to the 2006/7 Budget by the Hon. Leader of the Opposition
Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar
9th October 2006
This Budget drives us further down the road of disaster.
In the driver's seat is the monarch of the kingdom of
the PNM who has made his government the most authoritarian,
callous and inept government of all.
He continues to unleash brutish assault upon assault on
our institutions, on innocent citizens protesting for
their rightful due, on our youth, on our poor including
the working poor, our dispossessed, our senior citizens,
our women and our children.
And now when our population is screaming in pain over
crime, poverty, high food prices, crises in the health
and education sectors, problems with infrastructure, traffic
congestion and the loss of business competitiveness, this
budget does nothing to directly ease the pain.
This government has become numb to the needs of the people.
They have become deaf to the cries of the citizens. They
have become blind to the crises facing our country. They
have become mute to the abuse of the positions they hold
in trust for the people.
It is clear that this government has lost its way.
From the outset the Honourable Prime Minister predicated
his budget on a false premise.
He announced that this budget will build on the foundations
laid by his previous budgets.
But the fact that he repeated so many of the unfulfilled
promises he made in previous budgets tells us that there
is indeed no foundation on which to build. I remind him
that a house built on sand will not stand.
The budget speech amounted to nothing more than a waffling
attempt at justifying ineptitude, plus warmed-over servings
of the usual platter of promises; but as a framework for
the way forward, it failed miserably to address any of
the major issues facing Trinidad and Tobago today.
Even when his budget speech pretended to touch on critical
issues, the Honorable Prime Minister demonstrated a spectacular
misunderstanding of the root-causes of these matters,
and consequently proposed a number of thoroughly inappropriate
That he has decided to continue stubbornly along his misguided
policy direction, based on a clear misunderstanding of
macro and micro economic concepts and issues, convinces
me that this government is lost, blindly feeling its way
along, "vooping" at the nation's problems but
determined to do all in it's power to convince itself
and others that the nation is not in crisis.
But the population of 2006 is wiser than government thinks.
They have seen the failures of this government's past
budgets. They have suffered impoverishment and trauma
at the hands of this government. They have noted that
the critical issues facing them are not the same as the
critical areas of concern for this government.
Before I list some of the critical issues facing us, it
is instructive to recall that the Prime Minister and his
colleagues have named this budget "Vision 2020: moving
onward". They have a passion for catchy sounding
phrases which bear no resemblance to the policies programmed.
Last year's budget was titled "Addressing basic needs",
and the ones before that "Ensuring our future survival"
and "Charting the Course to 2020: Empowering People."
To date they have not addressed our basic needs, empowered
our people, ensured anybody's survival except the Government
Ministers, and it is obvious that we will not be moving
onwards after this vacuous budget.
Having already wasted over 140 billion dollars over the
past five years and failing to accomplish what they promised,
the PM comes now to this Parliament with another smoke
and mirrors trick, another attempt to hoodwink this population
with an erratic quick-fix here, a plaster there and ludicrous
prognoses for relatively simple ailments, once again attending
to the symptoms and not the source of the malady.
After receiving more money than any previous government
and after having spent substantially more than any other,
this government has saddled our country with serious problems.
This government has triggered and fueled debilitating
inflation by its reckless spending on monuments they construe
as indicators of development.
Crime has reached unprecedented levels, as has police
incapacity for detecting and solving crime.
Poverty has increased.
Public health care and education is collapsing.
Infrastructural development is simply not on the cards,
except for this government who thinks that by piling more
roads on top of the road, making it higher instead of
stronger, it has achieved.
Flooding worsens with every next raindrop.
Agriculture now contributing 1/2 of 1 percent of the GDP
has been effectively abandoned.
Our environment is being seriously threatened.
Our justice system is severely overburdened.
Our institutions are being compromised and violated.
There is reduced confidence in the government on the part
of the business sector, which is also reeling under the
The quality of life of our citizens has deteriorated.
