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Radicalising chance for change: how Sammy’s example can help T&T economy

Among the many points to be distilled from the West Indies’ Twenty20 victories is that the solution to any Caribbean problem often lies beyond the boundary of the problem as usually defined.

Photo: West Indies' captain Darren Sammy poses with the World T20 cricket tournament trophy one day after West Indies won the event in the Indian city of Kolkata on 4 April 2016. (Copyright AFP 2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)
Photo: West Indies’ captain Darren Sammy poses with the World T20 cricket tournament trophy one day after West Indies won the event in the Indian city of Kolkata on 4 April 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

This is as true of our cricket as it is of our economy, politics or, indeed, any other aspect of our life.

The problems that manifest in each have their source in the wider condition of history which has shaped the structure and defined the culture of Caribbean society.

History is what gives our triumphs that epic quality because to win, we have to first defeat history.

Darren Sammy knew this when, with the deftness of a seasoned captain setting his field, he laid the trap for the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)—the last defiant expression of privileged colonial power, whose archaic and oppressive management has fuelled player dissatisfaction, promoted regional division and sunk West Indian morale.

Having engaged the WICB power system long enough, Captain Sammy has clearly concluded that this is not a system to be negotiated with.

Overthrow or be overthrown.

Photo: West Indies T20 captain Darren Sammy makes a point.
Photo: West Indies T20 captain Darren Sammy makes a point.

This is the story of the Caribbean and its undercurrent of revolution which surfaces from time to time in the most unexpected ways. It can be drawn in a straight line from the mightily improbable victory of the Haitian Revolution against Napoleon’s finest to the ancestral triumphs against the odds that have brought us to this day.

Throughout the Caribbean, this is the spirit to be summoned as we confront the mighty battles of our own time. This is why the economic challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago and fellow Caricom countries demand solutions beyond the boundary of economics.

In T&T, the economic problem is not merely a problem of foreign exchange shortage but the value system installed by history on which the structural base of the economy and society rests.

On Friday, as we in this corner of the West Indies faced up to the economic challenge of depressed oil and gas prices, the Minister of Finance urged us to cut our cloth to suit our measure in defending his strategies for bringing national spending more in line with reduced national income.

Minister Imbert is not alone in this response to the recession. All over the country, businesses are reducing expenditure either in response to or in anticipation of reduced income.

Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert. (Courtesy Ministry of Finance)
Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
(Courtesy Ministry of Finance)

New hires are on halt as staff vacancies go unfilled, work extending into over-time is being shelved, investment in research and development—where such exists—is being cut to the bone. From the public to the private sector, the rhythm of our time is tax, tax, tax; cut, cut, cut.

Faced with recession, the entire country is going into retreat, one sector impacting on the other, one person on another.

With our hands in the lion’s mouth of recession, we have no choice but to admit that, having failed to do so, it is now too late to diversify the economic base to save ourselves this time around.

But, taking a cue from our cricketers, what if, instead of cutting our cloth to suit our measure, we were to cut our cloth to suit our imagination? We shouldn’t have to wait for all else to fail before we consider ways of coercing the collective imagination.

As the West Indies cricketers have also demonstrated, the road to rock bottom can be cruel, debilitating and relentless. Sunday’s victories were showers of rain along that hard, dry road.

Photo: West Indies' Carlos Brathwaite (right) and teammate Marlon Samuels celebrate after victory in the World T20 cricket tournament final match between England and West Indies at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016. (Copyright AFP 2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)
Photo: West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite (right) and teammate Marlon Samuels celebrate after victory in the World T20 cricket tournament final match between England and West Indies at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

Somehow, after their long season of despair, the players managed to find the combination of resources and strategy to break free of the albatross hung around their necks by the WICB. But the taste of victory could be short-lived if it is not carried all the way to transforming the management of cricket.

In the same vein, Minister Imbert’s budget revision amounts to a technician’s take on balancing our needs and wants, and income and expenditure.

In cricketing terms, cutting back and taxing forward is the economic equivalent of Carlos Brathwaite choosing to block the last over to save his wicket in a lost match. Good enough, but not to win.

