Response of the Leader of the Opposition to the Budget
Speech of the Minister Finance 2005-2006 Monday, October
Mr. Speaker, I respond to this Budget of the Prime Minister
and Minister of Finance for fiscal year 2005-2006 in the
context of a nation that is on the brink of collapse.
In a three-hour long Speech he devotes less than ten minutes
to the issue of crime, the most serious problem facing
the country, and in the end gave no hope to the citizenry
that there will be any abatement of this PNM inspired
scourge that has afflicted this once peaceful and beautiful
Having convinced himself that the solution to all the
country's problems is to lock down this or lock down that
the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance seems to have
locked down his brain and made it impenetrable to any
new ideas. With foot in mouth not only does he frequently
utter nonsense, (as for example, his recent advice on
family planning was to watch TV instead), but he has also
failed to come to terms with the realities of the 21st
century, and he is blissfully unaware of the priorities
of the good citizens of T&T.
In previous responses to the Budget presentation of the
Hon. Minister of Finance, I have tried to follow convention.
I have analyzed the key international trends and developments,
looked at T&T in the context of the global challenges
that we face, researched what the international institutions
are saying about us and then made recommendations for
moving our nation forward.
This approach, Mr. Speaker, makes sense if one is speaking
to people who are willing to listen and learn. But more
importantly, it requires that there be a measure of credibility
on the other side. By what criteria shall we assess the
credibility of this Minister of Finance? Surely, not by
what he says he is going to do, but rather by what he
has done in the past.
The PNM carries on as if the population must accept what
they say and do simply because they occupy office. And
the Prime Minister speaks as though the test of truth
is whether something comes out of his mouth whether or
not he has his foot in it.
. Kouzes and Posner, in their book 'Credibility' wrote
under the heading 'Earning Credibility':
like reputation, is something that is earned over time.
It does not come automatically with the job or the title."
In an extensive survey of several thousand persons, the
authors said that the most frequent responses of people
when asked to define credibility of their leaders were:
do what they say they will do".
practice what they preach".
walk the talk".
actions are consistent with their words".
No one would expect the PNM to get a positive response
to any of these descriptions of credible leaders. It is,
therefore, very difficult to work up any enthusiasm for
responding to this Budget when we know that those opposite
have no intention of walking the talk; they are neither
practicing what they preach nor preaching what they practice;
their actions are not consistent with their words and
they completely disregard the cries of the population.
Mr. Speaker, let us see how they performed on the promises
made in the past Budgets. The 2005/2006 budget promises
to do a lot of things. However, when we examine the Budgets
delivered by this Minister of Finance since he was undeservedly
handed office in 2001 on a platter, we begin to see that
he and his administration have a deep seated pathology
for non delivery, non-performance and for making promises
and not delivering on them. No wonder the members of the
business community, among others, view with a high degree
of skepticism the promises made in this Budget.
Two years ago, in the 2003/2004 Budget presentation of
the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, the self same
Patrick Manning, Member for San Fernando East, promised
to build a bridge to Tobago. What has happened to that
bridge? The last time I was in Tobago I looked for the
bridge; I did not see any bridge, so I came back to Trinidad
and went to Toco; if there was a bridge between Toco and
Tobago that bridge must have been built under water. In
that same Budget speech the promising Prime Minister promised
to begin construction of a highway to Point Fortin in
2005. The promise was repeated a year later in the 2004/2005
Budget. In this Budget for 2005/2006 we now hear that
the Solomon Hochoy Highway will be extended from Golconda
to Debe. It seems that as the years roll by this highway
is getting shorter and shorter with every succeeding Budget
speech of the promising Prime Minister.
Mr. Speaker, the rapid industrialization of the South
West Peninsula demands a highway to Point Fortin. While
we are in the South West we reluctantly recall that in
the two (2) Budgets that preceded this one the Minister
promised to build a hospital there. What has become of
the Point Fortin hospital? Maybe it has gone the way of
the San Fernando transit hub that was promised 2 years
ago. Or maybe it has suffered the faith of the Mamoral
Dam. Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister promised that
work will begin on the Mamoral Dam. The Mamoral dam is
quite possibly the most abused of PNM promises. It has
featured in every Budget speech delivered by this promising
Prime Minister since 2002. My advice to the good people
of Mamoral is not to go looking for any damn dam; the
Mamoral Dam has the dubious honour of being the recurring
decimal of PNM promises.
Mr. Speaker, in the 2004/2005 Budget the Minister of Finance
promised to build 12 new police stations and to introduce
an integrated IT platform for the police service. Our
checks indicate that these promises have never been implemented.
In fact his Government has not built a single new Police
Station since he assumed office. While the UNC was in
office we built 22 new police stations and renovated and
/refurbished numerous others.
Mr. Speaker, following closely on the heels of her illustrious
husband, by far the next most promising Minister is the
one in the Ministry of Education. Last year the Minister
of Finance promised that 43 early childhood centers would
be established, and that 3,000 computers would be distributed
at the primary school level. How many we ask were distributed?
He and the Minister of Education promised to establish
IT Units in each educational district and to implementation
a Wide Area Network (WAN) connecting all schools. This
is a project they dubbed "Schoolnet". What has
happened to "Schoolnet"? Has it fallen through
the net? The promising Minister of Finance also promised
to double the number of 'A' level places in the Nation's
Secondary School System- that too has not happened. Last
year he promised to build 16 new Secondary Schools and
upgrade 100 others; not a single secondary school has
been built and there is no evidence of 100 schools being
upgraded. In fact the Ministry of Education has earned
the dubious reputation of being the Ministry of bungling
non-delivery. Twenty five schools failed to re-open at
the beginning of this school term because of the failure
of the Ministry to repair the said schools. Of course
they blame the Public servants and threaten to set up
a parallel organization to do the Ministry's work. The
irony of all this is that the Ministry of Education continues
to receive the largest budgetary allocation. It has become
painfully obvious to all of us that the Minister of Education
has not and will not implement these projects because
In the Ministry of agriculture they failed to launch the
national agriculture information database, to strengthen
the agriculture incentive programmes, to set up the veterinary
diagnostic laboratory, and a phyto-saitary system.
Mr. Speaker, the list of promises that have never materialized
goes on and on and can themselves be the subject of an
entire Parliamentary debate.
I have said before that the Budget is one of the most
important tools of good governance in a democratic society.
An approved Budget gives the Executive authority to spend
the tax-payers money and to use the national patrimony
in the interest of the people. The Budget then becomes
a tool of accountability since the Executive can account
for its spending in the context of the approved Budget.
But behind all of this, Mr. Speaker, is the foundation
of credibility. Unless the population believes that the
Executive will act on their promises and in their best
interest, the Budget is an exercise in arithmetic- it
merely adds up all the revenues the government will receive
and all the expenses of running the country for a year
and then sees if the difference is positive or negative.
Without credibility, we are wasting time and the fact
that there is no credibility on the other side is the
reason for the nation's impatience and despair.
Mr. Speaker, no one believes that this Government will
do what it says, especially with respect to crime, the
most crippling problem in this country. How do we intelligently
debate a Budget when the whole nation is under siege?
People cannot go out at night, bombs are exploding in
the city, the schools are hotbeds of violence, business
people are sending their children abroad, good hard working
people have to pay their life savings in ransom to get
back kidnapped members of their family, the simple shop-keeper
and small businessman is being robbed of their sweat with
numbing frequency. While institutions of the society are
losing their credibility, there is no one to guard the
guards and our Prime Minister is busy looking after the
problems of our CARICOM neighbours.
Behind all of this, Mr. Speaker, is the foundation of
credibility. Without credibility, we are wasting time
and the fact that the population does not believe they
will do what they say is the reason for the nation's impatience
CRIME is the most critical issue facing the country; that
has been so since this PNM Government came to power under
suspicious circumstances in December 2001. This country
will never forgive Robinson for that. The credibility
of the PNM (or lack of it) is no doubt influenced by their
illegitimacy. They have absolutely no credibility when
it comes to dealing with crime in this small country of
ours. This Government has failed so miserably in managing
crime that it is a travesty to mention their name and
the word management in the same breath. Everywhere in
this society people are expressing their frustration,
anger and fear with respect to this Government's relationship
to crime and criminals. This PNM will go down in history
as having created the "Fearsome Age of Crime"
in this once safe and peaceful land. A Government Minister
once told me that the UNC gloats over the crime situation
because it makes the PNM look bad. Nothing could be further
the truth. In this my response, therefore, I shall quote
extensively from what others have said to prove my point
on the dismal failure of the PNM Government to deal with
the issue of crime that is plaguing the country.
A recent survey by the Ansa McAl Psychological and Research
Centre pointed out:
a week marked by drug arrests, more gang related murders
and kidnappings, today's polls show that the people feel
that violence is fast becoming a way of life in T&T,
and they generally feel very unsafe.
Crime, the main problem confronting the country in recent
years, has become worse in the past few months with new,
frightening developments like bomb blasts in the capital,
reports of senior members of the police service being
involved in kidnappings and an increase in the number
of police killing civilians".
In the wake of this, the polls also reflect a high level
of distrust of the police by the people and they expressed
fear of victimization. They supported the replacement
of the Special Anti-Crime Unit with a local version of
the US Central Intelligence Agency.
When questioned, the majority - 58% - said that they supported
The majority of the population - 54% - also expressed
fear of being victimized by police.
Asked how safe they would feel going out at night, a notable
73% of the majority of respondents indicated that they
would feel unsafe going out at night.
Asked whether they felt violence was becoming a way of
life in T&T, an overwhelming 85% of respondents said
Mr. Speaker, one cannot help but ask oneself, why are
we debating a Budget in these circumstances? If by the
end of the year you are kidnapped or killed of what use
is the rest of this Budget to you? If you cannot leave
your home; if you cannot enjoy the meager fruits of your
labour of what use are tax cuts? If you cannot sit in
your own porch or be safe in your own business place what
is the point of striving for a home or to set up a business,
small or large? Planning, strategizing and budgeting make
sense when the basic needs of the population are satisfied.
We can make sense of a Budget debate when people have
food, clothes, shelter and, most of all, when they feel
safe and secure as they go about their business. The first
and primary function of any Government is the protection
of the life, limb and property of its citizens. That is
why in ancient times the Chinese, the Indians, the Greeks
and the Romans built huge impregnable walls around their
cities so as to protect their citizens. Protection and
safety of the citizens were and still is the first priority
of any Government... But today in our once peaceful twin
islands 24% of the population is living in poverty and
100% of the population in fear.
Mr. Speaker, I am not exaggerating when I say 100% of
the population is afraid. The fear is in the media, on
our roads, in the churches, in the business community,
the Parliament, the Judiciary, the academic community
and, indeed, the international community. Even the Head
of State, our President, has expressed his fear and frustration
in this matter.
While the Prime Minister is boasting that T&T is on
the brink of attaining first world status let me tell
you, Mr. Speaker, what the media is saying about crime.
In an article titled: 'T&T on the Brink of Collapse',
the Guardian of August 12, 2005 wrote:
far this year, there have been more than 8000 serious
crimes reported to the police, with 234 persons murdered
and well over 120 others kidnapped. At today's date last
year, there were 160 killings and 164 kidnappings. Murder
and kidnapping now appear out of control and the authorities
have demonstrated that they are powerless in making the
country safe again".
Mr. Speaker, that was August 12; the figures today (30,
September) 30, the figures are 285 murders plus 15 unclassified
killings, 14 alleged police killings, 186 kidnappings
- -46 for ransom.