Today after five years of this government our nation is
* Heavily skewed economic growth , without development,
* increased government expenditure on "social"
programmes but the persistent poverty of a large part
of our population,
* massive construction projects and labour and material
* huge expenditure on technical advice and support to
fight crime but more criminal activity
* unprecedented government expenditure but lower standard
* unprecedented government revenue but poor infrastructure
* reduced taxation levels but lower real incomes
* net migration of human capital
What has been the government's response to these problems?
In classic fashion they have chosen to ignore these crises,
like ostriches sticking their heads in the sand and thinking
that the world cannot see them because they cannot see
The sheer puerility of such an approach manifests as a
fundamental weakness within the structural framework of
government policy and most sharply reflects in the economy.
Let us consider the macro-economic performance indicators
quoted by the Prime Minister.
The Minister of Finance noisily trumpeted the traditional
economic indicators, which imply that the country is enjoying
steady and consistent growth.
It is our view that growth without development is not
sustainable and there is no evidence of the latter on
any front or in any sphere under this government.
It is our view that what is being publicized by the government
as positive economic growth indicators are really not
of this government's doing but the result of high international
energy prices and buoyancy in the energy markets but they
are being manipulated to give the public a sense that
they are a direct consequence of conscientious and carefully
contemplated government policy.
It is our view that this administration has made no attempt
to ensure that the tangible benefits of mega revenues
being enjoyed by this government filter down to average
citizens in the form of enhancement of their quality of
life. And the economy is not just the energy sector contrary
to the obvious bias of the Minister of Finance, who should
also be made aware that growth in one sector does not
equate with the agreed definition of economic growth.
We believe this Government's focus is hopelessly misguided
and will continue to lead to a misdiagnosis of the ills
of the economy, and consequently, inappropriate policy
formulation and implementation to regularize the troughs
In the strict economic sense Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
measures the value of goods and services produced in a
Dividing GDP by the population provides us with a reading
of GDP per capita which the Prime Minister advised was
It should be noted, that if the price of oil goes to 200
dollars per barrel, automatically the GDP will increase,
as would GDP per capita.
This would not mean that there has been growth of any
sort, except that there would be more revenue coming into
Moreover, even a 100 percent increase in the GDP does
not translate into a similar or any improvement in the
standard of living of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Further, GDP per capita does not describe the distribution
of the GDP. It does not show who benefits and it has nothing
to do with sustainability.
So it does not reveal that government ministers earn upward
of $50,000 per month whilst more than sixty thousand old
age pensioners get $1150 and now $1250 per month.
It does not equate with data from the CSO indicates that
per capita household income is in fact as low as $1,176.02
!! So that the average household income is nowhere near
the GDP per capita figure quoted by the Prime Minister
Analysis of GDP shows the extremely disturbing trend of
a polarization of growth with the Petroleum Industry accounting
for almost half (42.9%) of GDP in 2005 as opposed to 28.3
percent in 2001.
As a consequence, the contribution of EVERY other sector
to Gross Domestic Product has been simultaneously reduced
by this government. This is extremely dangerous since
it amounts to putting most of our eggs in one basket and
therefore leaves us most vulnerable to shocks in output
or market prices.
GDP growth then is itself an unreliable indicator in our
circumstance and certainly should not be proffered as
evidence of overall development.
The emphasis of the UNC during its time in government
continues to be the emphasis of the UNC in Opposition:
* the preservation of a stable macro economy,
* low inflation,
* steady and balanced growth,
* a diversified economic base,
* an increase in the skill level of the population,
* a reduction in the level of poverty and
* a steady improvement of the well being and welfare of
all our citizens.
The UNC is concerned about Growth AND Development, because
without development, growth is not sustainable, and it
is the real development indicators that truly determine
the sustainability of the economic growth, not the manipulation
of statistics purely to bring fleeting comfort to listeners.
So we can ask for example, given the GDP the Minister
Can our people afford housing?
Can they afford to buy food?
Do they have secure jobs?
