Home / View Point / Guest Columns / Demming: Rowley must communicate vision to T&T and show he is ready to lead

Demming: Rowley must communicate vision to T&T and show he is ready to lead

I believe many people want a leader who is able to form a human connection with them using both words and deeds. So my single wish for 2019 is a leader who communicates with us this way.

The last time I heard our leader speak was at the PNM Convention in Tobago and I got a sense that it was a checkbox item for him to place a tick next to and move on to the next item on his ‘to-do’ list.

Photo: Prime minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and his wife Sharon Rowley (centre) observe the Independence Day Parade on 31 August 2018.
(Copyright Ministry of National Security)

There are three reasons why I want our leader to communicate with us:

Firstly, the economic pundits predict that the economy is not going to be on an upswing anytime soon, so we need someone to rally the troops to convince us that we are ‘all in this together’. Our leader must help us understand that despite the massive layoffs, separations and firings over the past few years, there is a plan to collaborate to make things better.

A leader who is good at communicating will convince us that his five years spent as Leader of the Opposition prepared him to lead us out of this predictable economic decline. He theoretically should have been intimately involved in analysing every budget presentation since 2010, so he should be fully aware of the state of the economy.

The second reason why I want our leader to communicate openly and honestly is that I am seeking reassurance that he is not simply acting in the interest of the ‘haves’ in our society but that project formulation and implementation is being activated with a view towards long term sustainability.

For example, I want to hear that the Beverage Container Bill has been completed and there will be a systemic approach to ensuring that single use plastics are separated at home and ready for curbside collection and recycling or disposal.

My third reason for wanting our leader to communicate effectively is that I believed him during the run-up to the 2015 election when he said that transportation is a quality-of-life issue and he encouraged me to imagine what life would be like when the commute from the east would be less than an hour.

Photo: Vehicular traffic heading into Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Nation News)

I want him to explain why nothing has been done to ease this burden. Maybe he should have consulted the Inter-American Development Bank before selling me that dream about a solution to the transportation problem.

Singapore, our starting-gate brother on the other side of the world, knows that without mineral resources, the only source of wealth is the people. And they have motivated, inspired and coerced their citizens to follow a dream which today positions them amongst the richest, most successful countries in the world.

Their leader had—and continues to have—a vision of the future which was sold to its citizens. If we have a vision, then it needs to be communicated to us clearly.

In the words of American philosopher, James Hume: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

In Trinidad and Tobago, we have a leader installed but there is an absence of leadership. Had we been blessed with true leadership, we would have been inspired, persuaded and influenced to operate at our highest potential and maybe become the Singapore of the Caribbean.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming grew up in East Dry River, Port of Spain and has more than 30 years experience as a Communication Strategist, Political Commentator and Event Planner. She has 15 years experience lecturing Business Communications at UWI and is the co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain. Dennise holds an MBA, a B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and a certificate Mass Communications from UWI.

Check Also

Daly Bread: Delusions of dispelling dejection through fete and sporting feats

The prominent sold out fetes this June provided precursor vibes of the 2023 Carnival season …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. Inskip Julien, begged Eric Williams to be a benevolent dictator. Williams declined.

  2. the problem is TT had mineral wealth and it was a shortcut to govt income so it in itself caused corruption and inefficiency unlike Singapore

    there was no need to be best

    all we had to do was give europe and usa control of our resources and we would get a stipend
    in other words Sir Arthur Lewis idea was used here to a bad end

    he didnt get the Nobel prize for nothing

    it was a back door for neocolonialism

    the Gulf Arabs instead did their own work and had enough income for their similarly small population to rebuild their society

  3. Somebody living in la la land. That’s like trying to convince Trump not to build a wall. Lol.

  4. Ms Demming has an opening paragraph. an unsupported thesis, a data free opinion, something she heard or read, that nails the issue on the head, that she will meme, relate it to Trinidad and Tobago, show them that she on the inside, she has ideas, she is not irrelevant. Leave the details to be worked out, all that matters now, is, she is an analyst, an idea factory, why “they” can see her higher wisdom. She does not defend her ideas she gives birth to them. Look me. after all I am tallawah you know. Plus I know lots about tourism.

