COMMENTARY by Hon DINESH RAMBALLY,
Member of Parliament, Chaguanas West
*Stubborn facts and a stubborn PM*
IN THE FACE of evidence of economic mismanagement from economic experts at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Prime Minister Rowley attacked the institution. The truth is that the PNM government has mismanaged the economy and used the covid19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine as excuses for its lack of economic planning. And anyone who speaks out against its economic mismanagement becomes an enemy of the PM.
The Prime Minister is advocating for UWI to conduct economic research, yet he attacks empirical data UWI provides on the economy. No clearer proof of his aversion to facts can be found than in Dr Rowley’s handling of Petrotrin.
According to UWI economist Dr Marlene Attzs, Petrotrin’s annual gross earnings was US$350 million from refined products, but the operations of Paria, its successor, has net annual outflows of US$250 million. TT is now forced to import products that were once manufactured by Petrotrin.
While the PNM administration is denying that the decision to shut down the refinery was an ill-conceived, retrograde one, the evidence shows otherwise. The refinery actually contributed over $20 billion in tax revenues between 2010 and 2016. With that gone, we are now faced with looming property taxes, higher gas prices, and T&TEC and WASA rates.
While all of this is going on, the diversification effort flounders. The stillborn Trinidad Tourism Ltd is facing a $1.7 million scandal, as reported in the Sunday Express of July 2. According to the newspaper, even board members were in the dark about the deal.
What action is the PM going to take? Will there be an independent investigation? Is it because chairman Cliff Hamilton says all is okay, the population will have to suffice with that? Isn’t $1.7 million of taxpayers’ money enough to justify a proper account? If there is nothing to hide, then be open with the country.
Is this the standard of governance that has become characteristic of the Rowley PNM? Does this PNM administration have any moral standing to criticise anyone again? When will it end?
The social and economic decay resulting from decisions like these across the economy is now resulting in citizens having to curtail normal daily free movement. A trip to the bank or ATM has now become a hazardous or even life-threatening trip. Can Rowley or his Minister of National Security deny the following data provided by the TT Police Service (TTPS)?
According to a recent CNC 3 report, from data provided by the TTPS, over the past 18 months, citizens have experienced thefts exceeding $1 million in cash immediately after leaving banks and ATMs. So far for this year, there have been 18 incidents, resulting in over $580,000 stolen.
In 2022 there were 25 incidents, with a total theft amount of $509,245. This gives a total dollar value exceeding $1.06 million. Furthermore, in ten separate incidents, individuals were robbed of $50,000 or more. The largest robbery during this period occurred in April 2022 outside the Masjid-ul-Mutaqueen Mosque on Munroe Road, where the victim lost $100,000.
Individual freedoms aside, the infrastructure is crumbling and the decay is being accelerated by poor economic planning, as Rowley and his Cabinet members continue to dismiss independent thinkers and the media for bringing forth the truth.
The truth is that the population is not stupid. The population has now become accustomed to the PM behaving in a coarse and unstatesmanlike manner to silence critics. Is that the best he can do?
The population has to demand a higher standard of governance from the Government. We cannot continue to accept the hogwash explanations from the Government and insolent answers when questioned on the facts.