BitDepth 814 - December 27

Where is Trinidad and Tobago going? How will our people take us there and what is the most effective plan to manage that? Some hopeful answers to the most important questions that aren't being asked.
Tomorrow’s Trinis
There remains something unique about our Carnival that is still to take root with a new generation. A masquerader from the B.O.S.S. at Carnival 2011. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

Any plan to develop this country over the next half-century will have to consider several converging factors.
We cannot assume that our oil and gas reserves will continue to provide the kind of economic cushion that has made us lazy about research and development while contentedly coddling too many capable workers with make-work programmes that destroy their capacity to contribute to the economy.

When Government employment is reduced to sliver-thin computations of when you sign in and when you lock off for the day, there’s no choice but to acknowledge that we’ve lost our place in the economic script and it’s time to stop ad libbing and rethink the process.

A clever reader emailed me to note that Trinidad and Tobago’s embrace of the bounty of oil had much in common with the 60’s sitcom, The Beverly Hillbillies. In that show, a poor family discovers oil on their land and in short order find themselves rich and living in a palatial home
The humour of the show was to be found in the conflict between the simple values of the Clampett family and the savvy scheming that they had to deal with on each week's episode. Charmingly, the Clampetts kept prevailing each week with the kind of down-home, ornery commonsense that the city slickers just couldn’t contend with.

Unfortunately, that sort of thing only actually happens in televised fiction. In comparison with Ecuador and Brazil, where oil exploitation proceeded with a capital E, this country got off easy thanks to the local engineers who learned to manage the oil business from multinationals.
The oil and gas business will become more volatile over the next 20 years, as nations push to find and exploit their own resources, technologies rework abandoned or low producing assets and new technologies begin slowly replacing the low hanging fruit of petroleum consumption.

Over the next 50 years, we will have to leapfrog where we are now and where the markets are likely to be in the next ten years while striving to anticipate the warp and woof of the world in 2020.
Here’s the cool thing though. There’s enough of a buffer in our GDP that we can actually decide who we want to be by then, and put out efforts into crafting the profile of this country as a player in the global economy.

But make no mistake, we have to work toward something and not just wait for more bounty to fall from the skies or burst up out of the ground.
This is when I tend to stop and wonder what kind of country we might have become if we didn’t have all that petro money spattered all over our national vision.

What might we have done when Hollywood thought that making films in Trinidad and Tobago was a good idea? When calypso was so big that Danny Kaye sang a kaiso duet with Harry Belafonte live on CBS television?
When vacationing in the Caribbean didn’t automatically mean Jamaica or Barbados and when design genius was the default in Carnival costuming, from the smallest pan side to the huge bands of Bailey and Saldenah?

Wishing for such things is simply useless. The revolution in mas design that should have followed Minshall’s work at the Olympics didn’t happen. Superblue didn’t become the next Bob Marley. Neither did David Rudder. And don’t get me started about cricket.
The ready bounty rising out of the ground has stifled our creative blessings and to tap into those gifts again we need revolutionary, not evolutionary thinking.

We need to be better than we have ever been, faster than ever before. Key to that future will be a collective effort at returning our creative potential to prominence.
To do that, we must, as a first step, grow Carnival beyond its legacy and today’s easy design solutions to seed the potential we’ve been taking for granted for decades. 

A Carnival that acknowledges its competition and the demands of local and global audiences must then be promoted globally, its music, visuals and creative armies mined for export potential.
That process must be governed by a cycle of learning, adaptation and professional endorsement and support of successful initiatives.

Where we go next should be limited by where we haven’t been, but we should be thinking very clearly about who we are, what we’re good at and why decisive success in so many fields that we either invented or once dominated remain temptingly, irritatingly just out of reach.

BitDepth#813, Teachers First
BitDepth#812, Remember when?
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