  5. Some months ago I wrote the following:

    “I am tired of all the whinging excuses made by those in authority… From Prime Minister to local government councillors, from CEOs to the lowest managers, everyone seems to be passing the buck. Administration after administration on the governmental level have heaped upon our heads, excuses upon excuses for failure to deliver. Take, for example, the abysmal and annually repeated flooding…

    This could have been fixed decades ago. But no administration wanted to be the heavy hand that smites discipline, that attempts to change the culture of apathy, “gimme gimme”, feting and carnival mentality, and just plain laziness.

    A simple comparison: another island/city-state achieved independence from the British Raj in a few years after Trinidad and Tobago. This state lies a mere 1° north of the equator – so it is similar in climate to Trinidad and Tobago. It is 1/7 the size of Trinidad and Tobago, lacking the natural resources that Trinidad and Tobago have in abundance.

    Within one generation, roughly 30 years, this state became a first world sovereign nation. Not only that, it is the only country in Asia and one of 11 worldwide with a ‘AAA’ rating. It is a global hub for education, entertainment, finance, healthcare, human capital, innovation, logistics, manufacturing, technology, tourism, trade, and transport. It ranks highly in numerous international rankings, and has been recognized as the most “technology-ready” nation (WEF), top International-meetings city (UIA), city with “best investment potential” (BERI), world’s smartest city, world’s safest country, third-most competitive country, third-largest foreign exchange market, third-largest financial centre, third-largest oil refining and trading centre, fifth-most innovative country, and the second-busiest container port, and the most expensive city to live in, since 2013.

    The place I describe is of course none other than Singapore.

    The difference is, of course, leadership with vision, determination, and the political will to get things done. Coupled with the enforcement of the law, the difference is clear. Trinidad and Tobago lag so far behind that one cannot even make a comparison.

    Perhaps in another 200 years…”

    Sadly, it was not published on this site but was published in the Trinidad Express 29 Oct 2018.

    The comparison is valid.

  6. lets just not waste any more time on Rowley…he just isnt Leadership material…farless alluh speaking bout vision n thing…that is far too gone with Rowley n this PNM Govt…pl get real….like alluh is real PNM supporters just still hoping for the best…what could he possibly do now…so late in his term …did nuttin n will do nuttin ….

  7. Herein lies our problem – Demming shares that, “Singapore, our starting-gate brother on the other side of the world, knows that without mineral resources, the only source of wealth is the people. And they have motivated, inspired and coerced their citizens to follow a dream which today positions them amongst the richest, most successful countries in the world.
    She goes further, “Their leader had—and continues to have—a vision of the future which was sold to its citizens. If we have a vision, then it needs to be communicated to us clearly.” The truth is, we are on the dark side of this leadership style. Such takes knowledge of the subject matters, an ability to successfully communicate the vision to all ears, and an earnest and every-ready ability and willingness to listen. These are the hallmarks of great leaders – they know their stuff, can communicate to all, and are confident enough to know that there is more to know. And the final sign of the ultimate leader is that s/he recruits and raises great leaders – they are unafraid to be flanked by the best and brightest – Dr. E.E. Williams was our best ever leader he was fearlessly courageous in this latter trait. Today’s leaders are cowards!

    • Hannibal Najjar Hi. Small multi etnic countries can’t afford democracy. Singapore forced people to live together. We don’t want them living by us.

    • Thank you for your private comment – what is the alternative if we cannot afford democracy? I have visited Singapore and believe from my relative short visit, the place shows very well and the people, not too disturbed by any such forced communal living.

    • Hannibal Najjar my view is some level of autocracy is required. Individual choice here is a real issue
      Lawlessness demands a firm hand.