The article went on to say also:
are dismayed by the ineffectiveness of the police in curbing
crime, worried about their lack of progress in the investigation
into the July 11 explosion and very concerned about their
ability to solve the bombing on the rainy August 10".
The article concluded:
is on the brink of collapse. The authorities appear incapable
of finding effective solutions. Despite their promises,
they have not been able to deliver the security and protection
the country needs and demands. They must get their act
together and save T&T".
Permit me to rephrase that last line: Get your act together
or get out! We are calling in the promissory note.
Mr. Speaker, what was the Government's response to these
cries in the wilderness? Predictable. They buried their
heads in the sands of denial and accused the Guardian
of bias against the PNM. So let us look at what another
newspaper said - one which tends to be more PNM friendly.
In the Newsday of August 17, 2005, in an article titled
"The Cocaine Untouchables", George Alleyne,
well known journalist, wrote:
major cocaine importers and distributors, merchants of
death all of them, appear for the most part, immune from
arrest and prosecution, whether the arrest and prosecution
should be initiated by the Ministry of National Security's
growing legions of agencies or from the Ministry of Finance's
Inland Revenue Department".
Mr. Alleyne further stated:
authorities have turned and continue to turn a blind eye
(forgive the cliché) to involvement by the drug
trade principals, even as they express horror at the growing
number of young men killing and maiming each other as
they battle for the crumbs on the new slave master's table".
Mr. Alleyne was very charitable in his column. He did
not directly call the authorities hypocrites but he described
I now ask the PNM Government: Is the Newsday also biased
and against the Government? Or is it Mr. Alleyne?
Mr. Speaker, I said earlier that Parliament is also expressing
its fear and frustration on the matter of crime.
Speaking in the Senate on June 28, 2005, Independent Senator
Professor Ramesh Deosaran said that: ..."murder and
kidnapping were increasing and that even senior police
officers were fearful about walking the streets".
He noted that "in the last 24 hours, one murder had
taken place in Maracas, St. Joseph, where the President
Max Richards lived, and the kidnapping of the Nath brothers
had taken place in Sangre Grande with apparent links with
the Jamaat al Musilmeen, which operated an illegal quarry
in Valencia with the blessing of the State. Since money
was not the problem, management had to be the key issue".
He also warned that people were ready to take the law
into their own hands, perhaps even to hire assassins to
seek revenge against persons who offended them. He said
foreign experts were not necessary and that the statistics
of increasing crime with lower detection rates in all
spheres spoke for themselves as a dire indictment of the
police. Professor Deosaran also noted that the conviction
rate for murder and kidnapping was also depressingly low
and that judges and magistrates' laxness in granting bail
to repeat offenders must be dealt with by the State. The
Senator said that "the Police Complaints Authority
had failed to clean up the Police Service regarding policemen
who were clearly guilty of malicious prosecution, framing
persons, nepotism and delinquency."
But, Mr. Speaker, what is the point of Professor Deosaran
(or anyone else for that matter) speaking out? Is the
Government listening? What has been done about illegal
quarrying in Valencia? Does Mr. Abu Bakr still have a
Priority Bus Route pass? Does he still enjoy the status
of community leader who is awarded contracts by state-owned
Petrotrin? How many kidnapping cases have been solved?
Does the Prime Minister still think that kidnappings are
bogus? What is his definition now of collateral damage?
Does he still think that crime is temporary?
It would seem that the Prime Minister may have changed
his position on kidnappings being bogus. Recently the
Minister of National Security announced that Government
had agreed to accept help from the US FBI to train our
own Anti-Kidnapping Squad. Recognising that the incompetence
of this PNM Government is terminal and incurable the UNC
has been recommending that we get outside help since 2002
but this Government is a slow learner; the tragedy is
that the population has to pay the price for their inadequacies
and incompetence with their lives, limbs and property.
Mr. Speaker, listen to what the judiciary is saying. High
Court, Justice Alice Yorke-Soo Hon in passing sentence
in a robbery case said that the Court had a duty to protect
citizens from robberies and gun-related offences which
now occur on a "daily basis". She also said
"There was a time when one sought refuge in the sanctuary
of his home. That is no longer the case. Even in homes,
citizens live in terror because they were being invaded
by those who commit acts of brutality. Fear and terror
now grip citizens. Citizens live in fear and terror".
Mr. Speaker, what is the Government's response to all
this? Business as usual. They simply continue with heads
buried in the proverbial sand to mamaguy the public; they
pass the blame to someone else and accuse everyone of
exaggerating about how bad things are.
What will it take Mr. Speaker, to make this callous PNM
Government stand up and do something about crime? Mr.
Speaker, you know and I know that the PNM will do nothing.
To act against the criminals will be to cut their noses
to appear to spite their faces; do you think they will
put in jail the very persons they used as muscle to terrorise
the Opposition in the last general elections? Never. These
are the people who put them in power and now it is pay-back
time. Added to that it would seem that they get a kind
of perverse pleasure from the kidnapping epidemic because
they thought the victims were the supporters of the UNC
and the perpetrators were their supporters. It this a
kind of State sponsored terrorism? But you will recall,
Mr. Speaker that I have often said that in a country as
small and compact as ours you cannot inflict terror on
one section of the society without hurting the entire
body politic. In attempting to "Mugabe-ise"
this country the PNM has gone too far. All that remains
is for them now is to start confiscating the properties
or the jobs of people who do not support them as they
have done to the sugar workers and cane farmers and the
employees of TTT.
Mr. Speaker, even the business community is has begun
to cry out against crime. The Guardian reported on August
16, 2005, in an article titled "UNDP Report: Crime
costing T&T business big $$ - TTMA wants PM to address
issue" as follows:
study of all countries shows that T&T suffers the
third highest cost to business as a result of excessive
crime and violence, the TTMA has told Government in its
2006 budget submission.
The TTMA's call for action against crime was at the top
of its submission said Paul Quesnel.
TTMA feels strongly that the number one issue affecting
the country now is the unacceptable level of crime. Already
there has been capital flight, migration of business people
and a hesitance to reinvest in the economy. People are
afraid - they don't know what to expect next after murders,
kidnappings and now bombings".
Mr. Speaker, even the church is also crying out. Listen
to what Father Garfield Rochard told his congregation
about a month ago. Worshippers at the Church of Assumption
at Maraval were told that due to three break-ins of vehicles
at the compound for the year, persons having weddings
and funerals there may soon have to arrange their own
security. Father Rochard told his parishioners that new
security measures may involve closing the gates during
worship, weddings and funerals to ensure that no car drives
out before the end of the function without identification
and/or authorization. He revealed that Bell Vue and Dibe
have a self imposed curfew because of gun activity in
What a shame Mr. Speaker! What a disgrace when peace loving
citizens cannot enjoy their wedding or worship in peace.
That is state into which this PNM Government has brought
this once peaceful and beloved country. How much lower
can we sink when we must hire security to protect us against
criminals even as we pray our pay our last respects to
our departed ones with some sense of dignity? What will
it take, Mr. Speaker, to make this callous PNM Government
stand up and do something about crime?
In the Express of August 12, 2005, the Manufacturers Association
is reported to have said:
country is on the edge and the Government must act now
before its citizens reach a point of no return. Kidnappings
continue unabated, crime is in a free fall and now, almost
exactly one month after the first explosion in Port of
Spain, we have a second, equally traumatic bombing on
The Association continued:
live in a state of national insecurity....our fundamental
right to live in safety has been totally compromised by
the spiraling crime situation epitomized by this senseless
While all of this is happening, the Hon. Minister of National
Security claims that the "police have turned the
corner". My response to this, Mr. Speaker, is how
loud do you want the population to laugh? The police may
have turned the corner, indeed! But in what direction
there were going he did not say. Clearly, Mr. Speaker,
the Hon. Minister of National Security, Mr. Martin Joseph,
should not be allowed out of the company of his family
members Learie Joseph and Tommy Joseph. It is such a tragedy,
Mr. Speaker, when the joker Minister of National Security
becomes the joke.
Mr. Speaker, the maxi taxi drivers have also joined the
chorus of good people in T&T who are crying out for
protection against criminals.
The Route Two Maxi Association have expressed frustration
over the lack of security protection blamed for the robbery
and shooting of maxi operator, David Reid, who was treated
for a punctured lung.
The Association said that he was the third maxi operator,
and the second in a week to be robbed at gunpoint along
the Priority Bus Route. The Association expressed its
frustration over the promise given by the Minister of
National Security to improve security.
Mr. Speaker, people of T&T, the country has spoken;
the PNM refuses or is unable to act; what do we do? President
Richards in his address at the opening of Parliament probably
gave us a clue to the answer; 'Call in the promissory
note'. They promised to do something about crime; they
have failed to keep their promise; it is time to call
in the promissory note. But that is easier said than done
without constitutional reform how are you going to do
that? You shall have to wait until 2007 or earlier, God
The whole country is suffering; it is not only the businessmen
and women of a particular ethnic group that is under siege.
Granted the PNM is deliberately trying to chase this group
out of the country what about the poor people who support
their party? Day after day the blood of their sons and
daughters stain the streets of Laventille, Morvant and
Diego Martin. Not even the profusion of tears of mothers
and grandmothers, sons and daughters cousins and nieces,
friends and family can wash away the blood stains of so
many youths fallen in the prime of their lives. How could
the PNM be so cruel, so hard hearted even to their supporters.
Mr. Speaker, when I suggested that the Minister of National
Security should join his relatives in the entertainment
arena, I was not only referring to his performance in
respect of crime. He has done no better when it comes
to the Fire Services. When Port of Spain suffered its
huge fire loss in April of this year, one of the problems
was the lack of water in the hydrants. It was a big embarrassment
for the Government. Each State agency was blaming the
other. Even the Mayor of Port of Spain was sharing out
blame left right and centre.
But history was to repeat itself on August 25, 2005 when
fire struck AS Bryden in San Juan. On that occasion it
was felt that the fire services took too long to come
to the scene and once more even the Chief Fire Officer
was heard to complain about inadequate water supply.
The same thing happened again when fire struck in San
Fernando at Seukeran's Mall. Here is how the Guardian
reported the matter:
close to an hour firemen tried to overcome low water pressure
which slowed their efforts.
San Fernando Mayor, Ian Atherly, said he and San Fernando
West MP Diane Seukeran arrived well before WASA responded
to a request to boost the water supply from a hydrant.
An upset Atherly said he had been led to believe that
the water pressure was good and that the city had a fire
lorry, which is used to transport fire hoses.
By 8:30 pm, the water pressure was boosted but by then
the entire upper floor was alight.
Atherly said: "I am appalled by this. We are not
prepared for any such disaster. Look at this! The water
pressure is no more than that of a garden hose."
They could have put out the fire with his crocodile tears
which flowed so profusely. This is the same Atherly who
breaks down vendors stalls while he illegally occupies
the pavement in front his rum shop opposite Skinner's
Park in San Fernando.
The Ministry of National Security was allocated almost
$2 Billion in 2004, $2,5Billion in 2005 and will get almost
$3 Billion in 2006. As usual, Mr. Speaker, the Minister
set-up an enquiry after the POS fire but to date he has
not told the public why this fiasco occurred in the first
place. Think of the loss of property, the insurance costs,
and loss of jobs, the loss of business and how long it
will take to recover from these fires.
