ROWLEY’S REGIME

678

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!