Thursday, October 6, 2011


In a few days from now the Minister of Finance is going to unveil his 2011-2012 budget. There are many who are predicting that the very large gasoline or fuel subsidy will be radically reduced if only because we can no longer afford it. There are others who are predicting (including the Minister) that there will be several "surprises" ... and that most of them will be unpleasant. (Though, to be fair to the Minister, although he has said that there will be "surprises", he hasn't said that they will be unpleasant.) My question is why is it necessary for there to be "surprises" (especially unpleasant ones) from a politician who spent years preaching transparency and open government?

And this brings me to the central point of this post: Leadership! I have said it many times ... the only test for leadership is to lead and to lead vigorously! But in order to lead you have to have some idea of where you want to go. You don't want to lead people, for example, off a cliff onto the sharp rocks below. In order to lead vigorously you have to explain where it is that you want to go, why you want to get there, how you intend to get there, and what everyone is going to have to do in order to get to that "shining city on the hill". Once you do that you will find that if your ideas are clear and logical people will happily follow, even if it entails some immediate sacrifice on their part. But, if you don't explain yourself properly and just in effect say 'well, this is what I am going to do and I expect all of you to be quiet and just fall in line' , then you will sooner or later get a lot of grumbling that will eventually spill over into serious protest that is neither welcome nor healthy for any democratic society.

The truth is that people only resort to protesting when they feel that their leaders are not listening and/or don't really care about the problems that are being encountered by the protestors in their day to day lives.If people feel that their leaders care and are doing the best that they can in all of the circumstances they will "take the pressure". But it is so very important that the people can see the light at the end of the tunnel and understand why it is necessary to "go through the tunnel" all the way until the end.

The present Finance Minister is regarded by many as having failed in his stewardship of the economy over the last 16 months that he has been in office. To those who would disagree I say look at the fact that the TT dollar has slipped from $6.30 to US$1.00 down to about $6.47 to US$1.00 in the last 16 months ... and it continues to fall. The Central Bank has said that the reason for the slippage is the high demand for US dollars. Why would anyone want to convert his TT dollars into US dollars at this time in history when the pressure on the American economy is terrible, the immediate prospects for teh American economy are anything but good, and interest rates in American banks on deposits hover at around half of one percent? There is only one answer that makes sense: people with money have more confidence in the American economy than they do in the Trinidad one! Then you have only got to listen to almost every businessman complaining that "things are slow". Yes! Things are slow! Unemployment is rising slowly and people are finding it harder to make ends meet. Maybe things might have been worse if you, Mr. Minister, had not done certain things. But is it too much to ask you to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the economy, Clico and everything else?! Because let me tell you something: It is not too much to demand from you that you tell us what has been going on and what you intend to do in clear and unequivocal terms. You didn't do that last year!

And therein lies the case for leadership. The Minister should understand that he has precious little time left to lead us out of the stagnation that we have found ourselves in. I do understand that a lot of the problems that the Minister is grappling with are not of his making. But that ain't the point! The point is that we voted for you to solve these problems for us. Speaking for myself only, I really do hope that the Minister does not spend an inordinate time on Monday telling us all about the problems. Hello! We know what they are. What we want to know is how you are going to fix them and why you believe that the solutions that you are presenting will work. We also want to know what are your benchmarks for success.

If you do that Mr. Minister, everyone (including me) will praise you and call you a hero. If you don't do that, then quite frankly, and as nice as you are, the Prime Minister should fire you, for you clearly cannot lead. And leadership is what we so desperately need right now!

1 comment:

  1. I dont know if you are related to Gerard Montano,and if you do depending where you spent your childhood days you will understand the divide.
    Since political independanceI wish to ask the following question.
    Answer, the famous saying was "Masa day done" and we are now independant.
    Not economically independant but politically, with the English still in control of the purse strings by whosoever was left behind to control and report.
    I now 70 yrs of age born in Vistabella and we supported Gerard Montano.
    I am backward and forward periodically, and what did I notice, the new masa is now the sons and daughters of the indentured labourers and the Africans with the European decendants beating both sides of the drum.
    We have so many experts with so many degrees and I fully understand the impact of climate change on this island.
    However we must import foreign engineers when a major progect is agreed by the government or otherwise.
    What have we achieved with the vast revenue since MASA DAY DONE.