Monday 3rd October, 2005

Panday's response to 2005-2006 budget
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Response of the Leader of the Opposition to the Budget Speech of the Minister Finance 2005-2006 Monday, October 3, 2005

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 nation.

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':

"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:

"They do what they say they will do".

"They practice what they preach".

"They walk the talk".

"Their 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 she cannot.

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 and despair.

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:

"In 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 this initiative.

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 "yes".

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:

"So 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:

"We 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:

"T&T 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:

"T&T's 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:

"The 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 them perfectly.

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:

"A 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 the neighborhood.

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:

"This 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 George Street"

The Association continued:

"We 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 act".

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 willing.

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:

"For 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 operations".

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 so slow"?

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 it so".

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 to hide.

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 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:

"The 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 statements.

The editorial concluded as follows:

"The 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 country."

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:

"However, 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 speech.

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:

"Violent 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 islands."

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:

"Crime 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 areas."

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:

"Incidents 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 resisted.

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 lives.

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 one another.

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 Problem', wrote:

"For 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:

"FIU 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 2002.

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 vehicles.

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 reigns.

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:

"There 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 kidnap someone?

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 a wuk?"

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:

"Who 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 of Housing.

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 police.

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 downward.

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?

"During 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 do that."

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 Prosecutions?

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:

"I 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 said:

"First, 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:

"But 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 task.

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:

"What 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:

"But 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 words:

"Past 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 in Tarouba".

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:

"While 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:

"It 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:

"As 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 Security".

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 said:

"In 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 to go.

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 good".

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:

"There 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?


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:

"Dansan 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 contracts.

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 ball park.

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 word exchanged".

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 by 2010?

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 themselves.

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:

"There 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 warned:

"In 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:

"The 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:

"Despite 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:

"The 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:

"....greater 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 repeated".

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:

"Directors 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 every year.

In the 2005 Budget the PM said:

"In 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 inflation data:

* 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 economy.

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 proportions.

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 the country.

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 advantage.

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 competitive.

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 mismanagement

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 buoyant.

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 policy.

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.

Local Content

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 Labidco estate.

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 terminals?

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 scrutiny.

Resource curse

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.



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