“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

The day after the Trinidad and Tobago general election, which was on Monday, September 7, two colleagues said to me, quite independently, that they observed a different atmosphere in the country as they went about their business. I synthesized their sentiments in three ways: a breath of fresh air, a new found wave of freedom, and a motivation to surge forward into the unknown in search of growth and sustainability.

I immediately empathized with them and recalled the statesmanlike victory speech of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, the night before. Later in the week I heard him speak, via electronic media, at his swearing-in ceremony as PM and at the swearing-in ceremony of the full cabinet. Each speech was more sentimental than the one before and they all conveyed sincere messages full of humility and pregnant with visions of freedom and hope. The future of Trinidad and Tobago is now in the hands of a younger generation cabinet with a balance of mature leadership from a sprinkling of experienced individuals. May they bear an offspring of ideas and innovations which will propel Trinidad and Tobago on the road to sustainable development.

The leaders of each country in the world should have a vision of sustainable development for their country. Sustainable development encompasses spiritual, cultural, environmental, social and economic sustainability and is defined by the Brundtland Commission (2007) as “Development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Each country in the world is blessed with physical (buildings, machinery, equipment and computers), natural (land, water, energy, minerals and ecosystems) and financial (money) capital. Additionally, its people inherently possess spiritual (soul), human (brawn), intellectual (brain), social (relationships) and cultural (artistic) capital.

The distribution of the quality and quantity of the mix of these capital resources varies from country to country and from person to person. The challenge for each country is to take action to mobilize all resources efficiently and effectively towards achieving sustainable development and ultimately happiness for all concerned. When there is sustainable development the nation wins. When the nation wins, we all win!

There was an interesting editorial in the online publication Barbados Today on Tuesday, September 1 entitled “Growing Pains of Labour”.

An excerpt from it is as follows: “When trade unions were established in the Caribbean 70 years ago, each country was basically an agricultural economy where manual labour was dominant. This made it easy for unions to organize workers because a collective approach offered the best hope for effectively negotiating with employers to secure better pay and working conditions. The Caribbean region and the wider world have fundamentally changed since those early days. Now the global economy is knowledge-based and relies more on intellect rather than manual labour for its success.”

The editorial continued: “At the same time, there has been a fundamental shift in values, where people today are more individualistic and more inclined to pursue their interests singlehandedly, instead of a collective approach offered by the trade union movement. Not surprisingly, trade union membership has been on the decline…To what extent the trade union movement has reflected on these issues is unclear…the trade union movement needs to come up with a strategy to deal effectively with these realities of the modern environment.”

As we move forward in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean, the focus is on the youth and the knowledge-based economy. The roles of Government, the private sector and the trade unions must change to reflect the changing environment.

Many individuals, when ready for the world of work, seek the relative security of employment in successful public institutions or profitable private businesses. Many of these individuals join trade unions. What innovative services do the unions offer these new employees in return for their membership dues?

My own vision for the roles of the major social partners has been stated ad nauseum but I shall state it again. I live in hope that the signal will be strong enough to be picked up “in time to come”.

In my view, the role of government is to provide regulatory (set policy and make laws) and service (spend money against an approved budget) functions. The role of the private sector is to “Do Business” (spawn businesses with the “DNA of an elephant” and facilitate their sustainability), and the role of the trade union is to induce harmony between the employers and employees to increase productivity for fair compensation.

As the above referenced editorial states, a more individual approach is being taken rather than a collective approach which implies that the trade union movement needs to change its strategy if they are to reverse the trend of loss in union membership. Trade unions therefore need to do a strategic review, revisit their mission statements – in light of a changing environment – and shift gears to become productive and increase their members’ return on investment. Such a strategy, if successfully implemented, would redound to the benefit of the nation.

May the social partners unite under the leadership of the new Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. May a new spirit develop in the twin island nation and may this youthful energy expand across the Caribbean and take this region to greater heights than we could have ever imagined.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at and

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