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Dr Farrell: Why I quit EDAB; Gov’t was too slow and not using enough of our ideas

“There remains a large volume of work which is incomplete for lack of resources and I am acutely aware that several persons remain disappointed with the lack of progress on their ideas and proposals.

“[…] My own expectations of high-level engagement followed by swift implementation on these and other policy issues have not been realised.”

The following is an explanation offered by Dr Terrence Farrell, the now former chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB),  for his resignation, which was accepted by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley:

Photo: Economist, author and attorney-at-law Terrence Farrell.
(Copyright RC Social Justice TT)

I speak for myself and not for other members of the EDAB, who are all independent professionals and can therefore speak in their own right.

I have resigned because I am not satisfied with the progress that the EDAB has made under my stewardship since its inception two years ago. That assessment is personal. I try to set high standards for my own performance and I do not think I have been able, as chairman, to attain those standards.

In my view, the macro-economic, developmental and diversification challenges facing this country are serious and require urgent, concerted action based on sensible plans which have the highest priority and should be implemented with focus and resolve. I had indicated in a newspaper interview when I took up the responsibilities at the EDAB that I did not expect that all its recommendations would become policy and be implemented but that—by my own standards—a reasonably high percentage should be. I have not been able to achieve that.

It is not that the EDAB has done nothing. It has submitted the following to the Government:

  1. In accordance with our primary mandate in our Terms of Reference, a Draft Diversification Strategy and Roadmap was submitted for consideration in March 2017.
  2. The following Advisory Notes were submitted: (i) Responding to the Declining Revenue Scenario (December 2015); (ii) Tripartite Discussions on Adjustment (February 2016); (iii) Accelerated Deepening of Relations between Trinidad and Tobago and Cuba (March 2016); (iiii) Establishing a Heritage Fund (May 2016); (v) Preliminary Proposals for the Pursuit of Mutually Beneficial Opportunities between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela (May 2016); (vi) Revisiting Current Macroeconomic Policy Management (July 2016); (vii) Engaging the Trinidad and Tobago and West Indian Diaspora (October 2016).
  3. Advisory papers on: (viii) Encouraging Business Process Outsourcing and Global ICT-enabled services; (ix) Support for International Fine Cocoa Research Centre.
  4. Redraft of the National Innovation Policy (November 2016); this was eventually approved by Cabinet in September 2017. This policy document was supported by the IDB-sponsored Technology Foresighting consultancy managed by the EDAB and led to the EU and IDB-sponsored Innovation Conference with The UWI in June 2017.
  5. Assessment of Alutech industry initiative.
  6. Proposal on Steelpan Manufacturing Industry for Export.
  7. In addition, the EDAB has worked extensively on policy areas related to: (x) Vision 2030; (xi) Port Siting and Relocation Study; (xii) Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency; (xiii) Waste Management; (xiv) Strategic Plan for the Agriculture Sector.
Photo: Farmers on the Vision on a Mission programme.
(Copyright TT.UNDP.org)

The record of most of these activities is available on the EDAB website (www.edab.org.tt).

These submissions notwithstanding, there remains a large volume of work which is incomplete for lack of resources and I am acutely aware that several persons remain disappointed with the lack of progress on their ideas and proposals.

Parenthetically, I. together with three other members of the Advisory Board and other independent professionals, was appointed to a Committee to Review Wholly-Owned State Enterprises. That work, which covered 44 enterprises as well as TSTT, was completed in six months and the report submitted in July 2016.

My own expectations of high-level engagement followed by swift implementation on these and other policy issues have not been realised. Working within the public service environment requires an acceptance of a certain pace of work and a degree of patience with which I am clearly not blessed. Others, better endowed with these qualities, may succeed where I, by my own standards, have not.

