Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Strategy needed for future development


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AS WE LISTEN to various ministers of Government trying to explain the real number of layoffs in the public sector, the one thing glaringly lacking is a strategy for the future development of the economy and human resources to mitigate the impact.
On occasions Minister of Commerce and International Business Donville Inniss says he welcomes investment from Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere but there is no real sense of direction with respect to the future strategy for growth and development except for construction.
We would have expected much more than a reference to retraining of displaced workers mainly at the lower end. There is no doubt that technology has exacerbated inequality, but instead of being stuck laying blame, we should prepare ourselves for an increasingly tech-driven world.
This is the direction the country needs to go. The vast majority of well-paid jobs created in the last two decades have revolved in one way or another around technology. Real wages for more traditional work have been either flat or falling since the 1970s.
It has been suggested by the Economist magazine that the persistent level of unemployment in the developed world is largely due to a fundamental shift in the world’s economy – a shift being driven by technology. This shift has exposed once safe jobs to the perils of automation. This is because technology is, at its heart, an evolutionary advantage. Throughout human history, those able to quickly master new technologies have reaped the benefits.
However, this advantage is always short-term. Better, cheaper and faster technologies arrive and displace the old ones. What has changed is how quickly this happens and while technology changes ever more quickly, society does not.
Most human beings favour comfort, stability and certainty. This means that the politicians who serve them try to avoid nasty surprises and unpleasant medicine whenever possible. And there’s nothing more unpleasant for an unskilled worker than being told “you are not needed anymore”.
These hard truths must be accepted before solutions can be sought. Too much of our energy is spent debating how to appropriately tax those perceived to be rich and, as the unions say, how to return “decent jobs” to the masses. Not nearly enough is spent on preparing ourselves and our children for this new technological reality. Unfortunately, this approach produces obedient clerks and shop workers – not creative technology entrepreneurs.
Another area in which Government could make a huge positive impact is to rapidly embrace technology rather than a piecemeal approach. Whether or not we choose to act, the technological wave will sweep over us. The revolution is only just getting into its stride and we agree with Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler that Government needs to act swiftly to fully embrace it across the board.
It will increase productivity and competitiveness. But like the industrial revolution before it, it will cause untold misery for the people displaced by its relentless and implacable reality.


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