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Manning, The Genius

By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
April 18, 2012

I never thought that Patrick Manning was such a genius and soothsayer, especially when he told us that one could turn ordinary CEPEP managers into captains of national and international industries; that, in fact, they could run corporations worth billions of dollars without flinching; and all that one needed to be a servant of the people was commonsense and a level head. In this formulation education attainment, business acumen, management skills, experience and maturity do not matter. To hear the PP tell it, these are just overrated and unnecessary appendages that have no place in a modern economy.

Take the case of Rabindranath Moonan who the PP has named to be the chairman of Caribbean Airlines Board. His qualifications consist of his having managed a CEPEP gang and working as a clerk at the Central Bank about thirty six years ago. Asked to explain the logic of this appointment, Devant Maharaj, Minister of Transportation, assured his fellow citizens that previous chairmen such as Arthur Lok Jack, Hugh Wooding and economist Frank Rampersad did not have an aviation background when they undertook a similar position.

Is Devant Maharaj in his right mind or is he losing it? Did he ever hear about the logical fallacy that asserts: "correlation does not imply causation?"

It is true that Lok Jack, Wooding and Frank Rampersad did not possess any aviation experience before they assumed the chairmanship of the Board (that is, the correlation.) It does not follow that they were awarded the job (causation) because they did not have aviation experience. They were appointed to the chairmanship because they possessed impressive track records of achievement and documented mastery of their respective fields.

On May 31, 1961, the day on which the West Indies constitutional conference opened at Lancaster House in London, BOAC issued the following statement: "The Board of British West Indian Airways were notified at a board meeting today that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago expressed a wish to discuss the future ownership of the Company."

"Mr. Hugh Wooding, chairman of BWIA, and Keith Granville, chairman of BOAC Associated Companies, agreed to provide Government with all relevant information. Important matters relating to the current and future operating programme of the company have been deferred pending these discussions."

Such was the stature of the man that Trinidadians and Tobagonians were assured that he had the necessary stature and experience to conduct their business wisely.

When Devant compares Moonan with Sir Hugh Wooding, our former Chief Justice, does he really believe that Mohan could have walked over from a Constitutional Committee that was discussing the future of the West Indies to a BOAC office to talk about the future of BWIA, the national airline of the British West Indian Federation at the time? Would Trinbagonians have been comfortable seeing the BWIA chairmanship passed from Errol dos Santos, Wooding's predecessor, to Rabindranath Monan?

But the delusion (in some places we call this madness) of gets worse. Moonan suggests that too much fuss is being made about whether he has the necessary qualifications and experience to be the chairman of the board. Even asking such a question suggest that he is not fit to be the chairman of the Board. If experience and knowledge do not qualify one for a particular job, what else does?

But Moonan is not satisfied with such shallowness. He opines: "It (experience) has been bandied about as if it is the biggest thing since slice bread...All of a sudden people are asking this question. I have been looking at numerous boards where this does not apply, but I wouldn't call any names."

And isn't this the problem? The quality of all of the government boards which have the legal responsibility to oversee the functions of specific governmental organizations has fallen so low that Moonan does not realize that even by making the comparison he condemns the PP selection process to shame and disgrace and demonstrates that mediocrity is now the norm in these appointments.

What qualities does Moonan brings to the chairmanship? In his own words: "I feel I have good interpersonal communication skills, not just business but also politics [is that skills?]...The position of Chairman is a thankless one. I think we are blessed in this country to have those who offer themselves to public service."

I am sure that Moonan is correct about the motives of those who offer themselves for public service. But the real question is this: does he have a knowledge of airline economics and an understanding of the international nature of the airline industry to provide the oversight that his position requires? And is it sufficient, as Devant says, that all that is required to be the chairman of such an important board is someone who can "give life" to the aviation sector and implement government policy.

But I am not dismayed. When Ewart Williams' terms ends as the governor of the Central Bank, I intend to nominate my mother who ran a susu for over thirty years. She's from outside the industry; she is trustworthy; can count and has the necessary fiscal skills to run a bank. Incidentally, her interpersonal skills are superb.

The state is nothing more than a gigantic social and economic enterprise that manages a country's resources in a prudent manner. It takes knowledge, skills, experience and enterprise to do a good job. Lenin, it was, who said that politics was nothing more than economics in another form (or taken to a higher level) which suggests that when we make bad political decisions simultaneously we are making bad economic decisions as well.

Putting such an inexperienced and unknowledgeable person in such a position cannot redound to the benefit of our society. It will not be long before we begin to see the disastrous effects of these horrendous decisions.

Mr. Manning was undoubtedly incorrect. However, it takes the PP to make an art out of such inchoateness, and that is the definition of genius gone mad: even when you are wrong foolish people are willing to follow you.

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