How does the Minister of National Security respond to
all of this Mr. Speaker? He said he will resign if the
PM asks him to do so, and he then promptly proceeds to
pat himself on the back as if he has made himself honorable
merely by uttering those empty words. Like all the rest
of his cabinet colleagues he does not begin to understand
what is meant by accountability and responsibility. As
long as this continues to be so, T&T will languish
in the mediocrity and non-performance of the PNM that
has now become legendary.
Mr. Speaker, the advent of a new kind of crime in T&T
is a cause for more fear among the population. Bombings
are now the 2005 new year phenomenon.
In an editorial dated July 12, 2005, the Newsday raised
some very pertinent questions about this new crime. They
noted that fingers will be pointed at a criminal organization
which masquerades as a religious body. I want to add Mr.
Speaker that this organization is facilitated by the PNM
and that Senator Joan Yuille Williams has been identified
as the major facilitator of this group.
The editorial observed that they knew that a Bomb Squad
exists but opined that their expertise was confined to
locating and disarming explosives. They noted : "The
timing of this incident may also be significant - or at
least ironic - in relation to Prime Minister Patrick Manning
who just last Saturday was talking about throwing a security
net around the country - a net that is so significant
that it is with difficulty that such a net can be penetrated,"
. The editorial also said: "It was only a few months
ago that Attorney General John Jeremie was making vague
noises about collecting the $20 million owed to the State
by the Jamaat - but since then he has apparently been
devoting his energies to legislation mostly designed,
it seems, to limit citizens' rights. And then last week,
Energy Minister Eric Williams was saying that illegal
quarrying in Valencia couldn't be stopped because of loopholes
in the law - which, even if true, doesn't explain why
the Government continues to buy aggregate from the Jamaat-run
Mr. Speaker, the Guardian editorial of July 7, 2005 also
addressed the issue of bombings in very strong terms.
They deemed it an act of terrorism. They said: "Some
of those who should have been offering leadership and
guidance in the aftermath of the explosion failed to rise
to the occasion. Why did the Prime Minister merely issue
a statement from Whitehall and not address the nation?
This task was instead undertaken by the National Security
Minister Martin Joseph, who first appeared in downtown
Port of Spain, at a spot where the blood of the injured
could still be seen - wearing shockingly, a broad grin.
This inept reaction was followed many hours later by an
address to the nation close to 10pm - too late for inclusion
in yesterday's newspapers. Why was Mr. Joseph's response
The editorial continued: "Similarly, Police Commissioner
Trevor Paul took three hours to reach the scene, although
he was no further away than Tobago. Mr. Paul thought it
necessary to make a grand entrance by helicopter, landing
practically on the site of the explosion and blowing dust
and debris all over it, thus possibly making futile the
work of his own investigators".
Mr. Speaker, even the most incompetent of governments
would have known that this new kind of crime had to be
dealt with swiftly if they were going to put an end to
it. It has to be nipped in the bud. But to date we see
no resolve on the part of the Government to attack the
perpetrators. And the perpetrators seem to be having a
good laugh at the Government as their third bomb exploded
on September 10, 2005 at KFC on Independence Square right
under the nose of 'the eye in the sky'. Is it again because
their friends are involved? Is it somehow not in their
best interest to find the perpetrators? Given their cozy
relationship with certain terrorists, the population can
be forgiven for thinking that the Government "like
Mr. Speaker, this feeling is compounded by the refusal
of the Prime Minister to launch an enquiry into the events
of July 1990. His reasons for refusing are nothing short
of nonsensical. It ranks with the advice he has given
for family planning: watch television instead; instead
of doing what, I am not sure... He is now the local expert
at talking absolute rubbish. He claims that people would
have forgotten. When it comes to memory, the PM must speak
for himself. There are too many unanswered questions about
July 1990 to let it go uninvestigated and the PM should
get on with the job - unless, of course, he has something
Mr. Speaker, when speaking of the Jamaat, the question
of gangs also comes into play. Recently when Mr. Glenroy
Charles was shot, it came to be known that he ran the
URP in the West and controlled all the gangs in the Diego
Martin, Petit Valley, Carenage and the Maraval areas.
It was reported that on the morning following his shooting,
every gang leader and their followers were in Diego Martin.
Such was the fear in the area that the Guard and Emergency
Branch had to be called out.
Earlier in the year Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National
Security revealed that there were 66 known gangs in the
country with an estimated 500 hard core members. The Minister
boasted: "Government will not allow a small group
of criminals to threaten the safety, security and well
being of our nation...we will not allow these criminals
to ruin or compromise this country's inexorable drive
to developed nation status by 2020".
Fat talk after fat talk. Mr. Speaker, within hours of
the shooting of Mr. Charles, a reprisal shooting occurred
in the area...so much for the Minister's boast. Once more
this comedian has given us justification for our recommendation
that he should not let him out of the company of his relatives
and why he should find a career in the entertainment business.
In an editorial dated August 25, 2005, the Newsday raised
some very pertinent questions with respect to gangs. This
is what they said:
young men killing one another are not just mindless psychopaths,
but casualties in a battle for significant resources.
Moreover, the conflict is not over drug money alone. It
appears that the State has also contributed to the situation
by its mishandling of the largesse of the URP". When
I said the same thing, they accused me of making irresponsible
The editorial concluded as follows:
solution, obviously, is not to help gang leaders - or
as some now call them, community leaders - to become more
powerful, but to cut the heart out of the drug trade.
It is also becoming apparent that something has to be
done about the URP. Only if the authorities take action
to make both unprofitable, and to give the young men involved
other options, will we reduce the violent crime in our
The Prime Minister vaguely hints at tackling the dependency
syndromewhen he intimated that he may re-introduce the
UNC concept of training into the programme. You will recall
that when we came into office we changed the name of the
URP (Unemployment Relief Programme) to ETP - Education
and Training Programme. When the PNM came to office in
2000 they promptly reverted to URP. How can believe this
Government is genuine when they say they are going to
introduce a training element in the Programme. And how
can you introduce it into the CEPEP when there is no relationship
between the employees of CEPEP and the government. Their
relationship is with the contractor. They are the employees
of the contractor.
The issue now is what is the Government doing if it knows
that there are 66 criminal gangs with 500 members? If
you know who the criminals are and where they are how
come the crime spree is not abating? On the contrary,
the spree continues at an even faster pace. Mr. Speaker,
are people in high places protecting the gang leaders
and their members? Is it of any significance that one
Minister owns a boat that makes regular trips to Venezuela
and that he also seems to have his own private port? Is
it wise that such a person should have been a Minister
of National Security? How did the Columbian women enter
this country? Is it through the same pier as the guns
and cocaine? Is that not part of the crime scene in the
country? Maybe these Colombian women are part of the new
Tourist thrust? Credibility, Mr. Speaker, credibility.
Mr. Speaker, I now turn to what the international community
is saying about crime in T&T.
Business Monitor International, (BMI), in its September
edition said about T&T:
crime levels have soared over recent months and this has
contributed to a massive drop in consumer confidence,
which fell 7 points in June to 82, although fears over
economic prospects were also a factor. This is related
not only to the crime wave but also to waning confidence
in the economic outlook for the medium term."
Mr. Speaker, BMI is a widely read magazine. It has an
international clientele. They are reporting the facts
as we all know it but the Prime Minister, with his head
buried in the sand, says exactly the opposite in his Budget
The advisories on T&T that have been issued by several
countries all paint a similar picture.
On July 12 2005, the Australian Department of Foreign
Affairs issued an advisory which read in part:
crimes including assault, murder and kidnapping continue
to increase. Armed robbery is prevalent, particularly
in the capital Port of Spain. There has been an increase
in daylight attacks, some including the use of firearms
at tourist sites, including Fort George in Port of Spain
and in car parks of supermarkets and shopping malls. Travelers
have been nabbed while walking after dark in Port of Spain.
Robberies also occur on the road from Piarco Airport.
The risk of robbery when traveling to and from the airport
increases at night, particularly on the Beetham Highway.
There have been incidents of violent theft by gangs who
follow cars traveling from the airport and attack their
victims when they reach their destinations.
Petty crime including bag snatching, pick-pocketing and
theft from cars is common, especially near tourist attractions
and on public transport, and in larger cities on both
Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada issued a similar
Travel Report that was valid as of July 11 2005. This
is what they said about T&T:
continues to be on the increase, particularly in Port
of Spain and other urban areas. Gang-related violence,
including shootings and kidnapping, occurs and can affect
bystanders. Canadians should avoid Lavantille and other
known high crime areas. Canadians should also exercise
caution at popular tourist sites such as Fort George and
La Brea Pitch Lake, as well as at supermarket and shopping
mall car parks in the western part of Port of Spain, since
crimes targeting foreigners have been reported in these
Mr. Speaker, even the Commonwealth Office issued a travel
advisory on July 11 2005 which said in summary:
* "You should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate
terrorist attacks which could be against civilian targets,
including places frequented by foreigners. An Islamist
group, the Jamaat Al Musilmeen, attempted to overthrow
the government by force in1990
* Sensible precautions should be taken against theft,
which can be a problem at nights in parts of downtown
Port of Spain and in other urban areas. There has also
been a worrying increase in robberies and break-ins in
all areas and an increase in attacks, some involving the
use of firearms, at tourist sites, including Fort George,
and also at car parks of supermarkets/shopping malls around
Port of Spain and other areas and at business premises.
In some cases foreign nationals have been shot, including
a German national who was shot dead at his home on January
18 and a British national who was shot during a robbery
at home on April 21.
* Particular care should be taken when traveling from
Piarco Airport, as there have been incidents of violent
attacks by gangs who follow cars and attack their victims
when they reach their destinations.
* Kidnappings have been a problem in Trinidad since 2002.
(Note: PNM came into power in December 2001)
* Crime against tourists in Tobago is a concern. There
has been a spate of serious robberies against tourists
in Tobago in 2004. Some of these incidents have been accompanied
by violence, including rape, against foreign nationals."
Mr. Speaker, the US Department of State had similar things
to say in their advisory which was issued on July 12 2005.
In summary, this is what they said:
of violent crime have been on the rise on both islands.
Visitors should exercise caution and good judgment, as
in any large urban area, when visiting Trinidad and Tobago.
The US Embassy advises visitors to exercise caution when
traveling from Trinidad's Piarco Airport, especially after
dark, because of incidents involving armed robbers trailing
arriving passengers from the airport and then accosting
them outside the gates of their residences.
Violent crimes, including kidnapping, murder and assault,
have involved foreign nationals and tourists, including
US citizens. Burglaries of private residences are common.
Robbery is a risk, particularly in urban areas and especially
near ATMs and shopping malls. In some cases robberies
against Americans have turned violent when the victim
In Tobago, the media have reported an increase in the
incidence of violent crimes"
Mr. Speaker, it has already been noted that the TTMA pointed
out to us that this reputation that we are developing
as a criminal's paradise is costing us heavily in terms
of both domestic and foreign investment. The BMI also
has told us that consumer confidence has declined sharply.
We know that businesses are closing and business people
are leaving. Yet all we get are empty promises while the
situation deteriorates daily.
Mr. Speaker, in ordinary circumstances, the population
would look to the police for protection. In our case however,
not only are some members of the police, including senior
ones, accused of being involved in crime, especially kidnapping,
but important issues are continuously being raised about
the adequacy of the resources of the police service and
also about the organization and structure of the service.
Before I continue further with this subject Mr. Speaker,
I want to make it clear that the UNC is of the view that
the large majority of police personnel are honest and
hard working and are there to protect and serve. The problem
is with a small group of rogue officers and with the management
of the service.
