breaking the glass ceiling with total recklessness
By VASANT BHARATH
Five years ago, the People’s National Movement (PNM) assured the national community of a plan to “rebuild the economy.”
This would be done, the PNM stated, through “macroeconomic stability, strong institutions and investor confidence.”
Another plank of development would be “sustainable growth and diversification” and “job creation and promotion of social justice.”
Trinidad and Tobago was promised: “The PNM Government will move aggressively to diversify and turn around the economy.”
The assertive manifesto guarantees were essentially summarised with: “It will be a priority of the incoming PNM Government to … proactively (address) all these areas of economic weakness…”
Those statements turned into famous last words since the PNM’s stewardship with respect to the economy – as with all other areas of governance – has been atrocious and reflected in an ever-worsening state of affairs.
The stunning recent declarations by the usually reticent American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) provide another sobering confirmation of the disturbing economic circumstances.
Readers would note that I have been detailing the worrying debt crisis, declining import cover, growing unemployment and deterioration in most sectors, including the all-important manufacturing sector.
The Rowley Government is now accessing funds to repay interest on loans, and, even with that troubling scenario, is still seeking to lift the borrowing ceiling.
The national economy has contracted by 10 per cent over the past four years. There are still no measures toward diversification, while investments have dried up and entrenched businesses are fleeing.
Point Lisas estate is now crumbling
Point Lisas estate, which was once the industrial guiding light, is now crumbling, principally because of the self-declared intervention of the Prime Minister in gas negotiations.
Amcham, through its President Patricia Ghany, related the business community’s disquiet over crime, decline in the ease of doing business, non-proclamation of procurement legislation, and other vital matters.
You would recall that I have been articulating those issues and urging the critical importance of the infusion of effective leadership and a sustained and collaborative approach to resolving the crisis.
I have repeatedly explained the urgency of our dire state, with the economy in its worst tailspin since the 1980s, the likelihood of continuous declines and dramatic erosion in the quality of life.
Ms. Ghany is correct in stating: “In the absence of a clear vision, and, therefore direction, we are reaping the havoc of virtually standing still.”
She also accurately observed that other Caricom countries are “actively changing the structure of their economies and acting with a sense of purpose.”
The business leader pronounced rather diplomatically: “We have to do better.”
Amcham deserves credit for its forthright assertions on the economy and on the pressing need for robust national leadership and a workable rescue plan.
Hopefully, the Chamber’s ominous appraisal would prompt other key stakeholders to vigorously speak out on the distressing circumstances and to propose effective solutions.
The PNM has no strategy and purpose
It has long been apparent that the PNM has no strategy and purpose for the national economy – or, indeed, for any other area of national life.
The well-crafted manifesto statements were simply attractive and suitable lingo, which were not backed by a master plan or the appointment of a qualified and competent leader of the flagship Ministry of Finance.
Four years after his puzzling selection, Colm Imbert recently conceded on a political platform that he felt Prime Minister Rowley was “crazy” to name him to the portfolio.
Imbert admitted: “I said: ‘what’?”
For once the entire country agrees with the Minister!
Trinidad and Tobago asked that question in September 2015, and has not stopped pondering that issue, as the economy collapses under the weight of gross incompetence.
Imbert’s lame attempt to whitewash his stalling on the procurement legislation is just one vivid example of his ineptitude and arrogance.
Ms. Ghany spoke eloquently on the subject, in observing: “In order to have a society that is inclusive, safe and productive, we must build a society that is fair and transparent.”
She added: “In such a society, opportunities would be available to everyone, and not just to those who have the right connections.”
The PNM had solemnly pledged in its manifesto to “waste no time addressing this very important issue.”
The party said: “We will move swiftly to make the necessary improvements to the Public Procurement Act…”
Almost five years later, Trinidad and Tobago is still patiently waiting.
In the interim, the PNM administration has issued multi-million-dollar service contracts without the semblance of financial transparency.
The purchase of two vessels, together worth more than $1 billion, was done through an opaque sole select means.
Contracts for the refurbishment of the Red House, President’s House and other costly projects were also similarly disbursed in a secretive dead-of-night manner.
Widespread allegations of corruption and nepotism
The PNM had hoodwinked the nation with a pledge to implement the procurement regimen in a “realistic timeframe.”
Ms. Ghany reminded us: “In order to build a truly fair and transparent society, we must have oversight over all institutions.”
Trinidad and Tobago was told by the PNM in 2015 that “integrity and morality in public affairs has been a core principle of the PNM from its inception.”
Instead, the current administration has been shrouded in widespread allegations of corruption, nepotism and overall absence of accountability and probity.
Still, Rowley recently had the effrontery to declare: “I am putting you on notice that the next general election would be fought on morality.”
It is obvious that the PNM plans to wage the electoral campaign on its well-worn claim of having clean hands, suitability for national office and an inclusive programme for national development.
Rampant evidence abounds that the exact opposite is true.
A perusal of the PNM’s 2015 General Election manifesto is an exercise in torture, and a dark revelation that appropriate phrases were used to browbeat T&T, when the party was ill-suited for governance.
The current economic circumstances have created “the fierce urgency of now,” to adapt Martin Luther King’s articulate expression.
While Amcham has joined economic analysts and certain other national commentators, more prominent and influential voices must detail our critical economic circumstances.
In addition, the national community, who are the essential stakeholders in this crisis, must insist on a feasible action plan and competent and skilled personnel to put it into effect.
Nothing less must be acceptable!