Thursday 19th October, 2006

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All must demand accountability

I have noted that one of your readers by the name of Michael Coryat of Cascade is upset because I had the audacity to say that I am tired of people blocking roads with debris and burning tyres, and that regional corporations have got to stop passing the buck when it comes to infrastructure work.

For the record, I am also tired of people like Coryat attempting to justify hooliganism and lawlessness and this country will not progress as quickly as it should if people like Coryat cannot differentiate between right and wrong.

Further, his defence of the non-performance of regional corporations on the ground that they have been given no funding by the Government is just a cop-out, which flies in the face of the fact that local government bodies were allocated over $1 billion in 2006, including over $200 million for infrastructure work.

At this stage in our country’s development, it’s time that we all demand accountability from our institutions, and local government bodies are no exception.

Colm Imbert

Minister of Works and Transport

BWIA, thanks for service, loyalty

In A recent issue of the Guardian, there was an excellent poem written by my very good and long-standing friend, Everard Leon. The poem mirrors the sentiments of most Trinis “to the bone.”

The majority of the islands of the Caribbean have all benefited from BWIA’s services even though they never participated financially in the airline, even when invited to do so. This has caused many of the financial woes.

Now that it is too late they are all registering concern because they know that the international airlines have no loyalty to the Caribbean and will suspend or terminate their services at a moment’s notice, leaving the area stranded and starved for reliable air services—and I include Caribbean Star and the other Stanford outfit among them.

Political interference over the years in the management and relations with labour unions is the other major cause of the problems which this organisation struggled with and which have finally caused its demise.

The insistence that BWIA fly several loss-making routes because it suited the Government is another of the causes.

So bye-bye, BWIA. Thank you for your service and loyalty over the years.

Everard has said it all. C’est la vie.

At the same time I say good luck and best wishes to your successor. My hope and prayers are with you.

I hope that good sense will prevail and that you will succeed where others have failed.

David L Martin


Pressure for my NIB pension

I AM having extreme difficulty in getting my disablement pension from the National Insurance Board in Couva.

I am due a monthly pension and the last time I was paid was in March.

Every time I go to the NIB office in Couva they tell me the file is misplaced and to return at a later date, but each time I go back it’s the same story.

Could somebody kindly help me? I have no other means of income.

Lutchmin Ramdass


Is there a real financial policy?

I sometimes wonder what our real financial policy is and where we are headed. Right now, we are busy building a Vision 2020 policy which means we will be a “developed nation” by the year 2020, whatever that means.

It means lots of tall buildings apparently, and colossal traffic jams. Presumably in “developed” countries the people all have cars, sit in traffic jams and look up at tall buildings.

In our mission to 2020 we are proposing ever bigger budgets each year and borrowing ever more. Our national debt is rising despite the fact that we earn more revenue than ever before. We still sit in traffic jams, have a poor police force, inadequate schools and inadequate healthcare.

One apparent measure of fiscal responsibility that has been promised to us is this plan for a Revenue Stabilisation and Heritage Fund. It is true that the concept was not introduced by this government, but the Government has taken ownership of it. Of what?

Is it a petroleum stabilisation fund, or a heritage fund? Are they distinct funds or is this a collective new name for the fund? And is it legally binding? Just what exactly is it?

You may have noticed that the Government boasted that the fund had risen to over $8 billion some time ago, but subsequent statements would appear to have it at $5.4 billion or maybe $3.6 billion, depending on which report you read. I skimmed through the PriceWaterhouseCoopers summary and it was nowhere to be found. Finally Minister Enill claims it is in the vicinity of US$1.2 million.

Commentators have likened it to the Norway State Petroleum Fund in their wish list of what it should be. I assure you there is no likeness.

Unlike the Norwegians who recognise that their oil is a temporary phenomenon and wish to “put by for a rainy day,” ours is more like a slush fund into which you dip when you have an election budget coming up.

The Norwegian fund is estimated at over US$241 billion from an economy of about US$194 billion. We have US$1.2 billion in an economy of about US$15 billion. Or put another way, since the fund could be regarded as a reservoir of money to support Government’s obligations, we have about $7.5 billion in a country with an annual budget of $38 billion.

That’s about 2.5 months of expenditure!

Meanwhile, it’s anyone’s guess what our national debt is. Way more than $7.5 billion. So by balancing one account against another we actually have a negative amount.

While the Government claims to be putting money into the whatever-it’s-called fund, it is actually borrowing far more than that to build Tarouba, and the waterfront, and housing in Chaguaramas, the curry duck highway to Manzanilla etc, generally all the things we don’t want to see in the country.

And this will all be paid for some time before the gas reserves run out? About the year 2020 I’d say.

Reg Potter


Complex not free from politics

The Minister of Health, in his haste to stop the health symposium under the auspices of the political leader of the Congress of the People, exposed his intellectual inertia when he tried to give a reason for his action.

The minister would like to give the impression that the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex is an institution free from politics. The fact remains that as long as the medical complex carries the name of the late political leader of the PNM it suggests to the nation that it is a PNM building.

The institution is not named after a doctor in the medical profession but rather after a doctor of politics who has never even been a minister of health.

If the minister wishes to talk about deceit then he should address this aberration. He should also address the fact that as minister he visits this institution with his PNM tie.

It appears that the minister has decided that only the PNM, as a political party, through the patronage of the name Eric Williams and his balisier logo, must put its stamp on the medical complex.

To him, it would be sacrilege to have any activity under the patronage of another political leader, even though there is no written code which debars him.

Imaam Iqbal Hydal


Cops coming for others too, PM?

Displaying less than prime ministerial behaviour at the PNM convention, the Patrick Manning warned two members of COP that the law is coming to get them.

I would like to ask the “born again” PM, whose behaviour at the convention and in Parliament was certainly “un-Christian,” if the law will also be coming for the wrong doers who planted cocaine in Sadiq Baksh’s water tank, and the guilty parties responsible for the cocaine in the diplomatic pouch?

I hope Manning will not “duck and run” from these critical questions.

Shivana Dipnarine

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