Mr. Speaker, the Police Social and Welfare Division has
had some serious concerns about the Special Anti-Crime
Unit of T&T (SAUTT).
President Cedric Neptune said SAUTT was "a political
tool" that was answerable only to National Security
Minister Martin Joseph......remember him, relative of
Learie and Tommy. He said that the unit headed by Brig
Peter Joseph was not a legal entity. This view was echoed
by eminent attorneys.
Mr. Neptune said that since 2001, government had targeted
several police stations for construction but as of today,
no work had been undertaken. "But what we find happening".
He said, "It is that a unit like the SAUTT for which
there is no legal frame work for it being formed, this
unit is being outfitted with the latest equipment and
no expenditure is being spared relating to outfitting
this unit and the provision of resources". Mr. Neptune
said this unit was being used as a political tool and
he did not know if the Minister of National Security and
the powers that be were of the opinion that they will
be occupying the corridors of power for the rest of their
He also said that SAUTT was a parallel police force and
essentially a unit on to themselves and that the Minister
of National Security did not even have the courtesy to
apprise the association of SAUTT's activities.
Mr. Speaker, in the days following Mr. Neptune's statement,
there were instances when the real police and the SAUTT
appeared on crime scenes at the same time and there seemed
to be some hostility between the two units. It was clear
that the two police forces were not communicating with
Mr. Speaker, this kind of mismanagement is bound to cause
dissention, disharmony and poor morale among the good
men and women of the police service. Why does the Minister
of National Security and the Prime Minister want their
own Gestapo-like Mongoose Gang? Who or what are they protecting?
Who are they setting-up? What is their real intent with
this mongoose gang? Is this their private force for terrorizing
their political opponents?
Mr. Speaker, connected with the crime situation is the
issue of police brutality which is also becoming a matter
of grave concern to the good people of T&T.
The Express newspaper of July 22, 2005, commenting on
the case of Devon Sookoo, in an editorial titled 'An Enduring
yet another time, the State has been ordered to pay compensation
to a citizen who has been at the receiving end of police
brutality." In fact, Sookoo had not even been convicted
of a crime, even though the police subsequently laid a
charge of possession of marijuana against him. To all
appearances, it was police brutality for the sake of police
brutality and reinforces the argument of defense attorney,
Mr. Anand Ramlogan, that policemen who abuse citizens
should themselves be disciplined.
But by whom and by what process? Certainly, not any so
called police Complaints Authority which in any given
year only manages to investigate a laughable quantum of
the complaints referred to it. This is a country where
between May 2001 to September 2003 there have been "4062
complaints against the police with only 169 being investigated
and reported on and where there has been a staggering
increase in various categories of complaints. Battery
increased by 154 %, violence against property increased
by 325%, failure to perform duty by 48.8%, harassment
by 56.55, bad behavior by 40.3% and wrongful arrest by102%.
None of this is to suggest that all of these have merit,
but all of this suggests that we have an enduring problem".
Mr. Speaker, I said earlier, that the word management
and PNM should not be mentioned in the same sentence;
do you now understand what I mean? But that is not all.
It goes further.
In a Guardian report of July 24, 2005 a member of the
Firearms Interdiction Unit (FIU) is quoted as having said:
Officers have always been dedicated to the job, even though
they did not have sufficient equipment. On many occasions
the officers use their private vehicles to go on surveillance
duties and also take money out of their own pockets to
fund many operations." This in a country that had
a $30 billion Budget last year and over $90 billion since
The article also mentioned that after the arrest of a
central businessman who had close ties with a member of
the police executive, earlier in the year, the FIU had
been denied equipment which was promised to it, such as
Mr. Speaker, the Police Service is suffering a serious
crisis of credibility and it is rooted in PNM's misplaced
sense of priorities and in their total mismanagement of
everything in this land. They have damaged every institution
in the country and now something as basic as security
of the nation is compromised to the point that anarchy
Mr. Speaker, the crisis of credibility in the police service
has recently been aggravated by another ugly trend. It
was highlighted in a Newsday article of July 10, 2005
under the headline: "Who really is police out there?"
In one part the article said:
are many reports that men dressed in police uniforms committed
unlawful acts across the country. There was a report last
month of men dressed as police ramming the car of a businesswoman.
She sensed that something was wrong and raced to the nearest
police station. Why didn't these 'police officers' follow
her to the police station? Was this another attempt to
Some persons kidnapped this year were snatched by persons
dressed like police officers.
Take for instance, the kidnapping of the Nath brothers
recently. They were stopped in a roadblock on the Valencia
stretch. Imagine that very lonely spot with very little
lighting at night had a roadblock. Gangs are now moving
around dressed as police officers. What are people supposed
to do when they are stopped by someone in police uniform?
Why has the Commissioner or the Minister not given some
sort of advice or directions to people who find themselves
in this situation? Mr. Minister, Mr. Commissioner, we
have a nation of frightened people. Dealing with criminals
in police uniforms is a good place to start."
But that is not all. Not only are people being kidnapped
by men in police uniforms but they are being killed by
guns of the Police. In the case of the murder of Uttamdeo
Marajh of Palo Seco, it has been proven that the firearm
that was used to kill him was one of those that went missing
from a police station. The population is now asking whether
the gun was stolen or was it rented out "to put down
And what do we get from the Government in all of this
Mr. Speaker? In a flash of sheer brilliance, the Member
for San Fernando West, who has said unambiguously that
the PNM is failing to deliver, is reported in the Guardian
of August 2005, to have offered the deeply profound explanation
"we are all responsible for crime". She is quoted
as having said:
failed when you look at the criminals? We can't cover
our eyes. All leaders failed us." She forgot that
the UNC had crime under control.
Mr. PM, take note of what your members think of you when
it comes to crime.
Incidentally Mr. Speaker, her view that the PNM is failing
to deliver was comprehensively supported by the Minister
Once more the PNM's penchant for misunderstanding the
concept of responsibility is apparent. The Member for
San Fernando West does not understand that the people
put them there to run the country. They have the resources.
They have the power. This responsibility cannot be delegated.
The buck stops with the Government and no amount of platitudes
can change that.
Mr. Speaker, I am totally convinced that there is no particular
analysis or set of recommendations that can help us with
the Fearsome Age of Crime that the PNM has created. They
have ensured that crime is a lucrative business. They
have painted criminal activity as a romantic area for
career building for the young people of T&T. By an
absence of law enforcement, by dividing the society along
ethnic and urban/rural lines, by making heroes out of
the captains of crime and by using the URP to provide
an economic base for criminal activity, the PNM has succeeded
in their tenure in making criminal activity the only area
of sustainable economic activity.
Mr. Speaker, every year at budget time, the UNC gives
its recommendations for solving the crisis of crime in
T&T. This is not rocket science. Crime has to be fought
at two levels: at the level of crime prevention and at
the level of crime detection. At the level of crime prevention
the object is to prevent the crime before it is committed.
This involves a holistic approach designed to change the
culture of lawlessness to an attitude of lawfulness. Its
dimensions are economic, social and cultural. We must
deal with things like unemployment and poverty, homelessness
and hopelessness. We must dismantle the ghettoes, not
by giving it a paint job as is proposed for Laventille
and Morvant, in this Budget, not by transferring them
from one place to another in an attempt to house pad,
but by building communities with all the facilities for
decent human living
At the level of crime detection you must ensure that the
Police Service is given the necessary resources to apprehend
wrong doers after the crime has been committed. Resources
do not mean only physical resources such as police stations,
vehicles, guns, blimps and other modern equipment, but
includes human resources such as a Police Service recruited
on the basis of merit, properly trained, where promotion
and advancement are made on the basis of a meritocracy,
not racism, patronage, cronyism and favouritism. Having
been arrested and charged the accused is taken to Court;
we must do what it takes to make our courts and the criminal
justice system efficient, swift and effective. The question
of prison reform cannot be over emphasised if we are to
deal with the problem of recidivism Proper systems of
management must be put in place at all levels.
But most of all, Mr. Speaker, there must be the political
will; the Government must dissociate itself from crime
and the criminals. They cannot use the criminals for their
nefarious endeavours and then pretend that they are doing
something about crime. Most importantly, do not romanticize
criminal careers as the PNM did with Mark Guerra; do not
dignify criminals with lofty titles and stop using criminals
to steal elections. Do not use them to terrorise the Opposition
whether at election time or otherwise. Mr. Speaker, do
you remember the "Marbuntas" of the 1960's?
The PNM has a history of criminalizing the politics of
this beloved country.
This Government lacks is the will to defeat crime precisely
because of its involvement with crime and criminals. The
problem is not a shortage of resources. We have the resources.
We know that there are 60 gangs and they have 500 members
- so what are we waiting for? In whose interest is it
to ensure that the criminals grow and prosper? Only the
PNM hierarchy and their financiers from the drug mafia
are benefiting from crime.
Mr. Speaker, if we are to deal with crime, if we are to
set this country on the road to progress once more, we
must strengthen our existing institutions and build new
and relevant ones. Last year I warned the Government that
if they continued to undermine the institutions of our
society, they would be leading us to disaster. In particular
I referred to the Prime Minister's vindictive behavior
towards one Marlene Coudrey, his discrimination against
Devant Maharaj, his discrimination against the Sanatan
Dharma Maha Sabha in their application for a radio license,
his interference in the judicial process with respect
to the Bajan fishermen ad his interference with the police
when his former driver got into trouble with the Marabella
I told the Government that debating a Budget can only
make sense when we had functioning institutions of our
society in place, when our people were not divided and
debilitated by racial and other forms of discrimination
and when our democracy was functioning effectively. Since
then Mr. Speaker, nothing has changed. Indeed, things
have gotten worse and we continue as a nation to spiral
Mr. Speaker, the office of the DPP, is a very important
institution in our society. Unless the population has
the confidence that this Office will be fair, fearless
and strong, the very foundation of our democracy will
be undermined. What is the nation to think when a judge
of the International Criminal Court says?
my 46 years of practice I have not seen a similar case
at the Bar. It is the height of wickedness on the evidence.
There should never have been a prosecution of Professor
Narinesingh. I regret I have to speak in such tones but
it should never have happened. I tend to get emotional
at these times but this is a serious matter and in my
view wanton abuse of power. You don't piece together a
case. This is the most serious charge we know. You don't
Mr. Speaker, these were the words of Senior Counsel, Mr.
Karl Hudson Phillips. as he summed up his defense of Professor
Narinesingh. He concluded by saying: "Narinesingh
has no case to answer and he should be discharged forthwith".
Mr. Speaker, no sooner had the Chief Magistrate discharged
Professor Narinesingh, the DPP proceeded to send his files
to a judge of the High Court, seeking to have the Professor
rearrested. It is now history that the learned judge wasted
no time in throwing the case out. How can anyone continue
to have confidence in the office of the Director of Public
It is common knowledge that the DPP accused the Chief
Justice of interfering in the Narinesingh case and this
is now a matter before the court. I will therefore say
nothing to prejudice the outcome of the matter. But I
must ask: is there a connection of vindictiveness between
the two matters? Are the Prime Minister and the Attorney
General connected with this malicious prosecution? I do
not know the answers to these questions but I have been
around too long to take things on face value. This Budget
is about confidence.
After all is said and done citizens may view this matter
as good grounds for not having confidence in the DPP.
Remember the DPP was accused of "abuse of power."
As I said earlier, without confidence in this Office,
our democracy will be seriously undermined. I ask the
again how do we debate a Budget intelligently when we
don't have the basics of our society right?