    • Lennox Osbourne Thank you. I’ve been reading on the ‘Rule of Law’ in Singapore, and it would truly take a ‘benevolent dictator’ to bring us out of the problems that exist here. Consider just this note:
      “The Rule of Law in Singapore
      At the same time, the aim of the criminal trials should be the discovery of truth, not the frustration of justice. To this end, we have adapted our system, and have discarded rules or principles which do not lead to a reliable forensic process.
      Take jury trials. There are many paeans to trial by jury as a cornerstone of the common law system. But let us be frank. Juries are not selected for their experience in adjudication. The average member of the jury will not be able to handle many of
      the complex issues that emerge in litigation. More likely than not, he or she decides by intuition and emotion, rather than by logic and reason. When you have a heinous crime, or an unlikeable defendant, there is a risk of injustice. We consciously moved
      away from such a system. All our trials, criminal as well as civil, are presided over by professional judges. We think this makes for a more reliable fact finding process.
      Substantively, we are tough on crime and we make no apologies for it. Our laws on firearms and drug trafficking are tough, and intentionally so, despite consistent criticisms from some quarters. The laws are backed up by effective enforcement.
      At the same time, we have created socio-economic conditions which reduce the need to turn to crime. There is economic development at all levels of society. There are no isolated inner city slums with a culture of criminality. Unemployment rates
      are low, home ownership levels are high, and so are levels of education.
      The result of all this is a city of largely law-abiding people; a country of law and order. Children can take public transport on their own; women can travel alone almost anywhere, anytime. Our crime rates are much lower than other major cities in the world—for example, we had 16 homicides in 2011,4 or 0.3 cases per 100,000 population. This is all the more remarkable given that we have a smaller number of police officers per unit population (about 250 per 100,000 population)5 than many
      other cities. Living in an almost crime-free environment is something Singaporeans take for granted, when it is something enjoyed by few cities in the world. All this is a result of our approach to law and order.” https://law.nus.edu.sg/sjls/articles/SJLS-Dec-12-357.pdf

      And believe me, there is so much more – can you imagine trying to make Trinis could take a page from the Singaporean model, e.g. “Under the law, drinking is banned in all public places from 10.30pm to 7am. Retail shops are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am.”

    • We can’t even comply with a simple vehicle inspection requirement. The penalty should be seizure and fine. Interestingly in Singapore the longer you keep a vehicle the mire expensive it is hence the foreign used trade to dispose in Trinidad. Irony I huess

  8. It’s clear that we have no desire for/to change

  9. “”The first time I ran for mayor, people thought I was joking when I suggested raising taxes. They couldn’t believe a candidate proposing more tax, but at the local level it worked,” he explained. The city also introduced a “plus value tax” to pay for any public work done in an area. “So if you want a new road people pay for it locally,” he explained. “Your home will increase in value if there is a better road, so you are investing in the area.””

    Clear, logical, easy-to-understand expectations of his citizens, thoroughly communicated, with justifiable, mutually beneficial reasons for the request.

    How many of our politicians talk WITH their constituents instead of being condescending with them?

  10. Singapore, our starting-gate brother on the other side of the world, knows that without mineral resources, the only source of wealth is the people. And they have motivated, inspired and coerced their citizens to follow a dream which today positions them amongst the richest, most successful countries in the world.

    Their leader had—and continues to have—a vision of the future which was sold to its citizens. If we have a vision, then it needs to be communicated to us clearly.

  11. “His background helped him earn public trust. While 6% of people trust politicians, 60% trust professors, according to Mockus, who is a blend of the two. He started his career as a professor of mathematics and philosophy at the National University of Colombia before he was forced to step down after mooning a disruptive group of students in an auditorium.”

    See? The man understands his audience and he has data to prove it. (remember, an absence of data is simply an opinion).

  12. Crystal Ortiz, no disrespect, but I would prefer Ms Demming respond. You see its very easy to reference systems to make a case but ignore fundamental differences. Ignoring those differences may also show fundamental flaws in her theories about Dr Rowley’s leadership style. Please, have her respond…I want this debate.

  13. Anyway, back to this great book.

    “The roads were also a problem.
    Bad drivers who would flout the speed limits and the law in general were killing thousands every year. Dangerous driving, pushy behavior and selfish maneuvering all contributed. So Mockus did what we’d all do.
    He unleashed an army of mime artists onto the streets of Bogotá.”

    • “These mime artists—dressed in traditional black, their faces painted bright white—would highlight bad driving or rule-breaking, pointing their oversize white gloves at drivers and making horrified crying faces, or encouraging whole streets of people to boo them. They’d run behind people who were crossing a road illegally, mimicking their movements and ridiculing them.”

    • “The transit police were furious that rogue mimes were taking such liberties, just as you would be if your boss suddenly announced a series of mimes were taking over your job. But the transit police were known to have many members who were corrupt and bribable. So Mockus shut them down. Told them they were all losing their jobs. Now, this was obviously unfair on the law-abiding officers, so Mockus did the right thing and rehired 400 of them.

      But only if they retrained as mimes.”

    • “Elsewhere in Bogotá, other citizens had complained of rude, mean taxi drivers. Mockus told the people that if they found good, honest drivers, they should ring his office immediately and name them. He had hundreds of calls, and invited all the “good” taxi drivers to a meeting in which he named them all “Knights of the Zebra” and they discussed how to change the behavior of their rude colleagues.”

