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Business community crime plan

Published: 
Sunday, July 30, 2017
A police officer and a CSI stand next to the body of security officer Brian Warren who was shot dead on Saturday morning, a stone's throw away from his Moruga home.

It’s no state secret that by most accounts, this country’s private sector knows how to do business and secure its interests. They have taken hits in volatile, high-risk environments, but large or small, run by minorities or majorities, the local business community has survived perhaps because they are governed by leadership principles which focus both on profit and the people who can make it.

So, when the business community wrote to the Prime Minister in his capacity as chair of the National Security Council recently to offer support and help in coming up with a sustainable crime plan, it was because both their profits and people were being affected. If left unchecked, they know it will mean higher risk to lucrative commercial prospects not just to them, but across the country.

The cynics are already reacting across the media to the offer by the business community to help or support the Government in any new anti-crime initiative. “What can they say or do that we haven’t paid some foreigner to tell us already?” was one of the comments which summed up the sceptical response from the public. And this is where the challenge to the local private sector will be. Dozens of crime plans commissioned by successive administrations have already been submitted to the state. They are possibly covered in dust or at the top of shelves where other “nice-to-keep” archives are stored. Without a doubt, if each is examined, there will be little contradiction in content.

The second challenge to the private sector offer will be this: good business knows how to achieve results. Even if governed by a board and guided by the law, they generally have a free hand to make changes required. Free reign to operate by private sector rules is out of the question in this case. The fact that the private sector knows this, and is still willing to try, is commendable. After all, this is a group that has no problem walking away from what they think might be a bad prospect in a different environment.

Here is why the business community simply can’t walk away. This is their home. The fact that they have stepped up and into a conversation, knowing full well that they cannot do more than advise, urge, guide and support, shows grit that only people who have taken risk and felt loss, can understand. They are also fully aware that giving up on their own investment ground, is simply out of the question.

Basic math says spending more money on security may mean spending less on business building initiatives. But if Trinidad and Tobago is perceived as a less attractive place to do business because of crime, adjustments have to be made. Each murder and unsolved case chips away not just at the image of the T&T we claim and project at international trade fairs, but at actual investor confidence.

Finally, the business community is also fully aware that in spite of the power of the Prime Minister—who has already expressed disgust with the state of crime in the country himself—he is not in possession of a magic wand that can turn around a depleted, inconsistent Police Service, hire and fire as he might like to, or find enough people with the passion, integrity and ambition to lead in the security agencies he has oversight of, or takes blame for.

Here is what we know: crime is costing us lives, causing anxiety and we are losing business. The International Development Bank says this country spends more than many of our neighbours on crime. So if we’re spending the money, where are the results?

If we’re going to be guided by the private sector way, we should understand this: in the private sector, people who aren’t performing are asked to leave, fired or ‘performance managed’ to the door. Corruption, when it is found, is dealt with quickly and ruthlessly. And the people who shift blame and don’t have a plan, are quickly moved to the side, then out.

Maybe a few of these principles are already being considered. Maybe, they will make a difference. Either way, this newspaper believes we don’t have the luxury of rejecting any offer which might actually help.