While the debate will continue over this or that fiscal measure, even Minister Imbert would know that his efforts amount to stabilising the patient without inducing the lifestyle change required for getting the patient on her feet and keeping her there.

Persuasion to change is the work of leadership, the kind that rewarded Darren Sammy with his team’s trust when it mattered most. While the government has its leaders so, too, do the rest of us, in one capacity or another.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans react to action during their team's goalless draw with the United States yesterday in 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago football fans react to action during their team’s goalless draw with the United States yesterday in 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

While keeping an eye on the economic scoreboard, we all have to strategise on ways to shift the dynamics, open up the field, change the rules and carry the outcome to a whole different level.

It is a risky business but, as proven from time to time, achievable with intelligence, commitment and united purpose.

In cricket, as in economics and politics, convention is a set of behaviour designed to keep us in our place. This is why we, above all, have to be wary of orthodoxy and more willing to engage the radical approaches that will surely test our capacity for political persuasion.

Just consider the prospects for change if Sammy had done as some have suggested and been gracious to the WICB in victory.

By eschewing convention he radicalised the moment and created an opportunity. As always, what happens next will depend on us.

Photo: West Indies cricket players (from left) Chris Gayle, Dwayne Brave, Darren Sammy and Andre Russell celebrate after their 2016 World Twenty20 Championship final win over England. (Copyright ESPN)
Photo: West Indies cricket players (from left) Chris Gayle, Dwayne Brave, Darren Sammy and Andre Russell celebrate after their 2016 World Twenty20 Championship final win over England.
(Copyright ESPN)

About Sunity Maharaj

Sunity Maharaj
Sunity Maharaj is a journalist with 38 years of experience and the managing director of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies. She is a former Trinidad Express editor in chief and TV6 head of news.

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9 comments

  1. I don’t think the metaphor really applies. If so it’s rather shaky. Essentially it highlights the past failure to transform the economy then says “now transform the economy instead of just stabilizing it”. Nobody ever asks WHY we haven’t diversified. We all just blame politicians and complain about it. Come better than that. I guarantee we won’t like the answers but until we ask those questions, pointless complaining will get us nowhere.

  2. The Jamaican Cricket Board in particular, supported Dave Cameron for re-election despite knowing his arrogance and failures. Other Cricket Boards supported him, and though this man should have been unceremoniously thrown out of cricket admin, he was re-elected.

    This is a culture of our society. We support persons despite knowing that they will ‘kick us’ but that is ‘we people’. This tribal culture has led us to where we are today. Instead of praising the good and condemning the wrong, we praise everything, turning blind eyes to so much. We use the excuse that this tribe is not as bad as the other one across the fence, and leaders play upon this condition for their own cover and benefit.

    Like it or not, UNC supporters are more condemning of their leaders’ shortfalls that PNM supporters to theirs. Figures will show that the PNM gets a more or less ‘fixed’ number of votes at General elections. When opposition is divided or UNC people stay away as a matter of protest against their leadership, the PNM wins.

    This is because, generally, UNC supporter will not support a leader they are not pleased with, and cannot fathom voting for the PNM. Obviously, there are exceptions.

    Some will say that it is infighting, but it is a way of holding the leadership accountable. UNC internal elections are known for being ‘bloodier’ than the PNM’s, not because of a power lust, but members voice their displeasures. It has not worked perfectly, but has been shown to be quite convincing. On the other hand, the culture of the PNM is to keep everything on a ‘hush hush’ and regardless of misgivings, you vote for your Party; you do not ‘air your dirty laundry’ for all to see.

    Therefore, when the PNM wins, it is actually with the uncanny assistance of the UNC supporters, by way of not voting due to them not supporting their leaders. The PNM saw an increase in voting numbers in 2015 due to persons who were UNC (mainly) who turned to COP, who were displeased with the PP.

    KBP failed as PM and is failing as Opposition Leader, as her seeming battle with depression is getting the better of her and is causing the party and country be robbed of a strong Opposition voice. nonetheless, the PNM should take note that a second term is not guaranteed, as in T&T, the trend is just one term per Party.

  3. ..an article of epic meaning..you need to finish it Sunity..!

  4. Very good read!!! Refreshing yes Lasana Liburd cheers to life!! Everbody know Sunity a champion!!!