    • Crystal Ortiz The long and short is that Government leadership took charge to change cultural norms in innovative ways.

    • “Mockus fought against domestic violence. Championed community policing. Promoted civility. He dressed people up as monks and had them hang around near loud people to combat noise pollution. He noticed that the streets didn’t feel as safe when there were fewer women on them. So he launched a Night Without Men, where women were encouraged to hit the bars and restaurants and the men were encouraged to stay at home with the kids. A female police commander secured the streets with an all-female police force. Around 700,000 women—free of the threat of uncivil behavior from men—went out that night. Huge groups marched down the streets of Bogotá. If they passed a house in which they could see a man making dinner for the kids or attending to his baby, they would stop and applaud.”

    • “Things just felt better.

      And the impact of making people realize the effects of their actions in the city were huge.

      Traffic fatalities fell by half.

      Homicides were reduced by a third.

      Sixty-three thousand people actually volunteered to pay 10 percent more in taxes, just because Mayor Mockus said it’d be nice if they would.”

    • “Inspired by his story, I decide to try and call Mockus one night from my house in London. I find a number, call it, ask if he’s around. And over a crackly, echoey speakerphone in Bogotá that evening, he tells me that people did think he was “borderline crazy.” He’s a family man who’s incredibly close to his mother, so I ask him what she made of it all.”

    • ““She was once asked what she thought of what I had done,” he says with a smile in his voice. “She said, ‘Antanas has done nothing.’”

      “Nothing?” I say.

      She explained: ‘Because if you think you have done, you will stop to do.’””

    • “Mockus was inventive, creative, insane. He was moral. He was also right. His schemes were incredibly popular: 96 percent of people wanted his changes to continue. He had made people think about how to be better, how not to be rude.”


      Again, The book F You Very Much, Understanding the Culture of Rudeness and What We Can Do About It, by Danny Wallace.

    • Angel Stewart now I’m finished. Let’s not try to sum up this great lesson in one sentence, it will prevent people from reading all of it.

      “Innovative” is a general word professionals in T&T love using, but we need to break it down. We need to read the entirety of good lessons and understand why it was innovative, and WHY it had such an impact. Why mimes and not clowns? Why address litter first? Will mimes work in Trinidad? chances are, the answer is no. Chances also are, dressing in a super suit and cleaning walls may never have an impact, because I see stranger things daily from the city’s homeless.

      Why is something impactful to the people of Bogota? How can we find angles that are equally as impactful to the people of T&T? If we imitate innovation, it is not innovative, and it will almost never yield similar results.

      He understood his people and its history and understood what actions would affect them because of the culture that already existed. We cannot charge in and look to totally change a culture just because it has some bad aspects. Maybe the bad behaviors are symptoms of a good asset being neglected. We don’t know. We have to sit and investigate.

      And in the absence of data, everything is just an opinion. We have two national universities, time to put them to constructive use.

  14. I don’t understand why there are so many intelligent people on this thread, using their gifts and wits to split hairs with Mrs. Demming.

    Yes, we understand that the politics of Singapore are not savory, but she obviously means ‘Singapore of the Caribbean’ based on the aspects that are good and worthy of imitation. Like that fact where it is not resource-rich but it shows the world that its people are assets (despite what goes on behind closed doors). Or that it has the highest millionaire-per-capita rate worldwide. Or that its education system is stellar, its facilities pristine and its tourism industry ripe and bountiful.

    Yes, there are drawbacks, but we can replace “Singapore” with any of the world’s gems, like Sweden, Norway, Finland etc. If we put half as much energy into seeking solutions to adopt instead of arguing the contexts of other people’s optimistic utterances, we may already be better off.

  15. Hey, Ms Demming, you’re tagged in this..please respond…what can you tell us about voting in Singapore…specifically, is it secret?

  16. I love sharing this excerpt, and I will again.

    “In 1994, Bogotá, Colombia, was in danger of descending into chaos. It was widely known as “the worst city in the world”; a violent place of corruption and filth.”

    • “Antanas Mockus’s bottom had led to him being seen as a maverick. A man who lived with his mother and enjoyed a chinstrap beard, but who would stand up and act honestly and tell people his feelings. He ran as an independent, and when he became mayor owed nobody money or favors. He set up his own staff, made up of the country’s brightest minds, and told them to think differently.”