Can they access reliable public health care?
Can they trust the justice system?
Are they safe?
The answer to every one of these questions is "NO".
But these are some of the things people care about. They
reflect development. Growth must sustain development.
But under the PNM, this is not the case.
Other than direct government policy, there is a less direct
result of government's operations over the last five years
which has had serious deleterious effect on our population
In a strict economic sense, inflation is a measure of
the overall increase in prices over a defined period.
Good government policy seeks to maintain stable prices,
or at worst, contain inflation to low single-digit rates.
Local and international experts have been warning this
government since 2004 about its reckless spending and
the deleterious effect it would have - and continues to
have - on the rate of inflation.
The government has consistently ignored such advice, with
Minister Enill going on the defensive at every opportunity
to trot out a succession of feeble attempts aimed at reassuring
the population that the government has a handle on the
Here is what he has been saying, as published in the August
4th edition of The Express, under the headline "Gov't:
Inflation no problem."
what people are saying is that we are doing the correct
things. Maybe they believe that we should be scaling it
However we are looking at a number of things, one is how
to condition the population so that they understand the
issue and that is why it is going at the present rate."
Now, you have to decode PNM double-speak and spin.
There are several lines in that short statement that need
For instance: "What people are saying is we are doing
the correct things." Outside of PNM general council
meetings, precisely who are the informed people saying
And hear this: "We are looking at a number of things,
one is how to condition the population so that they understand
the issue." Elegant language to say they are now
going to think up a paragraph or two to brainwash people
into believing all is good and well and going according
Allow me to compare and contrast that outrageous statement
on another level.
The Central Bank, the country's top economists, the IMF,
the trade unions, every agency that studies such issues
has been warning that the government needs to halt reckless
spending because it is the root-cause of our high inflation.
Yet, the goodly Minister has the temerity to tell the
people that they are saying he and his cronies are "doing
the right thing."
It is this kind of elitist approach that irritates the
people, Mr. Speaker, because they are experiencing the
difficulties on a daily basis and at the point of sale.
They actually go to the supermarket in person, not send
hired help with a credit-card to shop for the boss, so
they know when prices of items take a sudden leap upward.
Minister Enill has, meanwhile, mastered an absolutely
pious demeanour, in order to make his utterances believable
but, perhaps, he has looked in the mirror far too often
during the process, so he has begun to believe himself
too, even as inflation rates continue to rise under this
government's mismanagement of the economy.
Clearly, the economics of this budget like the one before
it is fundamentally flawed. And it gets worst.
Government is continuing on an expansionary fiscal policy
at a time when the economy is operating at more than full
capacity. The extra demand of government in its 6 billion
plus capital programme is now accompanied by an expansion
of private sector demand as evidenced by the growth of
bank credit over the last fiscal year.
The ensuing inflation has resulted in the buildup of pressure
which like hypertension, the silent killer, destroys other
critical organs in the body economic.
In particular the interest rate has already surrendered,
the exchange rate is under pressure, the competitiveness
of the manufacturing sector is threatened and we now face
a contraction and non oil death of the non oil economy
as evidenced by the alarming and widening non oil fiscal
The macro economy which took 15 years to stabilize after
the chaotic years of PNM wastage and mismanagement, based
on initially high oil prices is today threatened after
only two years of this government's wild feting with the
oil and gas revenues.
The Prime Minister boasts of the size of the external
account, but I want to remind him that under the UNC,
the exchange rate was the most stable it has ever been.
Few individuals were concerned about exchange rate stability
then, and there was no queuing for foreign exchange as
exists at commercial banks today.
There was consumer confidence, business confidence in
both the economic system, the government and the exchange
This certainly is different from what exists under this
Macro economic stability is being threatened, as excess
demand placed on all sectors of the economy will have
the predictable result of intensifying the inflation rate.
