In a welcome, though belatedly so, development, Prime Minister
Patrick Manning has now begun to explain the increasing role
of foreign firms in his Governments projects and programmes.
According to the PM in order for T&T to achieve developed
country status in 2020 it needs to maintain and even
quicken the pace of what, in effect, is construction-intensive
activity throughout the country. This explanation begs a number
of questions that I will begin to address in this column.
What is a
The first and key question that requires an answer is what
is a developed country?
This question itself needs to be broken up into two parts;
what is development and what is a country?
The economic literature on sustainable development, for example,
distinguishes between development, defined as
qualitative improvement, and growth, defined as
One suspects Mr Manning really is talking about economic growth
and confusing this with development.
The equally important question is what is a country? Is it
simply a geographic space such as an island or does it require
that its population cohere around certain defined principles
and values arrived at through national dialogue?
The point that is being emphasised is how can we aspire to
something (developed country status) without being clear what
What is undeveloped or under-developed
about T&T in any case? Does this apply to every sphere?
Personally, I consider T&T to be a blessed society in
terms of both social relations and the natural environment.
Unfortunately, there is a major reversal taking place on these
two counts as a result of evil forces roaming the land.
The development I would like to see in T&T is a reversion
to the level of social peace and cohesion and environmental
quality we had 35 years ago.
How can foreigners
develop ones country?
Mr Mannings syllogistic logic is as follows: T&T
needs to become a developed country. Its construction industry
and, by inference its business sector is not up to developed
country quality. Ergo we will import foreign companies to
give us a developed country.
This logic, if correctly interpreted, misses the central process
through which one changes the developmental status of a country:
which is by its own people acquiring competencies and capabilities.
China and India are excellent examples of the process of indigenous
Who ultimately decides
on what is a developed country and how?
The third question that follows is why is my view and vision
and that of everyone else in the society not informing the
so-called Vision 2020 that was pulled together
by teams of experts.
I myself refused the invitation, half-baked as it was, to
be a member of one of its working groups. The reason was simple.
No small group of people, no matter how bright,
educated, experienced or rich, can come up with
a vision for a society.
What Mr Arthur Lok Jacks committee needed to do was
to initiate a national debate on the visions (note visions,
not vision) for the society. Those who research on the future
have long come to the conclusion, for example, that there
can be no one projection of the future. Rather, using something
called foresighting scenarios of what the future
could look like are identified.
The implications of each scenario is then teased out
by technical work.
The Governments Vision 2020 put the cart before the
horse: beginning as it did with technical work. Very few people
participated in formulating the vision and the overwhelming
majority have no idea of its details. Hence there is no purchase
or buy-in by the population.
Instead, what we have is a continuation of the long discredited
top-down approach to national decision-making:
this with a vengeance in that, on the evidence, all of the
construction activities seem to reflect the developed
country image that one person has in his mind.
Mr Manning has correctly observed that those in leadership
need to be strong and not moved by every fad or fashion. It
is one thing to accept this and another to swallow blindly
a vision that is itself not clear, on which there has not
been a national conversation and that, on the evidence, confuses
tall buildings with real development.
More on this next week.