T&T nationals ‘not giving back enough’ says York associate professor

By Gerald V. Paul

INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATION AT THE TRININDAD AND TOBAGO CONSULATE IN TORONTO: Marcia Annisette (in red) stands next to Kiya P. Clarke , Trinidad and Tobago's acting Consul General ( at right).
INDEPENDENCE CELEBRATION AT THE TRININDAD AND TOBAGO CONSULATE IN TORONTO: Marcia Annisette (in red) stands next to Kiva P. Clarke , Trinidad and Tobago’s acting Consul General ( at right).

Marcia Annisette, an associate  professor of accounting at York University, called on fellow nationals of Trinidad and Tobago in Toronto to  make a greater contribution to the development  of the two-island nation.

” W e are not giving back enough. We are punching  way below our weight,” she said in an address at the Trinidad and Tobago consulate last Tuesday after a flag raising ceremony to mark the  54th anniversary of the country’s independence.

(The actual date of the independence anniversary is August 31, a public holiday in Trinidad and Tobago. The consulate was closed for the holiday.)

She noted that in absolute dollar value of remittances, Trinidad and Tobago does not even rank in the top ten for the region.

Anisette who described herself as a ” humble Trinidadian immigrant who is passionate about her native country,” issued a call to fellow nationals ”  to come together collectively to come up with some ideas of giving back strategically.

” Let’s draw on the inner entrepreneur in all of us to realize our repatriation potential and lead the way for other T and T diasporic  communities elsewhere in Canada, North America and indeed the rest of the world.”

She explained that to mobilize different forms of repatriated capital( human or financial) requires an entrepreneurial mindset,  as in a state of mind which orientates behavior towards entrepreneurial activities and outcomes.”

She then posed the question: ” ‘Do we, members of the Trinidad and Tobago diaspora have the necessary entrepreneurial mindset? “

“I think so, for people who possess an entrepreneurial mindset are people who dare to do something different, who dare to take risk in the hope that it would yield something better, she said.”

” Given that we are all entrepreneurs, the question becomes, do we have the necessary human and or financial capital to create economically impactful transnational engagements…in other words, whilst we might clearly have an entrepreneurial mind set, are we in the Trinidad and Tobago diaspora just barely eking out an existence with nothing to give back?”

She said the results of a recent survey on the Caribbean diaspora conducted by InfoDev suggests that this is hardly the case. The survey noted that:

  1. The Caribbean is unique in that for almost every resident in the region there is an individual living in the diaspora.
  2. The Caribbean diaspora are typically well-educated and fairly affluent…robust both in terms of human and financial capital.
  3. 70 per cent of the diaspora are formally or informally affiliated to organizations in their home countries. Half of those surveyed send remittances and a full 85 per cent give back to the Caribbean either through financial help, or other support in kind. This is not a disengaged diaspora.
  4. The gap between real engagement and expressed interest is significant. For instance while 85 per cent of diaspora members would be interested in investing in a business back home, only 13 per cent of respondents do so today.

“In short the Caribbean diaspora is a sizeable and engaged diaspora, well imbued with human and financial capital and more critically, possessing a strong appetite to do more,” Annisette said.

According to Annisette, the World Bank’s most recent study of migration, showed that Trinidad and Tobago ranks third  in the world of countries suffering the greatest loss of tertiary educated nationals …a staggering sixty-eight per cent  of our country’s tertiary educated nationals live abroad . Trinidad and Tobago ranked third to Guyana 90 per cent  and Hatii 75 per cent. It was followed by Barbados 66 per cent and Jamaica 48 per cent. Indeed the first five of the top ten were all Caribbean countries, she noted.

“Yet in terms of financial remittances as a percentage of GDP, Trinidad and Tobago did not even feature in the top 100 whilst Haiti ranked eighth in the world and Guyana ranked 24th in the world. (So to some extent one can say these neighbouring states are receiving some form of return on their human capital investment),” Annisette said.

She told the gathering, “We need to make a serious shift in our thinking, in our reorientation, and in our practice, for it means that we are woefully underperforming not only with regard to fellow Caribbean diasporic communities here and elsewhere, but more importantly with respect to our innate potential to give back. We are punching way below our weight.”