How could such an important institution conduct itself
this way? How can we play with the lives of decent upstanding
citizens in this manner? The Professor has an international
reputation for excellence in his field. Does the DPP know
how many lives the Professor has saved? Does he know how
many tears the Professor has dried? Does the DPP have
any idea of how much pain the Professor has eased and
how much comfort he has given to countless fathers, mothers,
sisters and brothers? But he proceeds on the basis of
unadulterated spite and vindictiveness to incarcerate
an innocent citizen who is contributing in every walk
of life in T&T and also internationally. Mr. Speaker,
there can be no excuse for this kind of abuse of power
and if the PNM had any decency they would proceed expeditiously
to do something about it. And it will be something that
sends a loud message to all of the personnel of all institutions
of the State that this type of abuse will not be tolerated
in any form.
Mr. Speaker, the undermining of the judiciary does not
end with the abuse of power by the Office of the DPP and
the PM's persecution of the CJ. This Government is deliberately
starving the judiciary of resources because it does not
get along with some of the senior people and because it
feels that too many cases have gone against it.
Here is an example Mr. Speaker.
On August 22, 2005, an empty paint bucket had to be placed
in front of Deputy Chief Magistrate Mr. Mark Wellington's
desk to collect rainwater at the San Fernando Magistrate's
Court which came down through a leak in the roof. On an
another occasion during a heavy down pour, the court recorder
at San Fernando First Court also had to shift her books
and the court's records to prevent them from getting wet
as the roof above them began to leak.
Attorney Chateram Sinanan said: "When the sun is
hot, the magistrate's court is like a boiler. When it
is raining, it's leaking, and when it is raining, in addition
to the leaks, it is impossible to hear the evidence as
it is being given".
This is the condition of our courts after four budgets
and $90 billion later. Last November, health inspectors
from the San Fernando City Corporation deemed the existing
court building a health hazard and a warning notice was
sent to the judiciary ordering it to clean up the building
or face shut down. Will Scotland Yard and the FBI repair
the roof of the Court?
Mr. Speaker, again I ask, how can we debate a Budget when
this is the state of our nation. This PM can find resources
to help all of his Caribbean neighbors. But he can't find
resources for our courts where the vast majority of the
poor and humble people of T&T go to get justice. All
he does when facts like these are brought to his attention
is to put on his "bull frog" look to show that
he could not care less.
The Budget speaks of many new industries coming on stream
in the near future. Will they all follow the same pattern
of ignoring our environment?
Mr. Speaker, the Environmental Management Authority has
been suffering a similar erosion of authority form this
Government. It is now known that the PM has disregarded
everyone and every institution and decided to build an
$850 million stadium in Tarouba. While the population
can take solace in the PM's assurances that with this
project we no longer have to worry about tsunamis that
may originate from an undersea volcano off the coast of
Grenada (a volcano which the experts advise us shows no
sign of erupting in the foreseeable future) and that should
any other Caribbean country fail in their obligations
for the Cricket World Cup in 2007, T&T will fill the
void, the EMA is getting a taste of how this PM governs.
And as if that was not enough, the PM proceeded to attempt
to undermine the very fabric of this society by suggesting
that objections to the project were driven by regional
considerations. His exact words were:
have half a suspicion that if the complex was being built
in Mucarapo, there would have been no objection".
In making this statement Mr. Speaker, the PM was showing
his true colors. Divide and rule is his secret weapon.
Not being content to divide the country along ethnic lines,
he is now doing it along regional lines.
The EMA has served a Notice of Violation on UDeCOTT, the
developers of the Tarouba Project. The EMA said that upon
being served such a notice, developers will usually stop
the project and come in to chat with them. In this case
though, the EMA has been totally ignored. Is this going
to be the case with all the building projects outlined
in the all inclusive Budget? Why does the Government set
up agencies if it intends to ignore them when it suits
its purpose? That is lawlessness- an example for others
to follow. Mr. Speaker, when the State and its agencies
behave in such a manner, what is to be expected of the
average citizen? The culture of lawlessness starts with
the Government; no wonder there is so much lawlessness
in this land.
The EMA has been treated with similar contempt and disdain
by the State with respect to the two proposed aluminum
smelters. In this regard I will quote from an article
by Professor Julian Kenny that appeared in the Express
of August 23, 2005. This in part, is what the Professor
Mr. Manning was reported to have announced at the post-cabinet
meeting of July 7 that the smelter would go ahead. This
is, of course, highly improper, given the fact that the
legal body responsible, the EMA, states in its advertisement
that no approval has yet been given nor, (and this is
most important,) has the full complement of environmental
information necessary for pronouncement on applications
for CECs at Union or Cap de Ville been received.
What is particularly disturbing is that Alcoa's application
is either evasive or incomplete, with some boxes in the
form answered 'to be determined'. Of particular interest
are the answers concerning chemicals used and wastes to
be produced. The form asks about the use of hazardous
materials. The answer- 'gasoline and diesel'! The question
of waste disposal - 'to be determined'! And so it goes.
The State Company, I assume, being party to the application,
thinks that as the Government has already decided that
the smelter will go ahead, treats the application with
undisguised indifference, if not contempt".
Mr. Speaker, once more the PM himself leads the way by
undermining the authority of major institutions and sets
an example for the youth of the country that has the inevitable
consequence of worsening the crime situation. He is literally
saying to all concerned- to hell with authority, there
are no rules, and I, Patrick Manning, will do as I very
well please. Well Mr. PM, the youths of the nation are
watching and listening and the example you are setting
is surely finding fertile ground among them.
The PM has recently dug in his "no rules" policy
even further with the announcement of the creation of
several new state enterprises that will no longer be subject
to some of the strict financial controls that were required
by law. These companies will not be required to adhere
to the rule that contracts over $5 million must be approved
by the Finance Minister.
The IMF expressed serious concerns about the removal of
these controls during its Article 4 consultation that
was held with Government in late July.
But this Government has little regard for the IMF now
that the country's financial position is strong. Let them
be reminded that it was following an oil boom that looked
exactly like the one we are going through now, that this
same PNM Government had to go the same IMF.
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken extensively about the problem
of crime in the society but I now wish to deal specifically
with the issue of credibility of the police service in
the context of the whole issue of the credibility of Government
and the institutions of the State.
In an editorial dated July 28. 2005, the Newsday had this
to say in its concluding paragraphs:
criminals are only one side of the equation. The other
side is the crime fighters, which is the second front
on which this battle must be waged. It seems reasonable
to assume that crime can not have gotten so bad without
the cooperation - or at least the incompetence - of police
officers. There have been loud calls for Police Commissioner
Trevor Paul to take strong action against errant officers.
After all, it is likely that officers who beat prisoners
are corrupt. Getting them out of the Service is therefore
crucial to getting an upper hand on criminals. And it
is here that the politicians must play their part, since
expanding the Police Commissioner's powers, as well as
beefing up the Police Complaints Authority, is a political
Whatever is done, its best that it be done quickly. If
the people in charge didn't know it before, the 200 murders
should have sent the message loud and clear - this country
has reached crisis point."
Mr. Speaker, if this was crisis point what are they saying
now that the figure is 285?
The Guardian editorial of August 14, 2005 raised similar
concerns. In part it said:
continues to strike us, however, is the lack of trust
now being voiced in the Police Service by both the high
and low in T&T's enduringly troubled society.
And it is not only in the Police Service. Indeed it is
difficult to find just about any public institution in
the country that enjoys the confidence of our citizens".
The editorial concluded as follows:
whatever the take by Manning and his admittedly many supporters
on the efficacy of more than 30 years of PNM administration
the ruling party will do well to ponder the increasing
skepticism, cynicism even, of Trinbagonians of every race
and class and what it portends not only for the troubled
present but what seems to be destined, not only here and
elsewhere, to be a tumultuous future".
An Express editorial of August 16, 2005 had its own unique
way of stating the facts. In commenting on the PM's statements
on the Grand Stand the editorial concluded with these
experience tells us we should not take Manning at his
word particularly since, unlike the Tarouba complex, no
time frame has been given and certainly, no preliminary
work is being done as even now is, reportedly, well underway
Mr. Speaker, the Chamber also had its say in its column
which was published in Newsday on August 12, 2005 under
the heading "The credibility of the police".
In one paragraph the Chamber said:
T&T has earned the reputation for being the land of
rumor, and maximum public attention spans no more than
nine days, all the local media claimed to be relying on
"credible sources" which disclose that SAUTT
has, via covert operations, uncovered evidence of involvement
by a senior officer in kidnapping and ransom collection,
as well as extortion and racketeering".
In another paragraph the Chamber said:
must really be a question of credibility when a hurriedly
summoned three man press conference of ministers, one
Saturday, became necessary to convince their audiences
that the construction of the $850 million sports complex
had nothing to do with national priorities or resource
allocation to the Ministry of National Security".
In another paragraph the Chamber said:
soon as the PM proclaims that Government has put in place
everything necessary to cope with terrorism, and that
T&T is ready, off goes a bomb in a dustbin. The suspicious
public has to cope with the continually broken promises
of the Commissioner of Police and Minister of National
Mr. Speaker, where are we going when credibility is being
destroyed this way? Credibility is a cornerstone of democracy;
without confidence in the State and its institutions people
will be led to take matters into their own hands. This,
Mr. Speaker, is where anarchy begins. This PNM has taken
us well along this road and it is not far off when total
anarchy will reign.
What does it say when the captain of the ship finds it
necessary to lament the failure of the administration
of the ship? Are citizens supposed to follow the rules
and live in accordance with the traditional norms and
values when the captain loses confidence in key institutions?
Well, Mr. Speaker, this is precisely where T&T finds
itself at present. At the inauguration of the 43rd anniversary
of our armed forces, this is part of what our President
the war against crime all patriots must be counted.
I get a sense from the things that I am observing that
we are on the way to losing our focus, if we have not
already lost it.
These may be regarded as harsh words, even unfair, because
some of you will say that you are trying hard. But I must
say things as I see them. It does no one any good if,
instead of facing reality, we continue to delude ourselves
in the false comfort of congratulations for minimal performance
when the big picture tells us that we have a long way
I am beginning to wonder whether everyone recognizes what
his particular duty is, and how his task should be performed.
I am not sure that there is not a measure of indulgence
permeating the ranks that is tending to permit mediocrity
which, in any circumstance, spells disaster, but which
in our current circumstances, will do us absolutely no
The President told the Army: "The public sees you
as having a critical role to play in reversing the situation
that prevails in our country at this time by dealing decisively
with the criminal elements that have been assailing the
peace and security of our nation.
Do you think you cannot stem the tide? Are your energies
diverted to concerns about the dividing of turf in the
exercise of combating crime?
It cannot be business as usual. Ways must be found to
fight the evil that is striving to bring this country
to its knees".
Mr. Speaker, the President sounded an even more ominous
note during his address to the Catholic Commission for
Social Justice. He said:
is a kind of frenzy in society that threatens to catapult
the people of the country onto another stage - a stage
of war with one another that would do nobody any good".
He emphasized his point by saying we will be burying our
heads in the sands if we pretended to have a cohesive
society. The President is echoing what most of us already
know and have been saying for a long time. The reason
why the extensive promises made in this and past Budgets
have not materialized is not because of malice (incompetence,
maybe) but because we are a divided people. In order to
fulfill promises made in Budgets we must be able to mobilize
all our human resources; but how can we do that when we
divide the people day after day by pseudo-racist policies,
discrimination, victimization and cronyism?