I thank the Government for giving me the opportunity to be of service which I—and all other members—gave in the spirit of volunteerism and wholly without compensation of any kind. Mrs Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development, was always accessible and whenever her pressing duties made it possible, gave her time and personal support to our work. Mrs Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry, has also been supportive of our work.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (right) and his wife Sharon during 2017 Independence Day celebrations.
(Copyright Office of the Prime Minister)

I would also like to thank (i) my fellow members of the Advisory Board for their tremendous support and advice; (ii) the staff of the Secretariat, especially Dr Kieron Swift and Dr Keron Niles, who stepped up in the absence since April 2016 of an Executive Director; (iii) Mr Tomas Bermudez and the staff of the IDB in Port of Spain and Washington, who gave consistent outstanding support to our work; (iv) the UNDP, the EU Delegation, and the ambassadors and staff of the embassies of China and Japan for their support and encouragement; (v) the business community, especially Ronald Hinds and Gabriel Faria of the T&T Chamber of Commerce, and Nirad Tewarie of AMCHAM, as well as a host of academics, professionals and business leaders who gave me generously of the time, talent and counsel; (vi) CEOs of various government agencies, and (vii) Professors Brian Copeland, John Agard, Clem Imbert and other staff of the UWI and UTT.

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  1. While some people seemed enamoured by Terrence Farrel, his bio outlined that he was previously responsible for implementing drastic cuts to social protection and other benefits for working people. He resigned as Chair of the EDAB because he wanted to repeat many of these measures and found Government was not as quickly as he would like. These 53 economists have come out in support of staving austerity cuts, increasing social protection benefits, and ensuring the most vulnerable and communities in developing countries are protected.

    53 Economists write to IMF on its approach to Social Protection

    “We are particularly concerned by IMF advice on social security reforms, led by a fiscal objective, combined with labor reforms that weaken wages and collective bargaining, these reforms have a high human cost and will result in more poverty and inequality.

    These reforms and austerity adjustments also depress household income, contract domestic demand and are slowing down global recovery.

    Austerity cuts to multiple social protection programs are reducing social protection coverage and benefits. Old-age poverty is increasing in many countries as a result of inadequate pension reforms. …

    Universal social protection, normally achieved by a combination of public social insurance and social assistance, is supported by all main development organizations due to its positive developmental impacts. Child and maternity benefits increase productivity and help to incorporate women into the labor market; disability and old-age pensions support household income; unemployment support assists those without jobs and has a counter-cyclical function during economic downturns. Adequate social protection benefit levels reduce poverty and inequality, promote human development, social cohesion and political stability.

    The IMF does not have expertise on social protection. Advice to countries on social security reforms should be left to the ILO, the UN agency with the mandate for social protection and labor. Other UN organizations can support to extend of coverage, in the context of SDG 1.3.Additionally, representative trade unions must be consulted and strengthened, not weakened, to ensure collective bargaining processes that ultimately will bring prosperity to countries and reduce inequality.”
    http://www.networkideas.org/news-analysis/2017/12/53-economists-write-to-imf-directors-on-approach-to-social-protection/

  2. Hannibal Najjar

    When Terry quits there is something wrong and almost always, it is not with him.

    • I remember when a reporter asked Mouttet why he continues to expand international brands and not indigenous ones, he said his focus is on international ones. Who cares there are few local branded products with an international reputation and can yield high-value internationally? Not necessary when you’re already getting super rich from KFC, TGIF, etc. The confidence that they can behave differently is undoubtedly misplaced.

    • Excellent. As ifwe needed proof.

      Improve the economy by spending more forex, buying cheap garbage foreign brands, not suppirt the growth and evolution of local brands and markets, But he is in charge of reviving the economy.

      The govt serious about what?
      Lol.

      I got a list of projects, literally.
      From micro household to global. I will.present, give or spearhead. But my price is $20million.

      Homebased Community Food Security
      Twenty Six Or More ICT Apps
      And a Mobile based Global ICT Financial Conglomerate that is a mere pilot model in Trinidad, to apply and licensure all over the world, starting out At The Bottom of The Pyramid.

      The latter generating, literally, Billions of Dollars in ForEx.

      The middle project of Apps, generating in country and forex activity and earnings in small billions. One of my premise made $2billion TT last year alone.

    • Maven Huggins i love your ideas and innovation as they seem to be for the benefit of the wider population and sustainable. The other side of the coin is any gov’t inititive which is usually profit / debt driven to the benefit of the 1%.

