to this is the tripartite process by which the Government, the private sector and labour collaborate on a common agenda in the national interest. Given the current relationship between the Government and key sectors of the labour movement, however, the scope for “tripartism” may be very limited.
The other option, not yet detailed, arises from the Prime Minister’s call for the Opposition and other groups to work with her Government in a national effort to effect much-needed change. While her call was simultaneously negated by her Government’s refusal to engage Opposition and public concerns over the Municipal Corporations Amendment Bill, it nonetheless offers the glimpse of a path forward in which Gervase Warner’s suggestions may yet bear fruit.