“One of the changes that I would like to see — and I’m going to be talking about in this in weeks to come — is seeing our best and our brightest commit themselves to making things — engineers, scientists, innovators. For so long, we have placed at the top of our pinnacle folks who can manipulate numbers and engage in complex financial calculations. And — and that’s good. We need some of that. But you know what we can really use is some more scientists and some more engineers who are building and making things that we can export to other countries.” President Barack Obama – 14th April 2009
In Trinidad and Tobago engineers and scientist are not encouraged to build and innovate. In fact, the Government despises innovation and engineering initiative . As proof of this unwritten Government policy you only have to look at how much money the Government has budgeted to research and development in Trinidad and Tobago – almost the same amount it takes to fund one stone painting crew. I think the Government thinks this way because kick-backs from innovators have never been tested. The traditional corruption sector is now too well established to thinker with.
Government after Government made sure to promised foreign concerns they would have cheap local engineers to operate and maintain their plants. But Trinidad and Tobago has a very small population and a very small fraction of that population have graduated with a real (UWI) engineering degree (UTT is currently a joke). Out of those graduate engineers very few have any passion for engineering and ended up in the profession because they didn’t like Spanish or blood. So, it’s not surprising that we have not produced many commercial innovations since there was never any funding and thus the people for that.People always take the path of least effort with the quickest rewards and young people are no different.
Commercial innovations has never been part of our culture and it was always national policy to go foreign for technology since foreign was always considered better. With the last boom it was get-rich-quick and foreign technology offered a quick way of disposing of money. Not only were Government people, foreign contractors and local contractors who wanted to get rich quick to buy houses in Miami, but new graduates as well. Most new graduates are only concerned about money in the bank and Zen, not innovation and their profession. To them engineering is a “wuck” and not a profession. The so-called brightest graduates usually try for US dollars but thankfully the brightest are seldom the best and seldom return. It’s an attitude thing.
Thankfully, that bubble has burst and the sky is about to fall big time. The good thing about the sky is that in Trinidad and Tobago, to fall down the Cabinet has to approve it first. But two words that will soon be on the lipservice of every government Minister are innovation and diversification. By Our Stones You will Know Us.