The inconsistency of the budget is that the Prime Minister
has targeted an inflation rate of seven percent for the
fiscal 2006/7, down from the actual nine percent for the
However the fiscal programme outlined in the Budget does
not reflect this outcome, pointing instead towards even
higher inflation rates in 2006/7.
This underscores the fundamental lack of understanding
of basic economics which permeates this government.
Worst, is that in order to reach and stabilise inflation
at 7 percent, and given the government's fiscal stance,
the Central Bank would be required to battle both existing
inflation and the additional government induced inflation.
The visual effect is of the Central Bank emptying a barrel
of inflation with a small cup whilst the government is
filling the barrel with a large hose!
I want to extend my sympathies to the already overworked
Governor of the Central Bank who will now have to intensify
his intervention in the economic system.
We can predict a further pressuring of the Central Bank's
Repo rate which has already been raised a record number
of times in the last year as the Central Bank tried to
temper runaway inflation.
A decidedly aggressive monetary policy intervention is
now required to counteract the inflationary fiscal programme
of the Government.
This will prompt higher interest rates, an issue the Prime
Minister studiously and deliberately ignored in his presentation.
The Prime Lending rate is already at 12 percent.
I want to ask the Minister of Finance today, where will
it go now?
What figure does the government expect Prime to reach
given the policies he has promised to continue in his
presentation last Wednesday?
Is he concerned about the effect that substantially higher
interest rates will have on the business community?
It is very likely that during the course of fiscal 2007
that the Prime lending rate can reach as high as 15% if
government is going to achieve any success in controlling
However, it should be noted that despite the concerted
efforts of the Central Bank in fiscal 2005 and 2006, inflationary
expectations have expanded into the wage sector.
Unions are going to be looking not at the 7% projected
by the government which is absolutely unrealistic, but
at double digits inflation (upwards of ten percent).
Simply put, Mr. Speaker, the government's fiscal impetus
is greater than the monetary response which is why we
have an inflationary spiral.
I want to warn the national population of this fiscal
irresponsibility of the Minister of Finance.
Government has created a monster called runaway inflation
and every attempt to control it from here on in will result
in the creation of even more monsters.
There is only one solution.
We must depend on the fiscal, government needs to utilize
wise fiscal policy to manage the inflation rate.
But there is no consideration for that in this budget.
The government's fiscal stance Mr. Speaker is also causing
a hemorrhaging of the country's foreign exchange reserves.
The Central Bank governor remarked upon this is his last
published economic survey.
Why does this happen?
Due to inflation, people have begun to lose confidence
in the TT dollar and have started to flee to other currencies.
They will use the TT dollar to increase purchases of foreign
currency substituting the weaker for the stronger currency.
They will invest more in foreign denominated mutual funds,
they may increase purchases of the foreign exchange being
sold by the Central Bank (as it seeks to absorb liquidity)
and hoard the foreign currency.
This demonstrates a fundamental economic flaw: a booming
economy and capital flight.
For the first time in almost 25 years our inflation rate
is so high yet this budget proposed no measures to deal
As is true of inflation, the measurement of our unemployment
figures is an equally skewed process.
According to the Prime Minister the URP has a base of
50,000 people whom the Central Statistical Office will
consider as "employed."
The same principle holds for another 7,000 involved in
the CEPEP, 360 in MILAT, 240 in MYPART, 500 in a community
service programme, with thousands more in HYPE, YTEPP,
MUST and the myriad other "make work" programmes.
Come to think of it, there must be another group exclusively
working on these silly titles so, perhaps, we should count
Central Bank figures suggest that 11,600 new jobs were
created in the construction sector, but this too is temporary
employment, and is not sustainable.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to remind Mr. Manning who, on becoming
Prime Minister seems to have experienced some serious
variations of earlier postures with attendant memory loss
and priority modifications, of the position he articulated
on this same issue not so long ago.
