Farrell: Govt, private sector, universities all need to be reformed

The Triple Helix model of innovation has attracted considerable attention in both developed and developing economies as an integral policy-making tool to enhance innovation and promote economic development.

So wrote Henry Etzkowitz from Stanford University and Loet Leydesdorff from the University of Amsterdam in their 1995 research paper titled The Triple Helix-University-Industry-Government Relations: A Laboratory for Knowledge-Based Economic Development.

The problem with T&T, however, is that none of the three elements required for the Triple Helix to work is functioning as it should, economist Dr Terrence Farrell has stated.

Farrell made the statement as the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce hosted its post-budget forum on Tuesday.

“You have to have collaboration between the government, industry that is the private sector, and the university. The problem with the Triple Helix in our context is that government has problems because the public sector is weak, the private sector has problems because the private sector has grown up in a kind of rent scheme environment and the university has problems because the university has been basically teaching theory. Our faculty of engineering for example is teaching engineering science more so than it teaches people how to solve problems” Farrell said.

“So all three elements of the Triple Helix, government, industry and the universities have to be reformed, they have to be reoriented in terms of how they can address the question of fostering innovation in our economy going forward, and therefore we need to have a plan, we need to have a set of policies and a plan for doing that,” he said.

The issue of the necessity for planning is what the current chairman of Republic Financial Holdings and former country manager for BHP Vincent Pereira said he feels is required to ensure the country’s energy transition is properly addressed.

Pereira said as the world moves toward the global energy transition by 2050 it is likely there will be quite a lot of competition to produce as much oil and gas as quickly as possible.

“What this implies, there is also going to be country and country competition to attract oil and gas investment in exploration and development,” he said.

Pereira said we should consider 2050 to be “right around the corner.”

“We know that transitions are filled with uncertainty. This one is the mother of all transitions if I can say that. It is large, it is complex and it is not going to be easy, it is probably going to be very nasty. It is going to be volatile and it is going to take time and there are no silver bullets,” he said.

What makes it even worse, Pereira said, is the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic.

Pereira said logic would dictate that the energy prices are not sustainable.

“But in this world, I don’t know if logic is the final arbiter, to be honest,” he said.

“We must use the time and strength that we have to be deeply strategic in our thinking right now, purposeful in our approach to how we do things and really high quality in our execution,” Pereira said.

“Because at the time we are trying to transition from oil and gas to renewable energy we are also diversifying our economy,” he said.

Pereira said the country needs a good plan to ensure we maximise opportunities.

Farrell agreed that the country also needs a plan that embraces the reality of the energy transition taking place and takes us forward in a structured way.

“The truth of the matter is we do not have that. What we have is that we have bits and pieces of initiatives,” Farrell said.

Farrell said a plan is “badly needed.”

He said overall planning indicates to the country and all of the players in it where the government intends to take us.

As such he said the plan has to be generated through a process of consultation so people understand what the issues are.

The economist lamented what he called decisions which are “good politics but bad economics.”

An example of that he said is the intention to give people rebates for energy consumption.

“We are praising the budget for the things it is articulating but the truth of the matter is that many of the things the budget is articulating quite rightly are things we ought to have done years ago,” he said.

Among those things, he said, are the proposed merger of the Home Mortgage Bank and the T&T Mortgage Finance.

Farrell said former finance minister Prof Winston Dookeran floated this idea over a decade ago.

“That came out of work that had been done by the TTMF years before, that is how it got into Mr Dookeran’s budget and therefore what is important in that particular proposal which is not reflected for example in the budget statement is the fact that what is critical for the mortgage market in terms of funding it is the capacity that the Home Mortgage Bank had as a statutory corporation with the ability to issue tax-free bonds to be able to generate low-cost funds which could then go into the housing market,” he said.

“Now that has gone away, I don’t know where that went in the whole process but that is absolutely critical if we are going to vitalise the housing finance market in T&T,” he said.

Farrell said another example of this is the proposed merger of InvesTT and ExporTT and these other agencies.

He said this was proposal was made by the State Enterprise Committee about five years ago.

“We said this needed to be done because a lot of these agencies quite frankly are tripping over each other not achieving a lot and it could actually be accomplished by one agency,” he said.

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