Do Young Government Ministers make a Difference?

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Do I really think a government with ministers in their 20’s and 30’s would make a difference in Trinidad and Tobago? Well, truth be told, I’m a little sceptical about that. With general elections in the air, both parties are going after the votes of young people, and we’ve been seeing young, prospects being screened to run for election -which begs the question, will they be any different from their predecessors?

Most psychological theories will tell you that personality is more or less fixed from the early 20s, so there is no guarantee that a 25-year-old Prime Minister will be any less stubborn or arrogant than one at 55. That being said, the younger of the two would have had far less battle scars, and this may lead him or her to have a more optimistic and open view to doing things differently.

I have been around enough youth-based and youth-run organisations in my life to know that the propensity for bacchanal, back stabbing and jealousy is not limited to age. In some cases, the schemes of the under 40’s would make their parents cringe. Fact is, age aside, we are a product of our environment, and the political landscape of the last 50 odd years has managed to stifle originality and innovation, in order for people to stay within party lines.

But let’s just say there is some kind of revolution, some kind of alternative reality that allowed us to have a young government – how do you think they would fare, with the topical issues of today?

For one, the legislative process would be a lot more inclusive. Picture a scenario where, instead of text, new bills and laws were available via podcasts, and everyone had the ability to log in and participate in Parliament sessions – in real time (and post questions to MP’s while in the Chamber). Imagine being able to download the budget presentation before it is read in Parliament, commenting on it, and having your views considered before it is read into law? It may seem unrealistic, but in this advanced age of information, an under 40 government would know how to use technology to really bring issues to the people.

Such a government would also mandate that employers provide daycare facilities for their employees, simply because most of this generation would have had or would be having children at this stage of their lives. As for traffic, there would be huge tax incentives for companies to set up satellite work centres in communities where employees live, or those that actively promote telecommuting. The problem is, the current legacy politicians we have are of the view that problems can be solved by throwing lots of money at expensive projects (building flyovers, high rise office buildings etc.), when creative and innovative thinking can lead to ingenious solutions at a fraction of the cost.

What about the smelter? My response is simple, and it doesn’t matter if the government is under 40 or not. Would any Prime Minister build a smelter next to his house, or where his family lived? Then why should we expect anyone else to be happy with the same arrangement? The younger generation has a greater ability to empathise, plus they will be around a lot longer if/when things go badly.

But there are a few other important points to consider. It would be improbable to have a Prime Minister, or a Government Minister who has never proved themselves with distinction in their own professional and personal lives. Simply put, if you have never run a company, how do you expect to run a country? So, lack of years of experience for such a government must be supported with astounding resumes and accomplishments that prove leadership skill and excellent execution. As for their private lives, no one expects a saint, but ‘wining on anything’ shouldn’t be your nickname on Blackberry Messenger.

And the biggest downside of all is ego. The problem that many people have with the current Government isthe feeling that the administration is convinced of its own greatness, and as such can do no wrong. But what is worse than a minister on an ego trip is a young professional with an excellent résumé and track record, who thinks they are invincible. We have a lot of Blackberry-using, Beamer-driving, Ralph Lauren-wearing ‘professionals’ who think they can get by on their qualifications and energy alone. Pride goeth before the fall, just as friends disappear after the Beamer is repossessed. So ego is something any minister would need to keep in check.

The thing is, for a government of 20 and 30 somethings to work, we need young people who are aware – aware of their weaknesses, aware of the needs of others, and, most importantly, aware that governance is a thankless job that requires nothing short of full commitment. So whether we are streaming podcasts of Parliament, downloading the budget presentation to our iPods or voting for a referendum via text message, none of this will matter if in our hearts, we don’t put our nation first.

 

Photo source: ttparliament.org.

Jeremy Francis

Jeremy Francis is the Managing Director/Principal Consultant of Beyond Consulting Limited - a company that focuses on people and process development. He's also an avid runner. Check out his tumblr.

4 Comments

  1. Maurice Burke

    April 19, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    I feel good reading this. It puts a square picture of a new realm of thought without trying to totally define it.

    I have grown weary of the antagonistic statements about the current government, so I don’t want to leave any thoughts on that part. My style is to know you don’t like something/someone and do something about it after complaining for a short while.

    That aside, I’d love to see this happening today. A regional youth network has recently acquired web meeting facilities, while they limit the cost of flights for face-to-face meetings. This is what I think you’re talking about.

    I agree though – age is not the answer to the problem. It is reason that we need.

    But a mix of young and old would be a great catalyst to positive change!

  2. Keron King

    April 20, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I agree it was a good read. I started day-dreaming for a bit about the possibility of listening to parliamentary debates on my ipod and all the other technological advancements that may make governance a little more effective I guess.

    I think we all know that age is not the real issue or even technology for that matter but as Jeremey said “nation first” But if I can see a group of youth putting nation first whilst employing innovative and technological methods to govern the nation I wouldn’t be mad at all

  3. lisa julian

    May 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

    very perceptive Mr. Francis too bad Manning didn’t read this article before booting out Ms Beckles for ‘young’ Ms Lee Sing lol! Good Read!

  4. Wes

    May 4, 2010 at 7:52 am

    I suppose the reason why people believe that a “young government” would be better, is mainly because they view them as being incorruptible at least by the traditional ways of running a country, which appear now more than ever to be inefficient. Youths are viewed as bright minds that would be able to adopt better to the new age than the predecessors, and really implement change that would make a difference.

    Of course, I am not very convinced, and it would appear that you aren’t either. Bar the few exceptions, working with various young leaders has shown me that these young budding politians are not very much different from the ones we have now. Their arrogance has lead them to believe however, that they can do a better job at running the country, but this was never meant to be achieved at the detriment of the “dark” perks to being in office. What is needed is a fundamental change in what “service to country” mean to our leaders.

    I do believe that there will be benefits to having more youths in government, but at the same time, I’m not going to hold the bar too high for them. I believe that doing so would only lead to disappointment.

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