I quote: "Our businessmen listen to the fairy tales
of the Minister, but they know that they cannot get foreign
exchange at the banks. They have a true picture of how
many job positions they have filled. They know the difference
between the Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and real
job creation." (HOR Manning Budget Response 2000)
Those were his words. In this context, to try to convince
the national population that unemployment has gone down
because of URP and similar type work is yet another example
of PNM double-speak and, is frankly, quite dishonest.
Employed persons earn wages. Those who receive government
transfers are in receipt of welfare payments. Since welfare
payments are NOT wages, those who receive them cannot
be counted as being employed.
It is as simple as that. In this regard too, government
has lost its way.
By deliberately confusing the issue, Government is seeking
to imply that employment levels are at an all-time high.
However, these programmes constitute a substantial drain
on the State's coffers, and without commensurate effect.
Were oil prices to dip, government would have extreme
difficulty in securing funding for continuity of these
projects. This has happened before.
I remind them, those who do not pay attention to history
are likely to repeat its well-documented mistakes.What
we have here is not full employment. It is disguised unemployment.
It is statistical conmanship .
Mr. Speaker, the United National Congress (UNC) remains
proud of our landmark achievements in the area of employment
and labour policy. Our approach to the employment and
labour challenge is one driven by the values of compassion,
social justice and equality.
The UNC believes that there can be no justice unless a
government has compassion. In this regard the oppression
meted out to the suffering in our nation is directly connected
to an approach by the PNM government that lacks compassion
for the poor, the suffering, the working people and those
in conditions of insecurity. This is the only nation on
earth blessed with enormous wealth yet cursed by immeasurable
The previous UNC government worked to ensure that the
suffering of the people would be addressed. You will recall
we introduced, for the first time in our history, a minimum
wage. The UNC government introduced path-breaking maternity
wage legislation to protect pregnant workers, in so doing
conforming to the international labour organization's
It is instructive that the PNM government since 2001 has
failed to give effect to any new labour standard geared
towards protecting the working people. It is not surprising
therefore that they have speared no effort in violating
the principles of collective bargaining in the public
sector and undermining the right to freedom of association
of workers in the health sector.
Mr. Speaker, the Manning administration has been a regular
recipient of sharp condemnation by the International Labour
Organization (ILO) for their failure to implement equal
opportunity legislation and institutions to protect workers.
They believe that they can continue with their brutal
oppression of workers, but with the advent of the globalization
of justice, today the international community keeps a
hawk's eye on delinquent governments such as the PNM.
The ILO observed in 2005, and I quote
that it had welcomed the adoption of the Act (Equal Opportunities
Act 2000) which for the first time provided legislative
protection from discrimination in employment and occupation
(THIS IS THE UNC'S LAW!), the Committee hopes that the
Government will make every effort to draw up new anti-discrimination
legislation applying the Convention. Please indicate any
measures taken in this regard".
To this day the PNM has ignored this recommendation by
the international community.
The PNM government has caused this country unending shame
and disgrace for their failure to implement equality legislation
as reflected by observations of the ILO in 2005 and yet
again in 2006. This government had failed to take steps
to promote collective bargaining and freedom of association.
Mr. Speaker, you will recall that it was the UNC in government
and opposition that had to drag the PNM, kicking and screaming,
to pass the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
To this day the key institutions of this fundamental body
of protective law have not been established. The deaths
of over 25 workers in industrial accidents over the two
years have done little to jolt the PNM into action.
The UNC government of 1995-2001 created over 85,000 well-paid,
permanent jobs. By our policies we inspired job creation
in the private sector. We moved the unemployment figure
from almost 19% in 1995 to 10 % by 2001. We did not use
URP, CEPEP and MUST to further disempower and humiliate
the jobless into a dependency syndrome. Mr. Speaker, it
is on this matter that the Opposition wishes to express
the highest level of condemnation of the Manning administration.
the PNM has introduced a backward and archaic labour strategy
of shoving the low skilled into a dependency syndrome
and therefore presiding over the inter-generational transfer
of poverty and dependency. They should take a bow! Very
few governments have destroyed their own supporters in
Mr. Speaker, while we look on in awe at the PNM's mismanagement
and incompetence, we cannot standby helpless. The UNC
proposes a wider and more developmental labour strategy
to rescue the working people. It is the next UNC government
that will have to clean up the mess of this incompetent
and corrupt PNM government.