    • “The 6.5 million citizens of Bogotá had no pride in their city any more. They were acting violently because no one was condemning their violence. They were littering the streets because no one showed them why they shouldn’t. They were selfish, unthinking, and helpless.

      But Mockus had faith in them.”

    • “And to show this, one of the first things he did was dress up in a superhero costume and take to the streets as “Supercitizen,” scrubbing away rude graffiti and picking up other people’s rubbish. He was literally cleaning up the streets.”

    • “Granted, from the footage I found, he looks like a man having some kind of breakdown. But here was a man showing the world how to take personal responsibility.”

    • “The people were inspired. They saw in him what they’d lacked before: a moral leader. Someone putting down rules that would make life better for everybody.

      There was method to his madness. Mockus wanted to create a kind of dialogue about the way we treat each other. He wanted people to participate in society—the way we all participate when we respect one another and put rudeness to one side.”

    • ““Knowledge empowers people,” he said. “If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.”
      One early scheme empowered citizens to comment on whether someone else was behaving in the way they would like to be treated.
      Mockus printed 350,000 cards—on one side a red thumbs-down, on the other a green thumbs-up—and distributed them widely.”

    • “If you saw someone helping someone else with their shopping, or holding a door open for someone, you would walk up and hold out your thumbs-up card.”

    • “But if you saw someone pushing into a line or yelling at a cashier, a bunch of you would get out your thumbs-down cards and hold them aloft—humiliating the rude person and forming your own sort of behavioral police squad.”

    • “Ordinary citizens had been given a voice. It was a radical idea because only radical ideas would work. And it did. People began to relearn the rules of polite social behavior. They learned what was rude again because, quite simply, they’d forgotten.”

    • – F You Very Much, Danny Wallace.

  17. “Coerced” lol ^_^ that’s a nice euphemism for autocratic dictatorship and fascism.

  18. Ask any Singaporean policy maker, especially an economist, and he/she will tell you that the main ingredient in the success of Singapore is the faithful application of Arthur Lewis’ model of development. All other things, like political leadership and cultural differences, are by the way. To succeed like Singapore, we don’t have to do be EVERYTHING like Singapore, we don’t have to have a clone of Lee Quan Yew, we don’t need their culture. Surely, we must work on the politics and get it right, and that must not be alien to our culture. We made a mockery of Arthur Lewis’ model with the use of the import-substitution model, which involved the creation of screw-driver industries, which did not target the export market, contrary to the main recommendation of Lewis. On the contrary, we created the infamous negative lists to ensure that the owners of the screw-driver industries could sell their products in TT, with little or no competition. And what did we get for this? Cars that started to rot as soon as you bought them, cars that no sensible CARICOM citizen would purchase, except those who were obliged to, like the TT citizens.

  19. Ms Demming should tell us what she knows about similarities/differences between politics in Trinidad and Tobago and Singapore. I hope she joins this debate to clear that part.

  20. “Benevolent dictatorship” is the phrase commonly ascibed to Lee Quan Yew’s style of leadership.

  21. Lee Quan yew was also a dictator , but the people bought into his dream or were taken kicking and screaming . Im convinced if he was Trinidadian , he would have failed

    • You say this as if we are genetically programmed to live the lawless life we do. What accounts for our changed behaviour once we land in another country? We comply because the system is designed to encourage compliance. We need leaders with the courage to re-design our systems, processes, procedures and implement consequences. Once the operating frameworks are in place, people will comply.

    • Dennise Demming compliance by draconian means will further seek corrupt said system.what we have been suffering from is systematic poor leadership and derelict systems compounded by corruption and nepotism.

    • We may not or maybe we are , but certainly we are culturally we are of a certain ilk. Lawlessness? Where did that come in , or yes thats the type you see now . Say you going post pone carnival and see what happens , speak about self suffeciency see what happens , ask yourself why productivity is not our strong suit . Where do you think suppressing the opposition would be accepted by this nation? Where would free speech suppression be tolerated , you begin with a false premise , where you think the sinapore former leader was so democratic and he inspired his people with words , go research the man then you make your comment . We are some how programmed to live vicariously and say the grass is better over yonder thats why this comment of yours is going to be popular

    • Lee Quan Yew was quoted as saying that Trinidad could not progress because we have A Carnival mentality.

      No… He could not succeed in ruling us… LOL


    • Rasputin Aslan Rousco absolutely correct!