The President said a lot more but what I have quoted gives
a good picture of how he feels. It is interesting to note
that the only comment that the PM made on the President's
words was that the President is entitled to his views.
But this is entirely in character; he could not care what
anyone thinks so long as he enjoys the trappings of the
Office of PM, and he will divide our people to do it.
The President however recognizes his divide and rule strategy
and is warning us against it.
Mr. Speaker, it is wrong to ignore the concerns of the
President as the PM is doing. He is the Head of State
and his concerns are well founded. He is not the only
one who is concerned. I have already shown where every
individual and group in the country is deeply troubled
about crime. The President speaks for the entire nation
with his statements on crime. The time for urgent action
is now. But the PNM has boxed itself into a corner from
which it cannot extricate itself. Their problem is how
to discipline those who put them in power illegally; the
fact of the matter is they cannot because the monster
on which they rode to power will eat them if they try
to get off its back.
And therefore, Mr. Speaker, once more I ask, how can we
debate a Budget intelligently when the Government is unable
to manage something as basic and as fundamental as the
security of our people. And how can we debate a Budget
when the PNM and in particular the PM, is undermining
every institution in this society?
DECADENCE IN THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Mr. Speaker, the Budget speaks of an enormous building
programme to be executed by the establishment of several
state companies which will by-pass the normal tendering
procedures and so open the door to enormous corruption;
this in a society already rotting - from the head down.
Several Ministers are now under investigation by the Integrity
Commission and the PM himself has a lot to answer.
In the now infamous Dansook case two Ministers were accused
of taking bribes. Dansook, in a letter to the PM admitted
to bribing the Ministers and expressed fear for his life.
Minister Khan did the decent thing and resigned in order
to allow the investigation to proceed. But Minister Williams
has retained his position. The PM accepts both.
The tale of how Dansook allegedly bribed Minister Williams
is one of the most intriguing that I have ever heard.
It was reported in the Sunday Express of May 15, 2005
by investigative reporter Camini Marajh. This is what
she wrote Mr. Speaker:
Dansook says he made seven pre-arranged money drops totaling
$75000 to Energy Minister Eric Williams in the vicinity
of Smokey and Bunty's in St. James, always on a Friday
evening and always between 7 and 8 pm. He claimed Williams
hit on him for money at a party function at Baliser House
in December 2002 after his trusted friend let on that
Dansook was providing him kickbacks from seismic exploration
He said Williams, who complained of having a pile of unpaid
bills related to his election campaign, made an up-front
demand for 15% cut of his (Dansook's) take on the Terra
Seis contract but settled on a lower figure after he made
clear that the requested sum was completely out of the
He said that payouts went like clockwork every month.
He told Sunday Express how he would approach the parked
PBR BMW on the Western Main Road in St. James, how Williams
would put down the window and reach for the envelope stuffed
with hundred-dollar bills and how the Energy Minister
would ride out into the night, sometimes without a single
Mr. Speaker, this sordid story raises many questions.
First, why did it take the PM so long to act? He did nothing
for almost a year. Does he not know that by failing to
act people will begin to think that he may have shared
in the spoils? Why did the PM allow Khan to resign but
did not insist that Williams resign? Why is the investigation
of the Integrity Commission taking so long? Why did the
PM send the case to the Integrity Commission instead of
the Fraud Squad?
In another twist one Jerry Narace, the PNM's Ambassador
Plenipotentiary, in a recorded telephone conversation,
assured Dansook that the PNM "took care of its own".
He even told Dansook "We have had people who have
had their things thrown out". He has not been charged
for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Mr. Speaker, this is a further case on undermining the
judiciary and once more I must ask how can we seriously
debate a Budget when we have a government that is destroying
every rule and convention of decency. Clearly, Mr. Speaker,
it is one set of rules when it comes to the PNM and its
supporters and another when it comes to the rest of the
population. Is this part of the 20/20 vision? Is this
how the PNM intends to achieve developed country status
This Budget will now legitimize the PNM's corruption agenda
with the establishment of 15 new State Enterprise. Not
only have they been dismantling the rules of accountability
by forming several new State-owned companies that will
not have to put out projects for tender or account for
contracts awarded to their friends and family; they are
now giving contracts to members of this House to make
up for the loss of Ministerial port folio. Take the case
of the Member for La Brea who has benefited from over
$500,000 in contracts from this Government. Mr. Speaker,
this is what is called civilized corruption. You do not
have to fire a gun or break-in to commit the robbery;
you merely have to have the right contacts.
Mr. Speaker, the rotting from the head does not end with
Khan, Williams and Bereaux. It continues with the now
infamous Landate project which is owned by the wife of
the Minister of Housing. It has now been established beyond
the shadow of a doubt that materials were moved from the
Scarborough Hospital Project to the Minister's Landate
project, but we don't yet know if Landate or someone else
paid for the materials. We also do not know if Landate
benefited from other services such as labour and equipment
associated with the project. Usually, Mr. Speaker, internationally
funded projects enjoy a certain amount of tax forgiveness,
e.g., VAT. Did Landate benefit from such concessions?
Of course we will be told that they did not but I have
no intention of falling for that. Because of this and
other scams the people of Tobago are being denied a hospital,
which has already incurred a cost over-run of over one
hundred million dollars ($100,000,000) after merely laying
down the foundation.
The inquiry into the project unearthed some important
collateral evidence about how the PNM does business and
how they intend to construct all the projects mentioned
in the Budget.
It came out during the Inquiry, from testimony of Mr.
Winston Agard, CEO of UDECOTT that:
1. NH International Caribbean Limited (NHIC) got the award
to construct the Customs and Excise building on Richmond
Street, despite warnings to the UDECOTT that NHIC's sub-contractors
lacked expertise and did not follow instructions;
2. NHIC was notified that it was successful in its bid
for the Sarborough Hospital in February2004 but the Articles
of Agreement was not signed until March 2005 and it was
not a general practice to sign in this manner.
3. A similar situation arose in the award of the contract
to NHIC for the Siparia Administrative Complex.
4. UDECOTT also awarded a contract to Warner Construction
and Sanitation Company for the Blenheim housing project
in Tobago although Warner's bid should have been nullified
by the failure to submit a tender bid.
Mr. Speaker, do you see why the PM wants to create all
these new state enterprises? Their "no rules"
approach is their way to enrich their friends. The Minister
of Housing admitted publicly that he is a friend of NHIC's
boss, Mr. Emile Elias. Without rules, not only are they
able to enrich his friends, they are also able to enrich
These episodes remind us of how Minister Saith benefited
from debt forgiveness of over $15 million with FCB carrying
the major burden of the cost. It also reminds us the Project
Pride fiasco in which we spent hundreds of millions of
dollars and had nothing to show for it. We are also reminded
of the La Brea Industrial Estate and many more. This is
the PNM's way of doing business. Now they want to legitimize
their style with "no rules".
The head of the PNM is now completely rotten; the rest
of the body will soon decay. The Government has blamed
the Public Servant for it failure to deliver on it Budget
promises as its justification for the introduction of
these new State Enterprises. Over the years several hundreds
of millions of dollars have been allocated to maintain
the Public Service; what will become of them? Will personnel
required to staff these State Enterprises come from Public
Service or will they be new personnel? If the Public Servants
are to be seconded to these State Enterprises then what
difference will it make to levels of performance? But
if the Government intends to hire new personnel what will
become of the Public Service? What will they do? The management
strategy of this Government is that if an institution
is not working create a parallel one instead of correcting
the short comings of the existing ones. That is the rationale
behind the SAUTT. It is a wasteful exercise.
Mr. Speaker, it is essential that the rules of accountability
and financial control be strictly adhered to or else our
oil wealth will vanish before our very eyes as was the
case with our previous windfall. The rules are there.
We do not have to create new ones. We merely have to enforce
the existing ones.
Mr. Speaker, I now come to:
Mr. Speaker, the Government wants this population to believe
that the economy is in good hands and that prosperity
will be ours forever. But the people are not fooled and
they have made it quite clear that they do not believe
the Government's propaganda.
In a UWI Ansa /McAl survey published in the Sunday Guardian
of July3, 71% of persons surveyed said that they did not
support the Government's decision t build the Tarouba
sporting complex and 58% said that they did not support
the Governments decision to increase the national budget
by $3 billion. Asked how they felt about the Governments
handling of the economy, 22% said poor, 20% said very
poor and 39% said fair, i.e., 42 % are totally dissatisfied.
Thank God we are dealing with an enlightened population.
All of the Government's multi-million dollar public relations
campaigns have not fooled anyone. This is one case where
the perception and the reality are the same. The reality
is that this PNM is doing an absolutely rotten job of
managing the economy.
This is not merely the view of the general population.
The IMF has expressed its share of concern and their views
have received wide publicity. The spirit of the Article
5 Report of the IMF is captured in the following observation:
are uncertainties concerning the reserve levels, price
projections and extraction rates. But preliminary calculations
suggest that if the current level of public expenditure
contemplated in the amended budget is maintained over
the medium term, the Government may need to start drawing
on its savings in just seven years to finance deficits
with the savings fully depleted by 2020 and deficits rising
sharply thereafter due to exhaustion of gas reserves".
Is this what the PNM means by Vision 2020?
When I spoke on the budget last year, I mentioned several
reports from the World Bank, the IDB and the IMF. One
consistent theme in all of those reports was that T&T
must be careful about its expenditures. We were warned
that this is our last chance to transform the economy
and to implement strategies for sustainable growth.
It is clear that the advice of all of the international
institutions and of the Opposition fell on deaf ears even
though the advice has had to be repeated. What is even
worse is that our problems do not end there. In the IMF
Country Report No. 05/6 dated January 2005, they also
the context of the booming energy sector, competitiveness
of the non energy tradable sector has become an issue
of concern. Competitiveness of the non-energy tradable
sector is of key importance since it is the main source
of employment in the economy. In fact, despite strong
growth in the energy sector, unemployment still remains
high and production and export growth in the non-energy
sector have been sluggish".
You see Mr. Speaker; they have not been fooled by the
fake employment figures. The report further warned:
real effective exchange rate and the ineffective use of
public funds are identified as the main competitive disadvantages
of T&T's macroeconomic environment. Low scores were
awarded to real exchange rate developments, governance
issues, the large allocation of public funds to subsidies
and public enterprises and high bank spreads".
The report went on to say:
T&Ts considerable energy wealth, social and ethnic
problems remain, and the political balance continues to
be delicate". Remember the President's warning.
Another important point that the Fund made was:
Fund's policy advice in recent years has focused on reducing
the dependence of the budget on energy-related revenues,
strengthening the financial system and enhancing the competitiveness
of the non-energy sector. However progress in these areas
has been slow, reflecting political factors and the renewed
energy boom that has eased pressures to take upfront measures".
While inadequate infrastructure and debilitating red tape
continue to hamper the competitive advantage that our
private sector have over their Caricom counterpart the
Budget removes certain allowances which enabled the sector
to contribute to the social and economic development of
our youths. The removal of the 50% uplift on expenditure
for the sponsorship of the arts, culture and sports would
deny these groups the sponsorship that is necessary to
promote activities away from crime. The removal of the
100% uplift for additional employment and apprentices
would have a negative effect on the provision of skilled
labour for the proposed industrial expansion. This is
a much better way to absorb and train labour than the
criminally oriented CEPEP and URP
Mr. Speaker, between 2001 and 2005 this Government has
spent over $90 billion of taxpayers' money; we have nothing
substantial to show for it. The experts keep telling us
that the economy is very vulnerable and we must control
our spending, especially our non-productive spending.