The wider national community and even the PNM knows that
when the UNC says we will fully give effect to the entire
OSHA legislation - they know we will. To protect all workers
we propose a Basic Floor of Rights Bill to extend the
same fundamental protection to all workers in every workplace
and employment site.
A reformed labour absorption and training programme will
deliver real and marketable skills to the unskilled and
low paid workers. Unlike the PNM that measures success
by how much workers are enlisted in URP and CEPEP, we
measure by how much graduate to well paid permanent jobs!
It is a scandal that after five years and over $ 3 billion
in expenditure on labour programs, we still have a labour
shortage in the key industrial sectors. This is incompetence!
A training initiative will connect work programs with
exposure to the skills in demand. We will develop training
in collaboration with the private sector to match employment
needs with labour supply. We will match surplus labour
to the developmental needs of our country. After a drizzle
we flood, yet hordes of young people are holding up a
tarpaulin along the highways.
Mr. Speaker, as a party rooted in the values of the trade
union movement, the UNC believes that the time has come
to replace the Industrial Relations Act of 1972 with a
body of modern labour law, which will reflect the changing
employment relationships in the public and private sector.
We also believe that deeper legislative reform is needed
to make the Recognition and Certification Board more efficient
and responsive to the social partners. As it is at present,
the Recognition Board is not recognizing workers.
A fundamental difference between the UNC and the PNM's
approach is that the PNM believes in public sector absorption
of labour akin to the discredited approaches in totalitarian
The UNC believes in freeing the private sector to create
jobs, while the state provides the policy environment
to protect all workers and ensure decent work.
We believe in the liberation of workers, they believe
in the dependency syndrome. This is why they have taken
even our bright and successful young workers and symbolically
encamped them into make work and temporary jobs.
In five years they have failed to develop a single new
industrial site. We spoke of a technology park, a motor
city and agri-industrial villages.
They are content to wait for oil and gas based development,
which is essentially driven by external investment decisions.
Even when private sector has created jobs for the citizens,
Pastor Manning has beemed that these people should go
back to the breadline.
In the same way that the destroyed Caroni workers and
their families without ensuring first that these workers
had other options and opportunities to earn a livelihood,
they have now committed to the breadline our 20,000 small
farmers, they have now committed to the breadline the
workers in the casino industry without making sure that
these persons had alternative jobs.
They continue to keep CEPEP and URP workers working under
terms and conditions that are in breach of their rights
as workers so that they have none of the benefits of other
A UNC employment strategy will create real employers and
risk takers (not CEPEP contractors), who will create the
jobs of the future with the skills demanded of the new
industrial and technological age.
Government has ignored the needs of the people and designed
a series of self-generated medicine-show remedies, exclusive
of input from those whom such policies affect directly.
The government has ignored the basic human and social
needs of the nation. The budget for fiscal 2007, the Minister
of Finance and his colleagues all appear to have missed
the fact that after five years of government the citizens
of this country are still without the very basic needs
The first basic human need is for security of life and
The paramount concern of the population is not the performance
of the economic system, it the very basic concerns of
safety of life, limb and property.
If you are murdered you can't enjoy any of the goodies
government may offer.
So, the first duty of government is to ensure the safety
of its citizens. Yet government has lost its way in this
government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For
good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.
Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law-breaker,
it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become
a law unto himself ; it invites anarchy." Louis D.
Brandeis, part of his dissent in the case "Olmstead
v. United States", 277 U.S. 438, 485 (1928)
Those words were uttered in 1928, but are painfully true
today under this government.
There is no need for me to repeat the numerous instances
where government has been found guilty in the courts for
breaking the law. They have been well reported in the
In 2000, Mr. Manning in his response to the Budget from
on this side said
absence of a cohesive long-term plan has resulted in the
current runaway crime wave that has remained unchallenged.
