Preparing for the world of 2030 | Contact Magazine


In the next decade the world’s population will increase by another billion, temperatures will rise by at least 1.5 degrees, and global energy consumption will increase by 1.7% per year. What does this mean for Trinidad and Tobago? Are we ready for the world of 2030

by Natalie Dookie, Freelance writer

Published in CONTACT Magazine


 

In 2030 the world will be more connected yet more fragmented. There will be shifts in energy use, demographics, politics, technology and the environment. How Trinidad and Tobago fares in the next decade will depend on the decisions taken today. CONTACT considers the impact of these mega-trends on Trinidad and Tobago.

 

Global mega-trends

Analysts state that the world will be more populated and have more elderly people than at any other time in our history. By 2030, China’s economy will be more than 2.5 times that of India and almost as large as those of the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) combined.

As the world becomes more populous and interdependent, population pressures and threats will increase and become more complex. Chief amongst these will be mass migration, human and narcotics trafficking, terrorism, global pandemics, cyber-crime, urbanisation, resource scarcities and environmental degradation as a result of climate change.

ICT experts advise that technology will be ubiquitous and ingrained in every sphere of human activity. It will also be more disruptive. Globalisation and technological advances will shift the engine of economic growth from the advanced countries to the emerging economies of Asia, and economic activities from the production of goods to the creation of services.

Many countries will shift from heavy reliance on fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, thus accelerating the transition to a more secure climate future.

 

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The Caribbean context

In addition to these global trends, the Caribbean must consider current events such as Britain’s exit from the EU, the political-economic crisis in Venezuela, the impact of Chinese investment, and the agenda of the US in terms of immigration, trade, tourism and investment diversion.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in its Caribbean Outlook 2018, noted that Caribbean economies have experienced persistent low growth since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.This is associated with fiscal challenges, especially the region’s debt burden, which remains among the highest in the world relative to the size of its economies.

Experts say that regional chronic current account imbalances are the result of underlying problems, including lack of competitiveness and limited diversification of markets and products. The skill level in the workforce is low, and there is a mismatch between the output of the region’s educational system and the requirements of the labour market. Compounding this situation, the Caribbean has one of the world’s highest levels of emigration of tertiary-educated and skilled individuals.

Adolescent pregnancies and youth unemployment in the region are among the highest in the world. This, along with growing poverty, income inequality, climate change, rising crime, gender-based violence and non-communicable diseases, must be factored into regional development plans.

 

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Trinidad & Tobago: getting ready

To cope with these mega-trends, citizens must possess 21st-century expertise and technological know-how, and become multilingual and multi-skilled.

Technological advances are expected to lower production costs, and there will be more competition from imports. Local authorities recommend that producers incorporate new advanced technologies in the production of goods and services.

Trinidad and Tobago will require a relevant, flexible education system aligned to a world where technology plays a major role. At the same time, as the world shifts to alternative energy and sustainable production, businesses should focus on adding value.

Improvements in the criminal and civil justice system will enhance social stability and positively impact economic development. Public sector reform is essential, as well as strengthening the system of national statistics. By 2030, public institutions will need to be more capable, professional and proactive.

Investment in infrastructure, with emphasis on transportation and public utilities built to internationally accepted standards, is another important component.

Competitive businesses are important to a developed-nation thrust. As we move towards 2030, firms should have advanced strategic and operational systems, access to a capable, knowledge-based workforce, and high quality resources, fuelled by a sophisticated consumer base.

As we look ahead, Trinidad and Tobago must become more productive, and more competitive. We must work smarter, be more innovative, and create new high-value products. As such, it is integral that research and development, as well as innovation, be institutionalised at all levels of education.

 

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National challenges

National development plans must be set against a backdrop of specific national challenges:

1) The economy is highly dependent on oil and natural gas, with energy exports accounting for 85% of total export earnings, 40% of government revenue and over 35% of GDP.

2) Trinidad and Tobago has an ageing population; the median age is 32.6 years and 13% of the total population is 60 years and over.

3) Urban development is encroaching on agricultural and environmentally zoned regions.

