The state of emergency revisited: life after curfew

7 November 2011

As Christmas quickly approaches, I’m sure many business owners are anxiously awaiting the end of the SoE. Even the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Andrew Sabga has said that the curfew has “outlived its usefulness”. Apart from reverting to the usual nightlife after only just warming up to curfew parties, we must now ask ourselves: what comes next? In terms of organisational capability, it would serve us well to study the experiences of other nations and apply best practices when applicable.

New Zealand has been hit by earthquakes at various times throughout 2011. Although the circumstances leading to the implementation of their state of emergency are different to ours, the attention to detail is something we can take from its operation.

Excerpt from Adderley Head: Resource Management Specialists:

“The Government has signalled it will urgently pass special legislation to assist Councils in dealing with the recovery phase following the earthquake.  This may provide protection for earthquake related actions and events that would otherwise breach the requirements of the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA)…”

Apart from intelligence which can’t be publicly discussed, what harm would there be in announcing a plan which would address the aftermath of the curfew? For some, perception and reality differ little, which is why I would like to see an idea which represents some method to counteract the potential madness. An announcement in this vein may calm the nerves for those of us who fear a spate of crimes in early December. It also serves as positive punishment i.e. an aversive stimulus to decrease a certain behaviour or response, for the criminals and criminal-minded.

Now, on to the effect of the SOE on our economy.

Well, we’re certainly not spoilt for choice when it comes to places to park funds. Excess bank liquidity continues to be testament to this ($4.5bn on average for the first three weeks of October). A confidence boost toward the end of the year may briefly divert funds to more fruitful uses, but I won’t count on Christmas sales to materially change our fortunes either. The global financial landscape largely remains an eyesore, with Greek’s now-abandoned referendum making it clear that all is not well in the Euro-zone.

All may not be lost however. Local economist Indera Sagewan-Alli assessed the country’s ability to sustain the “short-term” benefits of the state of emergency. In particular she alluded to no foreign investment taking place pre-SOE / curfew, and a positive change to this scenario likely to occur only if “trends” that existed under the state of emergency continued long after it has been lifted. In this case, she continues to state that “the country’s attractiveness to foreign investment will increase significantly…if we have the kind of outcome that is anticipated, which is a substantial reduction in crime post the state of emergency…”

What I would add to this is that confidence begets more confidence; first-movers in the market are often unpopular but may also emerge successful because of it. Apart from a more stable investment climate, what we can do locally is develop a ‘thicker skin’, in anticipation of international crises which directly affect us. The development of sustainable industries at home such as agriculture, not only reduces an import bill, but a fillip in productivity allows for us to be a beacon of sorts amidst stormy weather, regionally and internationally.

Gerard Stephens
Account Executive

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