    • Thanks Spencer.
      Thank you very much: I KNOW
      That is why the NO govt not serious about anything. You lay it out simple. “To Benefit the One Percent” . everything else is just mamaguy.

  3. It will suit some people to lean on the side of Dr. Farrell for obvious reasons. But even if he was hired by the government to help guide them through the tough economic situation, it doesn’t mean that the government team is a group of dumb asses, that they should just closed their eyes and take every advise from him as “gospel”.
    Yes there’ll be some areas that they’d agree to and other areas they may feel discomfort with.
    At the end of the day, Farrell doesn’t have anything to lose or is in the same position as the government to account to the public.
    What if there were measures they weren’t 100% comfortable with, that could cost them some really difficult times ahead with the public, a public that is difficult to understand that adjustments have to be made?
    Every economist out there believes their “economic vision” is “best” and that they have “a better idea” than the minister of finance as to how the country should be run and if any one of them was to occupy the top seat in the Ministry of Finance, not all economists will agree with their strategies or policies either. So it never ends.
    Rodney Charles saw an opportunity to “piggyback” on the issue and the media (once again) gave him a platform to make foolish speculations as to “why” Dr. Farrell resigned. Obviously, the economist never had any discussion with him on the issue, then why make speculations?
    So predictable they are. It’s too easy.

  4. “Working within the public service environment requires an acceptance of a certain pace of work and a degree of patience with which I am clearly not blessed.” Many of us are not blessed with that kind of patience

  5. The economists want the govt to introduce more austere measures…the Gov’t can’t take all their advice because the social impact will be too much…it’s how it is

  6. Im not surprised, The entire country is at a standstill, it appears that the whole decision apparatus collapsed or stopped functioning.

  7. Lasana Liburd my point here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=558598921159294&id=154758538210003. He wanted government to make more drastic cuts. Drastic fiscal austerity does not really affect the rich. It affects people going to public hospitals, benefiting from free meals at schools or medicines – all of whom are lower income.

  8. I’ve read it (as I posted the statement). I admire his professionalism and commitment. That does not negate the fact that we disagree fundamentally on approach, on ideology and that he is anti-working class.

    • Yes. I tried to comment on your post to say I would type it out so people could read it better–both on and off Facebook.

    • Ohhh okay lol… Cool. It’s a class war out here mate. All of his professional career he has stood on the side of big business and our elites. His biography actually boasts about the hand he had in the draconian measures in the late 1980s that led to thousands unemployed, weakening unions, drastic cuts to health, education and public services. While I can express admiration for his professional work, what he is working on is seriously misguided and problematic.

      • I actually think we need austerity measures. We need to pull back from the absurd level of spending that we have accomplished. The US can borrow its way out of a recession because they have an unlimited line of credit while we do not. Austerity does not recover an economy, you need other factors in place to do so. What it does do is to prevent default, a junk rating on your bonds, passing the buck onto the next generation and so on. Stopping the hemorrhaging along with sound economic policy for fueling growth is what actually works. Ireland and Spain are two countries that have used austerity along with sound economic planning to save their economies.

    • Keston K. Perry, I might not be so hard but I have a serious concern when u start agreeing with shortman. The fact is, for eg, the low income, even middle income, ppl cannot survive a devaluation right now.

    • Sorry, when *I* agree but can’t seem to edit.

    • I’m not agreeing with Colm at all, far from it.

  9. Keston K. Perry, what do you think having read this?

  10. Was his a failure as head to influence the direction needed?

  11. If only he had been an ultra bespoke master tailor, he would have gotten everything he wanted and more.

  12. Quit before scandalous corruption is exposed

  13. How yuh expek dis govament tuh use (implement) yuh ideas Dr. Farrell? As documented, did yuh ancestors come here from de ‘Valley of the Christians.’ in de early twentieth century, in an attempt to escape religious persecution and economic hardship in their native countries, or in de hold of ah ship like de one on which John Newton was ah crew member? Ketch yuhself dawg!