Mr. Speaker, they never had any plan. They have no plan
now and will have no plan in the future." (Manning:
Budget response HOR 2000)
He was in Opposition then Mr. Speaker and you would have
thought that when he got into government he would have
tackled this most bothersome issue. And he did.
In the first budget as new Prime Minister proclaimed
Speaker, the increase in crime in Trinidad and Tobago,
and indeed around the world, is a matter of serious concern,
not only for the Government, but for the society at large.
" (Manning HOR Budget statement 2002)
He went on and on in that Budget Speech highlighting the
myriad and plentiful initiatives the government was going
to implement to rid the country of crime.
is for this reason that throughout this budget we have
included policy measures and initiatives that seek to
deal with these underlying problems and, in that way,
tackle crime at its very root."
All talk and no action. If speeches could stop crime Mr.
Speaker, we would be the safest country in the world.
Instead, the number of murders went up from 120 in 2000
under the UNC to 169 in 2002 when he was Prime Minister
One year later in 2003, he was back in this House, and
again attempted to talk the criminals into submission.
Safe streets, homes, places of recreation, and workplaces;
provide us with the environment to nurture our creative
Mr. Speaker, the level of security enjoyed by citizens
is the most critical problem facing Trinidad and Tobago
today. The population is being terrorized as the criminals
have declared virtual war on this society.
The Government must and shall respond. Accordingly, we
now declare war on the criminal elements and shall do
whatever is necessary, within the law, to return this
nation to that state where our people can conduct their
lives in the full safety and security to which they are
entitled"(Manning, HOR Budget Speech 2002/3)
That was General Manning, four years ago! What has happened
since then? Once more, he talked the talk but could not
or would not walk the walk.
The criminals know that, and number of murders increased
by 36% to 229.
The question you need to ask yourself is why Mr. Speaker.
The national population already has its own conclusions,
as do I.
In 2005, the Prime Minister in apparent recognition of
his failure to deal with the problem of crime indicated
that the budget for fiscal 2005/06 was a "reaffirmation"
amongst other things, his government's position to :
a policy framework that: creates an integrated security
infrastructure which ensures that issues of crime, public
safety and security are addressed on a sustained basis;
The escalation of violent crime and anti-social behaviour
constitute the most fundamental threat to the economic
and social development of our country and the well being
of our people."
Once more the same commitments to deal with crime were
repeated ad nauseaum. The result? The number of murders
jumped again, this time by a whopping 49 percent to 387,
in excess of one a day and way higher than it has ever
But the situation is also true for other violent crime.
In 2001, there were 499 reported wounding and shootings.
By 2005, that figure had skyrocketed by 61 percent to
a massive 801. The midyear trends indicate that this figure
will be maintained into 2006.
It certainly appears that every time the Prime Minister
proposes a new commitment to deal with crime, the murder
rate goes up.
Perhaps it is for this reason that the budget speech of
the Finance Minister last Wednesday was devoid of any
serious policy or programme to realistically address the
problem of crime in Trinidad and Tobago.
Certainly, one of the greatest embarrassments to this
government must be the Minister of National Security,
and no PR campaign can change that.
Last year in this very House, The Minister proclaimed
that if he thought that crime would reduce if he resigned,
he would do so. Today I want to tell him that enough is
enough. His being Minister has not resulted in crime reduction,
and Yes! He should resign purely on the grounds of incompetence
and lack of performance.
But is it incompetence Mr. Speaker? or is it the absence
of a desire to deal with crime?
You see Mr. Speaker, revelations over the last year has
thrown light on things. The old people used to say "what
was in the dark does come to light one day."
A certain religious leader when pushed into a corner by
his former friends including persons sitting in the highest
offices on the Government benches, spilt the beans about
the close working relationship between the hierarchy of
the People's National Movement and his organization.