It is not only the foreign experts that are saying so.
In the Republic Bank Economic Newsletter Vol. 13 No.3,
published in June 2005, we are warned:
fiscal discipline must be exercised in curbing and re-directing
Government expenditure. One consequence of too rapid growth
in spending is strong demand pressures which when combined
with our tightening labor market and a weak agricultural
response can have dire consequences for the overall inflation
rate and for non-oil sector competitiveness. The latter
experience that characterized the seventies must not be
The IMF also made similar observations in its 2004 Article
4 Consultation. In its Public Information Notice No. 04/136
published on December 8, 2004, the Fund stated in the
Executive Board Assessment:
observed that significant macroeconomic challenges remain,
notably to boost non-energy investment and growth in order
to reduce the high and persistent unemployment rate and
the dependence of the budget on energy-based revenues.
This will require determined implementation of a sound
policy framework that promotes external competitiveness
and economic diversification".
Mr. Speaker, the economy is not in good hands as the Prime
Minister would have us believe, and the good people of
T&T have a lot to be worried about. Properly managed,
we can be a wealthy nation indefinitely into the future
but with PNM style management we will start spending the
savings in seven years and it will be all spent by 2020.
Last year I pointed out that the management of the Revenue
Stabilization Fund which they said would soon be called
the Heritage Fund, was sheer financial lawlessness. It
is another case of the PM's "no rules" way of
doing things. The Budget says that the Government will
transfer $1.2 billion into the Fund but what they do not
say is that the PNM has virtually confiscated these funds
and given themselves power to spend the money as they
very well please with absolutely no accountability. For
over two years the Government has been promising legislation
to regulate the fund; to date there has been none. Properly
invested and spent with prudence, the RSF can make T&T
a rich nation forever. Last year we were again promised
that there would be legislation governing the control
of the Fund; to date no such legislation has been forthcoming.
Why does the PNM refuse to set strict rules for the management
of the fund? Why does the Government refuse to be accountable
for the Fund? This is the people's patrimony, not theirs.
It is illegal, immoral and downright wrong for the government
to treat the people's wealth this way.
Mr. Speaker, this Government knows how to waste money.
It does not have a clue about how to manage the country.
The evidence of this is reflected in our fall in the international
competitiveness rankings. The competitiveness rankings
explain why some countries are able to grow on a sustained
basis for prolonged periods of time, in the process pulling
large segments of the population out of poverty, while
others remain stagnant or, worse, actually see an erosion
of living standards.
T&T fell in the rankings from 49 to 51 in 2004. We
also did not do well in the Growth Competitiveness Index
(GCI). This index has three parts - the quality of the
macroeconomic environment, the state of the country's
public institutions and the country's technological readiness.
On the GCI our overall rank was 51 out of 104 countries.
On the technology index our rank was 54. Our neighbor
Jamaica ranked ahead of us in position number 49. We ranked
64 in the Public Institutions index and 44 in the Macroeconomic
Environment Index. Having regard to our over-flowing revenues
that is nothing to be proud of.
The World Economic Forum also publishes a Business Competitiveness
Index (BCI). It evaluates the underlying microeconomic
conditions defining the current sustainable level of productivity,
the underlying concept being that, while macroeconomic
and institutional factors are critical for national competitiveness,
these are necessary but not sufficient factors for creating
wealth. Wealth is actually created at the microeconomic
level by the companies operating in the economy. The BCI
evaluates two areas: the sophistication of the operating
practices and strategies of companies, and the quality
of the microeconomic business environment in which the
companies compete. The idea is that, without these microeconomic
capabilities, macroeconomic and institutional reforms
will not bear full fruit.
On the BCI Index T&T ranked number 59 out 0f 103 countries.
Mr. Speaker, therein lies the reason for all of the advice
and warnings that T&T is getting from every quarter.
We must be more disciplined in our financial affairs or
we will keep falling further behind and the living standards
of our people will decline.
Signs of decline are already setting in and we must not
ignore them. One area of decline is the falling levels
of performance of our students in the CXC exams. In 2003
there was a 16% decline in the number of students who
got a full certificate of five subjects or more. In 2002,
64% of students passed English language; in 2003 only
56% did. In 2002, 53% passed mathematics; in 2003 51%
did. And while this decline has set in, we are told that
two thirds of tertiary level graduates leave the country
In the 2005 Budget the PM said:
keeping with our vision 2020 to position T&T in the
global economy, we are in the process of revamping the
entire education system to deliver total quality education.
In the new year, we will construct 43 new early childhood
care ad education centers".
Not a single secondary or pre-school has been constructed.
Once more this Government has broken its promise. Meanwhile
the Minister of Education, wife of the PM who adoringly
proclaims her to be the best Minister of Education this
country has ever had, said she is not responsible. When
will this Government learn what responsibility means?
The Minister occupies the office, enjoys the salary and
perks, and can be seen smiling when pictures are taken
as the PNM spends the country's millions on obscene public
relations. When there is failure to perform though, she
says that she is not responsible.
Mr. Speaker, between 2003 and 2005 the Ministry of Education
has spent over $5.5 billion to educate and train our youths.
Despite what the Prime Minister says real unemployment
is high in the face of a shortage of skilled labour, and
while we still have high levels of unemployment we find
it necessary to import labor from our CARICOM neighbors
after this Government has spent billions of dollars on
education. In calculating the unemployment figures CEPEP,
URP and other make-work programmes must be discounted
as they are really hand-outs in disguise and do not provide
permanent, well paid sustainable employment.
Despite the expenditure of over $90 billion in four (4)
years many citizens in Trinidad and Tobago are experiencing
declining standards of living as a result of unemployment,
poverty and rising prices. Inflation is now rampant in
many sectors of the economy. The Central Bank of T&T
Statistical Digest for December 2004, provides the index
for retail prices in various sectors for December 2004
using January 2003 as the index base. It showed the following
* Food and non-alcoholic beverages increased by 31.8%
* Alcoholic beverages by 4.%5
* Rent by 7.2%
* Furnishings by 7%
* Transport by 7.9%
These figures do not cover post December 2004 data for
which inflationary trends are expected to continue, and
in many sectors be much higher.
Recent data released by the Central Bank confirms inflationary
trends with headline inflation rising to 6.9% for the
12 month period ending February 2005. It should be noted
that the increase in food prices comes not from higher
prices for imports but from inefficiencies at the ports
and from the rising cost of doing business in T&T.
Some of it is being generated by the local financial sector.
T&T's stock market in reaching astronomical levels
at April 2005, stood at 1500, an increase of roughly 400%
in less than three years.
The Government now finds itself in a Catch 22 situation:
if the Government cannot achieve what it says it is going
to do in this Budget then it would have deceived the people;
if it can by a some miracle achieve all that it says it
is going to do the it will further fuel inflation in the
Mr. Speaker, the Opposition is aware that price trends
reflect liquidity flows in the investment markets. The
increasing growth of credit and money has consequences
not only for the prices of industrial and consumer goods,
but for the prices of investments as well. Needless to
say, we are of the opinion that a moderately increasing
stock market is a prerequisite to prosperity, as it provides
capital to the markets and investment returns to the investor.
It our view the cause of inflation in a debt-based economy
as T&T can be attributed directly to the Government
induced trend in the creation and expansion of credit
by an inappropriate monetary policy.
Since rates of borrowing and lending are related to stock-market
confidence in the investment market, we can only conclude
that the link in the credit growth is an attempt by the
Government to inflate the economy to growth and temporary
prosperity, thereby producing inflationary pressures in
the economy. A stock-market rise of 400% in three years
can only attest to an economy with flawed spending and
monetary policies by the present Government. Further,
inflation in the real-estate sector has also reached bubble
The net effect of this inflation is to reduce purchasing
power. Just ask any consumer.
Given the resurgence of inflation in our economy, the
key question therefore is: Has the present PNM Government
adopted an inflationary policy in an attempt to create
growth and prosperity in the short run? In our view, the
motto of the Government is "if you cannot produce
sustainable non inflationary growth through sound fiscal
policies then inflate the economy and create an illusion
of growth and prosperity in the country".
The Opposition is of the view that real and sustainable
prosperity can only be achieved by non-inflationary growth
which in turn is achieved through subdued inflation fostered
by disciplined fiscal and monetary policies. In our view
reckless creation and assumption of debt by the Government
and its institutions, excessively expansionary monetary
policies and rapid rise in expenditure of over 30% with
a weak agricultural sector, demonstrates flawed fiscal
and monetary policies of the Government.
As a consequence of an excessively expansionary monetary
policy, interest rates are now at historically low short
term levels, with spreads between T&T dollar rates
and US$ rates between 1.5% and 1.75% when using US treasury
rate of return and comparable LIBOR based security rate
of return. The immediate impact of low interest rate differentials
provides currency exchange rate pressure on the TT dollar-US
dollar exchange rate since these differentials do not
reflect TT dollar currency risks. In simple words, to
the investor, it is not worth holding TT dollars and the
investor is not compensated adequately for risks associated
with the T&T economy. This is why there is enormous
downward pressure on the TT dollar and the Central Bank
has had to intervene to support the TT dollar. In other
words, capital flight has started. Coupled with the desire
of many businessmen to flee from the ravages of murders,
kidnappings, rapes robberies and other violent crimes
capital flight is likely to become worse.
Mr. Speaker, in my reply to the last two reply to the
Budget presentations I outlined principles, strategies
and tactics for a new model of economic development for
T&T. I also quoted evidence where the international
institutions had all endorsed what I said. So once again
I must point out:
1. We need to articulate sector specific development plans.
2. We must foster intense competition among firms.
3. We must develop strong industry clusters.
4. We must encourage strong consumer groups throughout
5. The Government must provide a facilitating environment
for all sectors of the economy. For example, it must not
discriminate against agriculture.
6. Information technology must be leveraged for competitive
7. Development must be based on the strengthening of the
knowledge capabilities of the population rather than the
exploitation of natural resources.
8. It is firms that compete, not nations. Therefore we
must create an environment where our firms are internationally
This is kind of framework in which a UNC Government would
have conceptualized a Budget to the country forward.
What is the probability that PNM will do any of this,
Mr. Speaker? I would say: absolutely zero! They are like
a dog in heat when it comes to winning elections and no
amount of good economic reasoning will rank ahead of voter
padding, low cost bribery to their supporters, propaganda
and political violence.
The Energy Sector of Trinidad and Tobago- Natural Resource
Mr. Speaker, I now turn to the energy sector of our economy.
Globally, demand for oil, natural gas, petrochemicals
and metals are soaring like never before. The main driver
of this demand is the burgeoning Chinese economy and growing
demand from India. Today, the reality is that a number
of factors have converged to drive prices to all time
highs. High global demand for crude has coincided with
a refining bottleneck in the USA which has been exacerbated
by the impact of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the refining
sector in the US Gulf Coast. Added to all this is the
persistent problem of instability in the Middle East.