  14. I don’t see this as an indictment on the government. Farrell’s advisory role are mere recommendations as advisory with government free to accept or reject in the politics. But Farrell’s work and worth suffered by a previous government who chose politics over prudence to throw an upstart into handling of our economy at a time when we would have been planning preparing for the tough times given the money available then but now no longer available.

  15. Some may jump and wave as the Dr. Keith Rowley led PNM administration takes another “body blow” but this is a loss to TnT.

  16. No surprise. Dr Farell, your public comments on the GORTT and its handling of the economy suggested as much.

  17. No surprise. Dr Farrel’s public comments suggested as much.

  18. Lol my favourite part was when he said he didn’t have the patience to deal with the slow pace of the public service.

    • Lol. He is not so blessed. I hear that.

    • I must now visit the EDAB website to see how much detail is given to us. I’m curious to hear more of their plans for steelpan and agriculture.

    • Lasana Liburd me too… I didn’t realize they had a website until he directed me there lol

    • That statement reads wholly disingenuous. What Trinidadian excepting one from mars or Colorado don’t know the public service slow?

      This man on some play

    • Maven, maybe. But that is not my first guess. If the gov’t asked me to serve on some panel to offer guidance on sport or journalist or sport journalism (lol) and I agreed. I would have to be under the assumption that they have a serious interest and not just wasting my time.
      If I spend a year and a half and believe the majority of my ideas are being ignored or binned, I’d quit too. I think it is the honourable thing to do.

    • Lasana. Anybody. Including you, who, that, thinks and takes the assumption that the govt is serious about anything, has to be on something, or I am sorry, brain dead.

      There are too many consistent examples. In all spheres. I mean look how many in your area alone?!

      But I am writing. Your comment alerts me to something. Serious. Critical.. Is this what is called Stockholm syndrome?

      Where a person keeps believing in hope when all signs point to none; all past experiences prove that hope is a lie and pipe dream???

      It is a breakthrough for me. But I want someone to tell me what kind of brain does that. As an educator I need to know.

      Its why the whole population swings back and forth between one party failure to another, on a clock.

      I am flabbergasted. Its like grown folk who aren’t more than five year olds mentally. That’s the whole national culture that stands in the way of the other delusional set, like me, who thinks one day, revolution might come

    • Please don’t take my comments personally. As you see you are in sterling company. But I can give endless examples just from my fourteen years here.

      Huge examples of govt’s wasting peoples time. Regional and global entities time

      I was secretary to a project, iadb for land reform that the govt took a loan for knowing that the country wasn’t interested. The surveyor, and lawyer lobbies too much against it: too much money to lose.

      We have a word in the culture called mamaguy for — sake?

      Beyond our myriad syndromes, delusion and dissonance

      Smh. We are a classic case for a frantz fanon study maybe. But it shocks me. Cause I feel our national demise is far greater and complete than I could have ever imagined

      Bear with me. Forgive me.
      I really just trying to make sense of this. I am Alice in wonderundertrinidadland

    • Lasana Liburd I worked with slow public departments and they were also slowed down by the politicians changing their minds consistently. I left with a good impression of the Departments and knowing what their challenges were. It was the government who kept back everything in the final analysis and the public servants delivered. I also met really nice, cooperative public servants, a handful who also didn’t trust me initially.

      It’s complex but I had the most patience until the ministers themselves messed things up. There was an individual or two who were arrogant and proud whose main interest was to pass the blame. Other than that, the departments actually moved to improve one crucial aspect of their work and there was improvement even if it was slow. I think patience is always advised until you can do no more.

    • Linda Louison, I agree, there are aptly qualifies and dedicated public servants, but many of them are now retired and what we have now in many cases is not up to the standard of the past.
      That being said, we keep criticizing the public service, but I am sure you are aware of administrative inefficiencies-things like no paper, information not computerised. Take Licensing for instance. How many years that being computerised?
      And we as john public sit complacently and do not put our concerns in writing.
      We do have a couple of offices within the public service that function efficiently, but there must be someone inside championing the cause (as opposed to their own agenda).