Former Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) chairman Dr Terrence Farrell is advising that a separate energy institute, comprising experts in the energy sector and working alongside the Energy Ministry, be established.
Farrell, who was speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Port-of-Spain Rotary Club on Tuesday, said such experts would be able to understand what the country has in terms of gas resources, develop strategies and enable negotiations with multi-national corporations involved in the sector.
“We need to have an institution that is there to help the Government and the public service think through these kinds of issues. These are complex issues which can help facilitate the process of implementation, because if you rely on the public service in terms of implementation we are in serious trouble...it is not going to happen,” Farrell warned.
He added that public service itself needed to be transformed and warned that Government cannot wait on that process to take place.
“We need to have institutions outside the public service but yet Government is responsive to those institutions in terms of its policy making. One of the things governments have to understand and cabinets have to appreciate, is a cabinet does not have the source of all wisdom on every issue,” Farrell said.
“You pick up a set a people, you put them in Parliament...they form the Cabinet and then you expect them to be able to come up with a strategy for tourism or for agriculture or for energy?”
On the issue of diversification, he recommended the creation of innovation centres to boost this country’s thrust.
“We need to create the right package of incentives and disincentives and seeking out propositions in areas of activity,” he said.
He urged that diversification must be led by the private sector and supported by the public sector.
“It has to be focused on the global market place. It has to be responsive to global issues and development but grounded in a domestic economy. We must define what we mean by food security and do enough to be able to attain that,” Farrell said.
He said there must also be a diversification roadmap, as the current institutional set-up and incentive structures favour continued harvesting of the rents from the energy sector and current consumption instead of saving and investment.
“We have an economy that incentivises consumption, not investment. It incentivises low productivity. It incentivises continued dependency on a part of a large section of our population.
“It has incentives where our education system continues to produce what it produces...demotivation and for whom school is a place where their mothers or fathers send them to get away from the house for eight hours for the day. Not a place of learning and development,” Farrell said.