Kamla: Gov't intent on misleading the country

Lack of plans and bad plans were among the responses from various quarters to the first part of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley's address to the nation on Sunday night.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar criticised Rowley's televised address as lacking plans, while officials of the T&T Chamber were awaiting last night's second part of the address to hear Government's plans.

The Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) said the plans so far have put T&T into a deeper hole, rather than lifting it from one.

The first part of Rowley's address was devoted in large part to accusing the former Persad-Bissessar People's Partnership (PP) administration of wasting borrowed billions and blaming them for T&T poor financial position. 

Rowley claimed his Government lifted T&T out of the hole in his address, filmed at NAPA in Port-of-Spain, before a select audience.  The theme of the address was Mind Your Business. 

Persad-Bissessar, in an immediate response, said: "This political performance is a blatant abuse of taxpayers' dollars. He continued to his usual diatribe of 'Blame Kamla, blame the UNC', for his inability to manage Trinidad and Tobago's affairs. It was a rehashed repetition of PNM's litany of excuses to cover their incompetence, and Rowley needs to tell the country how much it cost us, the citizens, to put on his PowerPoint presentation.

"Rowley not only failed to account to the people on what the Government has actually done but three and a half years later he has nothing to show, even after spending more in three years than my Government did in five years. 

"What is now clear is this Government is intent on deliberately misleading Trinidad and Tobago about the true state of our economic situation. The recent Central Bank report indicates 2019 will be a tough year, as the economy is slowing down. Where is the Finance Minister's touted turnaround?

"A report by the Inter-American Development Bank shows that out of 27 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago placed third-to-last in an assessment of its per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) performance in 2018. This means the average Trinbagonian is worse off now than they were 11 years ago in 2007. These findings confirm what the United National Congress has been saying: that this Government, led by Dr Keith Rowley, has no idea how to govern, and what is worse, has no plan for a return to growth and prosperity.

"Where was his plan for raising revenue, for job creation, to make citizens feel safer? It was clear from his graphs Rowley's administration crashed the economy. Significantly, one graphic showed $0.5 billion higher expenditure than revenue in 2019 compared to 2015. 

"We don't expect anything from part two of the show. The Prime Minister should have spent his time focusing on viable solutions and a plan to move the country forward. Trinidad and Tobago has long lost confidence in the PNM and is crying out for a return to sound leadership and good governance" she said, adding the UNC has the vision, experience and will to build a brighter future.

CEO of the T&T Chamber Gabriel Faria said the information produced gave some historical context" which made it easier to understand the current situation. However, we look forward to the second segment where we expect the Prime Minister to provide more details on the plans going forward,"

OWTU's Education and Research Officer Ozzi Warwick said: "The Prime Minister's address on Sunday shows clearly that Government's management of Trinidad and Tobago hasn't impacted positively on the lives of ordinary people and that Government is out of touch with citizens' pain and suffering, because if you can spend two hours as the Prime Minister did wasting time to talk about who wasted billions and who borrowed what before elections, then you don't know what's really going on on the ground in Trinidad and Tobago. His address wouldn't have reached the ordinary person.

"His claim that the Government lifted Trinidad and Tobago out of a hole is further confirmation that they don't understand what people are facing and will face ahead since the close of Petrotrin. The new companies resulting from that have put the southern economy in a huge hole which will soon have ripple effects in putting the national economy in a bigger hole.

"Brain drain is already taking place. We have information from former Petrotrin workers that many are leaving Trinidad and Tobago as they're not getting jobs, so Trinidad and Tobago's economy and other sectors will be without their contribution. How will that lift Trinidad and Tobago?"

Congress of the People (COP) political leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said Rowley's address was "heavy on graphs and short on details." 

She said: "We await the second part but my main concern is if it was a PR exercise—and we need to know the cost—to tell Trinidad and Tobago how many billions you're spending on projects in 2019 and launching a campaign. Isn't that the same thing he's accusing the PP of? If he's bringing mega-projects now since the election bell has rung you end up with wastage.

"He should also apologise to Tobagonians for mocking their language when he spoke of the ferry complaints in an accent. Also, why wasn't his presentation done in Parliament which he wouldn't have had to pay for and where questions and debate can be done. The executive can't approve such big expenditure on its own. While I support the San Fernando Waterfront Project, we're yet to get investment details on this and why isn't it being done in public/private partnership rather than using taxpayers' money alone? Same for the Dragon Field plan."

Political analyst Dr Bishnu Ragoonath said: "Clearly the event launched the PNM's election campaign since Works Minister Rohan Sinanan recently said 2019 is an election year. But I'm wondering when exactly Sunday's event was staged? Who were the invitees present the Prime Minister addressed? Was it a PNM party event and most importantly, who paid for that event?"

Former public service head Reginald Dumas said he is awaiting part two of the address and couldn't comment on only part one since he wanted any comment to be based on a comprehensive statement. 

- by Gail Alexander

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