By Jack Warner
I am still trying to rationalize the thinking of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago when he declared that our Water and Sewerage Authority is “permanently bankrupt”.
I am not so much disturbed at the revelation that was made when Dr. Rowley stood to respond to questions raised by the Opposition during the Standing Finance Committee Meeting in Parliament. What disturbs me is the brazenness of our leaders who knew the challenges that these deals created and for years did absolutely nothing to enlighten the population of these dangers.
Our Prime Minister was well aware of the annual 72 million USD contract the then PNM Government made with Desalcott since 1999. And for twenty years he sat on this information and said absolutely nothing about it. But now when challenged concerning the annual allocation for the Public Utilities and the intent of the Government to seek a loan portfolio to service the debt suddenly we hear that “WASA is permanently bankrupt”.
What happened during the period 2003 – 2010 when the PNM administration was in power and money was no problem? What was done to treat with this contractual arrangement that has placed this country in a financial grip?
How are we now to interpret Dr. Rowley’s revelation against the background of the promise of water for all not only from the UNC but also from the PNM Governments when they both knew that given WASA’s current indebtedness that such a promise would never be fulfilled?
For more than four years under this Rowley’s administration, we were punished through the imposition of taxes on foreign exchange spending. We are still burdened with limited access to forex which is affecting the purchase of pharmaceuticals, even access to tertiary education and no one dared to tell us that the Government was the major contributor to our woes because WASA’s debt had to be repaid in US dollars?
It was Robert Le Hunte who made us believe that it was because of the ageing infrastructure that WASA was unable to deliver pipe-borne water to our citizens.
It was Robert Le Hunte, Rowley’s choice for the Public Utilities Minister office, who advised the red and ready national community that 50% of the water is leaked from the pipes across Trinidad and Tobago and that is a national challenge we face annually.
This is the reason the population has become so wary of our leaders because of the lies and deception we continue to face and the withdrawal is now so defining that nothing short of transparency and accountability on the part of our leaders will cause the good people in this country to register a vote in their favour.
It was around 1986, Dr. Rowley, that you entered the world of politics. You were a part of the Patrick Manning team and won with him in 1990 when the NAR meekly surrendered having been divided by Panday’s UNC that was dissatisfied with the politics of accommodation.
Since then, the issue of water has been a major problem that should have been addressed.
Access to pipe-borne water was just as challenging then. The scheduling of water to communities evoked the same ire from our people.
Flooding was a pest and plague that visited us. Communities got marooned. Homes were waterlogged some even got destroyed. And for the past twenty years, this has not changed. The only attempt to alter our water landscape was this Desalcott arrangement that has left our Water and Sewerage Authority “permanently bankrupt”.
No new dams; no storage facilities
During your entry into politics to this current date you have been in Government for at least 33 years, four of which you have been at the head and yet we, as a nation, are patiently waiting to hear about what plans you may have for building new dams and for establishing storage facilities for runoff water to ensure that we have enough to provide for our population. But whatever little hope we may have had, was destroyed by your revelation.
All kind of pie in the sky projects have been designed. Thirty new projects have been identified for the 2019 – 2020 financial year alone. But not a single water-related project to take us into the 21st century has been identified far less started.
And this is.because the resources needed to give us hope have been handed on a platter to Desalcott who is benefitting from it instead of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
My advice to you Dr. Rowley is since you have begun this expose that you need to continue the conversation and reveal all relating to this Desalcott contract.
Dr. Rowley needs to tell us how this country has benefitted from Desalcott? What initially was the intention? Whether the primary agreement was changed and by whom? And how has this affected our country?
You, Mr Prime Minister, cannot afford to remain silent now. You cannot afford simply to throw up your hands in the air and declare WASA “permanently bankrupt” because this will affect the morale of the employees and the bad water situation that we now have will more than likely get worse.
We want to know who were the signatories of this contract and what was Desalcott supposed to deliver?
Our country is in a mess
We want to know Dr. Rowley, whether Desalcott delivered or whether they reneged on the contractual promise because six million USD per month to service a debt seems beyond the understanding of the little man. Our country is in a mess; Petrotrin was never even declared “permanently bankrupt” and yet this Government closed it down. Are we facing the kind of crisis that could result in the shutting down of WASA, Dr. Rowley? Or the sale of it? The employees of WASA are awaiting a response. The country needs to know!
What bothers me most though Mr. Prime Minister are these lavish Christmas parties all sponsored by taxpayers’ money that are usually taking place in our state agencies. It is alleged that this has been taking place even under your watch.
So, if we knew that we were in this sorry state how come we allow WASA to waste so much money on fetes and parties when we are so deeply indebted? How come?
This revelation is of no use to us neither are the plans to negotiate a loan arrangement to liquidate this debt comforting.
That this contract to date has cost this country five to ten billion dollars does nothing but provoke anger among us as citizens and, for once, the immediate demand is for you Dr. Rowley to keep talking and tell us how you propose to take us out of this mess.
History will be unkind to both the PNM and the UNC
I do not want to believe that part of this strategy includes increasing water rates for the poor people of Trinidad and Tobago because this is one time that the nation deserves to march against such a decision since we will be punished for wrongs we have not committed.
I wonder if the Minister of Finance when he announced that we had come to the end of our financial dilemma and that he could see clearly now whether Colm Imbert was aware of this indebtedness we had with Desalcott?
Mr. Prime Minister I do not normally agree with anything Colm Imbert says but I have to admit that he is right when he stated that we would have been much better off if we had built some dams instead of engaging Desalcott.
History will be unkind to both the PNM and the UNC. It will show that as a nation we were led by two callous, mean and greedy administrations that never looked after the interest of their people.
Mr Prime Minister, you have informed the nation that the Desalcott arrangement continues up to 2036. What you have not told us however are what plans have been initiated by you, if any, for post-2036