This demand for energy has pushed prices for oil and natural
gas upwards in the past 12 months. Following Hurricane
Katrina, the price of crude oil crossed the 70 US dollar
per barrel mark. As of last week Friday, the price of
natural gas at the Henry Hub was $14.50 per million British
Thermal Unit. Mr. Speaker, while both oil and natural
gas have been fetching high prices on the international
market, the prices of ammonia and methanol have also been
Oil and Gas revenue and taxation
In the last financial year revenue accruing to the Government
from oil and gas was 11.1 billion. The Minister of Finance
has stated that this figure is set to increase to 18.1
billion in fiscal 2006. Indeed revenue from oil and gas
increased by some 230% from 2001 to 2004. But, as one
prominent local economist put it- the problem is not revenue
the problem is expenditure. We may want to expand that
to include incompetence and a lack of vision. Mr. Speaker,
there can be no doubt that the energy sector is the center
of gravity of the Trinidad and Tobago economy. For this
reason the energy taxation policy is critical to ensuring
that we maximize our returns from these depleting assets.
Last July, government reformed the Supplemental Petroleum
Tax regime. Looking at these reforms one finds it difficult
to believe that it took the Government almost 2 years
to come up with these changes. A further examination of
this taxation regime reveals that the PNM has not shifted
away from the "Tax and Spend" policies that
were a common feature of their economic policy in the
1970's and belong to the "old school" of economic
With particular reference to land based operations, the
new regime does absolutely nothing to encourage operators
to invest or to re-invest in exploration, development
and production. Hardest hit in this arrangement will be
the Independent sector of the oil industry which operates
mainly on land and is made up of the Lease Operators and
Farmouts. The Lease Operator/ Farm Out programme was established
by the NAR administration and as has been a tremendous
success. However, with the decline in rates of production
and with operators operating in an increasingly marginal
basin, there was need for a tax regime that could stimulate
re-investment. This new tax regime does the exact opposite.
The sad irony of all this is that the Government constantly
mouths that it wants locals to get more involved in the
oil industry. The Independent sector is almost exclusively
owned and run by nationals of Trinidad and Tobago. If
ever you wanted an example of local content and the empowerment
of nationals it is the Independent sector. It would seem
that this Government is not about local content- it is
about local contempt. Mr. Speaker there is a school of
thought that what this Government really wants is to completely
destroy the Independent sector of the oil industry.
Given the sad reality of this new tax regime we can expect
that oil production, less production from the Angostura
field, will decline in 2005. To add insult to injury,
the length of time between the advertisement of a bid
round and the signing of Production Sharing Contracts
is approximately 18 months.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to natural gas the Minister gave
little detail about the reform to the natural gas taxation
regime saying only that they would be moving to a system
based on fair market value natural gas prices. Natural
gas production is now three (3) times more than oil production
on an equivalency basis. The Minister therefore owes a
duty to the country to explain how the Government calculates
its revenue from natural gas. The Minister owes a duty
to demystify these revenue figures.
Natural Gas reserves
Mr. Speaker, I now turn to the critical issue of natural
gas reserves. In last year's Budget debate the Minister
of Energy announced that the proven natural gas reserve
figure declined from 20.76 trillion cubic feet to 18.81
trillion cubic feet. Thankfully BP made a significant
find of almost 2 trillion cubic feet of gas in late December
of last year.
In analyzing natural gas reserves three fundamental questions
must be asked: how much is there; how long will it last
and how effectively is it being utilized? At the end of
2004, natural gas was utilized at a rate of 2.7 billion
cubic feet per day. On a yearly basis this works out to
approximately 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
This figure is expected to increase to approximately 1.5
Trillion Cubic Feet per year when one takes into account
the fourth LNG train that will consume an addition 800
million cubic feet of gas per day; then there is the M-5000
methanol plant and other projects. Added to this there
are several other petrochemical and metal plants to which
this Government has committed natural gas with more being
mentioned in this year's Budget? The question that faces
this country is: Are we exploiting our natural gas reserves
at an unsustainable rate? At the rate we are extracting
natural gas we would have 12 and a half years of proven
reserve left. This is something that should cause the
population to sit up and take notice.
What is troubling is that the Government continues to
run the energy sector without a proper plan. The Government
has no guiding policy for natural gas utilization. When
we left office we had a Natural Gas Master Plan. What
has happened to that document?
Today, the friends and family of the PNM in the Natural
Gas Export Task Force and the National Energy Corporation
continue to sign MOU after MOU with potential investors
without much thought about our natural gas reserve scenario.
This Government is treating our natural gas asset as thought
it were a bottomless pit with no end. They believe that
the gas belongs to them and as such they will do with
it as they please.
Openness and Transparency
Mr. Speaker, over the last 4 years, the Government has
run the energy sector, particularly the downstream sector
with a disregard for openness and transparency. This Parliament
only hears about proposed new petrochemical plants after
the ink has dried on the MOU that has been negotiated
in the closeted corridors of the National Energy Corporation.
I wish to remind the Government that the hydrocarbon asset
of Trinidad and Tobago belongs to all the people of this
country and not the select few PNM board appointees.
I wish to remind the Government that they have committed
this country to the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative. That the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative is yet to be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago
should come as no surprise. The last thing this Government
wants for the energy sector is transparency.
Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest issues facing the energy
sector is the critical issue of local content. Local content
doesn't only mean fabricating offshore platforms in the
When we look at the range of services that are needed
by the upstream sector, we see that the high end services
are all sourced outside of Trinidad and Tobago. The design
and planning of wells and platforms and the high end consultancies
are all outsourced to Houston and Dundee. We have to begin
the process of moving the industry from the low end of
the service pyramid to the high end.
The other aspect of local content that this Government
has failed to address is the involvement of local capital
in the energy sector. In the last year First Citizens
Bank, RBTT and Guardian Holdings Limited launched funds
aimed at investing in the energy sector. These financial
institutions should be congratulated for this initiative.
However a lot still has to be done.
Revenue Stabilization Fund
Mr. Speaker, the one thing standing between the PNM and
a total repeat of their disastrous economic policies of
the 1970's and 80's is the Revenue Stabilization Fund
which they want to re-christen the Heritage and Stabilization
Fund, just as they renamed the Dollar for Dollar programme
- GATE - and thereafter claimed paternity. They renamed
COSTATT UTT and claimed innovation.
This is the same Revenue Stabilization Fund that they
openly criticized when they were in Opposition. Back then
the Member for San Fernando East described this fund as
a "hair-brained" scheme. I suppose he believes
that the Tsunami Shelter in Tarouba is a better idea.
The Revenue Stabilization Fund was established by the
UNC administration to ensure that we save some of our
country's wealth for our children. We make no apologies
for establishing this Fund; it is an accomplishment of
which we are extremely proud. The Fund represents a fundamental
departure from the slash and burn, cut and thrust economic
policies of the 1970's. Those policies led this country
to straight to the IMF in the 1980's.
After 4 years of dilly dallying and with much prodding
from international agencies the PNM has reluctantly endorsed
the fund. But, Mr. Speaker, a horse can be led to water
but whether it will drink is questionable. With respect
to the proposed strategic investment portfolio of the
Revenue Stabilization Fund, who will determine what constitutes
a strategic investment? Would strategic investments be
made in developing the non -oil sectors such as manufacturing,
the information technology sector or the agricultural
sector? Would the strategic investments increase our dependence
on an already dominant the oil and gas industry or reduce
it? Given this Government's incapacity to think outside
the oil barrel, can we expect that such investments would
involve buying equity in LNG tankers and LNG re-gasification
The Revenue Stabilization fund was designed to take into
account the reality that oil prices are subject to cyclical
trends. Mr. Speaker, the problem with the oil price is
that it is subject to the law of gravity. What goes up
must come down. One of the most respected energy consultancies
in the world, Cambridge Energy Research Associates has
recently stated that globally, supply could exceed demand
by as much as 6.0m-7.5m barrels a day later in this decade.
In such a scenario they predict that oil prices could
be reduced by 2007. Added to this, analyst predict that
with more LNG capacity just around the corner and with
more countries joining the Atlantic Basin LNG trade, the
days of high gas prices in the United States may well
be numbered. In such a situation the Revenue Stabilization
fund would be the only thing standing between this country
and an economic precipice.
The Opposition also notes that the Minister neglected
to mention anything about the introduction of legislation
to administer the Fund. We wish to caution the Government
that this fund must be insulated from political intrusion
and that all investments must subject to Parliamentary
Mr. Speaker, there is a school of though among energy
economist that hydrocarbon wealth can be an obstacle to
productivity and competitiveness. In extreme cases this
is called this the "resource curse" or the "curse
of oil". One only has to look at many of the oil
rich countries of the world to see that there is some
merit to this thinking. In his latest book, The World
is Flat, New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman notes
that:"As long as monarchs and dictators who run these
oil states can get rich by drilling their natural resources-
as opposed to drilling the natural talents of their people-
they can stay in office forever. They can use oil money
to monopolize all the instruments of power-army, police
and intelligence- and never have to introduce transparency
or power sharing." Thomas Friedman may well be describing
the unraveling of Trinidad and Tobago over the past 4
years under this PNM administration. In 16th century French
philosopher, Jean Bodin, aptly captured the resource curse
when he noted that: "Men of fat and fertile soils
are most commonly effeminate and cowards; whereas contrariwise
a barren country makes men temperate by necessity, and
by consequence, careful, vigilant and industrious."
Mr. Speaker, the 2004 Global Competitiveness Report further
adds that "natural resources result from endowment,
not economic competitiveness". The report finds that
countries with lower levels of productivity are more dependent
on natural resource exports. The main reason for the onset
of a "resource curse" scenario is poor governance
an obvious consequence of which is economic mismanagement.
PUTNA'S POISONMr. Speaker, for as long as I can remember
successive Governments have been talking about diversification
of the economy away from its dependence on oil. This huge
oil windfall that we are experiencing provides us with
the best opportunity we have ever had for so doing. The
manufacturing sector is fairly well advanced. In the circumstances,
I would have expected to hear and see more done for agriculture,
especially in the light of rising food prices. In the
Budget speech the Prime mouths the usual clichs has mouthed
for the past four (4) years. The PNM totally misunderstands
the potential for agriculture and the culture that is
associated with the sector. Only the most ignorant would
not know that two acres of land is not a viable agricultural
holding; but that is exactly what he and Putna have done
to the thousands of workers of Caroni. How can any of
these peasant farmers (for that is what they have created)
benefit from the Budget proposals of a subsidy of 50%
on the purchase of machinery and irrigation equipment.
Will they buy tractors and other equipment to cultivate
two (2) acres of land? What will they grow? Cabbage and
tomatoes. How much? With a measly 2 acres they will not
be able to afford a donkey cart. They will have to till
the soil with their hand forks, spades and hoes as peasant
farmers do .You have condemned these people and their
generation to be the hewers of wood and the drawers of
water. But then, maybe that is PNM's intention.With no
security of tenure, remoteness of the holding from the
residence of the holder, no protection against praedial
larceny, no infrastructure, no contiguity of holdings,
no roads , no traces, no water, no irrigation, this scheme
may be described as "PUTNA's POISON'. You know the
story of Putna, don't you? One day when you are old and
grey, rocking away your sins in an old rocking chair...
I shall tell you.CONCLUSIONMr. Speaker, this may very
well be the last Budget reply I shall deliver to this
Hon House in this capacity. The time has come for me to
move on to other things and other places, where the world
is not collapsing around me, where the air is rare, where
men can hold their heads high, where duty is pure and
its performance is not hindered by the desire for the
trappings of office, where desire for worldly things give
way to peace and bliss. That is my wish. And may I add
that I hope that this simple peroration will not be misunderstood
as I so often am.
RESPONSE OF THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION TO THE BUDGET
SPEECH OF THE MINISTER OF FINANCE 2005-2006