THE EDITOR: On Sunday last the Heliconia Foundation for Young Professionals held its 5th Annual Christmas Charity Cocktail event. All proceeds go to the Heliconia Scholarship Trust Fund which provides grants for young university students from impoverished communities.
Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte was the feature speaker. He provided several pearls of wisdom from his successful career as a global banking executive.
One particularly important statement which I thought was critically important was “I am personally of the belief that a great opportunity to galvanise change and transform our culture will be lost if all that we get out of the Petrotrin debacle is three companies.”
Essentially Le Hunte is suggesting that in the tragedy of the difficult decision the Government had to take to close the Petrotrin refinery, there is a glimmer of hope. An opportunity to change the culture of TT that may have contributed to the issues at Petrotrin.
According to the minister, what brought Petrotrin to its current position was a deterioration of the organisation’s culture to the point where there was rampant inefficiency and a lack of accountability throughout its operations. The overall work ethic of the organisation had deteriorated to a level that prevented it continuing in its present form.
Unfortunately, those symptoms do not just relate to Petrotrin but to a number of organisations in both the private and public sectors. If we are to be honest with ourselves, although there are some fantastic people in the public sector, by and large many individuals no longer join the public service because they wish to contribute to national development. They see the public service and state-owned enterprises as an opportunity to work for shorter hours and get paid, to secure a permanent job while creating another source of income, and, in some cases, to not work at all while collecting a salary.
So what can we do to solve some of these issues with productivity in TT? According to Le Hunte, an organisation is only as good as the individuals of whom it is comprised. Therefore, when we ask ourselves what type of place we want TT to be, we are really asking ourselves what does a citizen of TT look like?
The minister suggests – and I emphatically agree – that, as citizens, the guide to how we should conduct ourselves can be found in the watchwords given to us by the father of our nation, Dr Eric Williams: discipline, production and tolerance.
These are the watchwords upon which our nation was built and they served us well, laying the groundwork for one of the most prosperous economies in the region. Unfortunately over the years we deviated from these principles.
If we are to reclaim our lost prestige, instead of pointing fingers and criticising those who are putting in the work, we need to focus on ourselves and the role we play as individuals in our place of work and communities. Instead of asking what we can and should do we often point out what somebody else should do.
For us to make a positive change in our environment, we must examine ourselves and start to embody the principles and values that will guide that change. The truth is change starts with each one of us. TT will only change for the better as we the citizens change for the better.
OSEI BENN, D’Abadie