4) There are gender disparities in the education system, with female enrolment and educational attainment exceeding that of males.

5) Trinidad and Tobago’s popularity as a migrant destination is placing greater pressure on law enforcement, legislative and administrative systems.

6) We are vulnerable in the area of food security – partly because of predatory pricing and the dumping of harmful or sub-standard products.

7) Productivity is demonstrably low in both the public and private sectors.

8) The output of the education system needs to be aligned to human resource needs and economic drivers.

9) Weaknesses in the public service have negatively impacted immigration, customs, land management, and planning approvals.

10) We have high rates of serious crime, particularly homicides, coupled with inadequate responses by law enforcement, the prison service and the justice system.

11) Climate change is a threat: the degradation of coastal and marine ecosystems, and the negative impact of industrial effluents, have made our ecosystems more vulnerable.

12) ICT adoption rates by government and private sector are low. There is an absence of proper legal and regulatory frameworks for e-goods and services.

 

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Finding solutions

A thriving private sector is at the core of every successful economy, especially when firms produce high-value products and services that can compete in export markets. Development specialists advise that Trinidad and Tobago should take steps to improve the competitiveness of the local private sector and build a sustainable stable economy by broadening its enterprise base across a range of sectors at key stages of the value chain, where capabilities match global opportunities.

This entails venturing into more knowledge-intensive and complex economic activities with an emphasis on export-oriented sectors where we can build a competitive advantage.

To be competitive, our goods and services must conform to international standards. Lower quality imports must be displaced through local production. We must also accelerate transitioning from a fossil fuel-based economy to a low-carbon one.

Advancing our development agenda will require the continuous review, modernisation and strengthening of the legislative framework, the court system, law enforcement and municipal policing. Modernising Trinidad and Tobago’s public management systems is another prerequisite for developing a competitive private sector. Government should forge strategic links with trading partners to eliminate barriers that impede the private sector, and support international efforts to tackle environmental challenges.

The extent to which Trinidad and Tobago is successful in achieving its Vision 2030 goals will depend on whether it can integrate budgetary and planning systems, identify and formulate appropriate projects and programmes, and execute them efficiently and effectively.

 


 

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Improving productivity: Generation Flex”

According to a recent Global Workspace Survey undertaken by the International Workspace Group, two-fifths of working people worldwide see commuting as the worst part of their day (40%), and more than half of the respondents believe it could be obsolete by 2030.

Generation Flex is a concept which leaves it up to employees to choose when they work and where. Gone are the days when workers sit behind a desk for 40 hours a week. If employees feel valued and trusted, they are naturally more motivated to put in the appropriate hours to complete their tasks.

Working hours of Monday to Friday, 8am to 4 or 5pm, are still very prevalent in Trinidad and Tobago. We may not be quite ready for Generation Flex, but we should begin preparing for it by allowing employees to shape their typical work day. Employees should be given the freedom to decide what works best for them. Flexitime and the option of working from home have been shown to increase employees’ productivity. For example, working 60- to 90-minute periods and taking 15- to 20-minute breaks during the day may improve results.

At Regus, we tap into several different platforms and software that allow us to run our centres effectively with a minimal workforce. Our user-friendly systems make employee tasks simpler, while lessening the margin of error.

Working from home full-time has its advantages, but it is not the ideal situation for many. After one or two years, people often need more human or business interaction; they find there are too many distractions at home, and may be unable to participate in conference calls due to unprofessional background noise.

Flexible work patterns can be tied into the different workspace solutions offered by Regus. All-inclusive private office space, co-working, virtual offices and lounge memberships promote a modern, more effective way of doing business.

Many lounge membership clients are qualified, experienced professionals and entrepreneurs who also have a home office. Having unlimited access to our professional lounges gives them an alternative affordable professional working environment.

It’s time for Trinidad and Tobago to rethink its attitude to work, and for employers to embrace Generation Flex. At Regus, we are doing ou part to get the balance right.

Stephanie Quesnel

General Manager, Trinidad & Tobago, Regus Caribbean

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