We recall the public statements by PM Manning that he
was going to give land to the Jamaat al Muslimeen, obviously
to fulfill the promise made to the religious leader. We
recall too the public hue and cry which prevented the
Having realised that the country was not going to sit
idly by whilst he rewarded the coup leaders, the government
then began to look at other options for bad boys to do
their dirty work.
Ever wonder why they insist that they would meet the "community
leaders" rather than the community elders?
Honest citizens protesting for better roads are greeted
with police battalions but known criminals are wined and
dined on the same day at the country's finest hotel.
The nation deserves to know why?
Mr. Speaker, let me address the Prime Minister's cri de
is to blame for the current crime menace?"
Simplistically, he concludes that, "We all must shoulder
some of the blame".
He is indeed the new Rip Van Winkle. He now finds the
crime landscape beyond comprehension and control, forgetful
of course that, five years ago, he gave a bold start to
the spiral by recognizing gang personnel as Community
Leaders whose muscle he used sedulously to win the last
After letting the dogs of war loose on an unsuspecting
citizenry, he now enquires innocently, 'who is to blame'?
Let me clear it up for the Hon. Prime Minister. HE is
to blame! This government is to blame!
The law abiding section of the citizenry cannot do any
more than they are doing as long as the government remains
in the camp of the criminals.
There does not appear to be an honest desire on the part
of the Government to rid the country of the scourge of
crime. The result is that the country will continue to
pay with its blood for his folly.
There is no surprise then that crime has reached the epic
proportions that it has. The government is not powerless,
it simply lacks the will.
Mr. Speaker, I am certain that you would recall the statements
in 2002 that the government knows who the criminals were.
You would remember the "Mr. Big" the Prime Minister
referred to, keeping the name to his chest even as our
people were maimed and traumatized for life.
But you see there was method to the madness. The government
began by blaming the Opposition UNC for the crime wave.
You recall the big hullabaloo about the importance of
the Police Reform Bills. We supported those Bills and
passed them in the House and in the Senate. But would
you believe that those Bills have not been put into effect
by this government up to today? Why?
It is a matter of priorities.
This government has never been serious about dealing with
the issue of crime. For them it has been a political prop,
a distraction from their profligate spending on themselves
and their friends.
This year, for the umpteeth time, the PM has come again,
promising the same promises, venting the same anger in
the same tone and in many of the same words.
This year however, he appears to have conceded as there
is a literal absence of any attempt to deal with crime.
There is only damage control as he has chosen to blame
He thinks that the nationals of Trinidad and Tobago are
fools. One morning he woke up and decided aha! New idea....
Million dollar "Eye in the sky" would be the
solution to the robberies on the Brian Lara promenade.
Crime continued unabated!
Recently, the Chairman of the National Security Council,
our very own Minister of Finance decided aha! Let us front
the idea of Israeli armed choppers...that was shot down
unceremoniously (forgive the pun).
Then he thought aha! Blimp - the next best thing - around
the same price but we'll only tell the population AFTER
we set up the deal. The result is that we were saddled
with a multimillion dollar piece of equipment that was
neither suited for the purpose for which it was bought
nor did it ever worked.
Having not learnt his lesson, he thought aha! He went
and bought another multi-million blimp!
Suddenly he hits another gem aha! Bring in Scotland Yard
world famous crime stoppers. Weeks afterwards we find
out that they were not Scotland yardies after all.
An average of a million dollars in salary plus accommodation
etc. for each of these messiahs, pay them better than
they ever paid local enforcement officers, provide them
with all the equipment that they should have given to
the police service here in the first place and.......nothing.
It may sound funny; but whilst the PM plays games with
our money people are losing their lives.
One of our policemen was shot and killed in the line of
duty. "Collateral damage" the Minister said.
Another was shot and killed in Central because the police
station had no bullet proof vest for him to wear, and
no firearm to defend himself and others.
Ordinary citizens were being massacred at the ungodly
rate of more than one per day - innocent mothers, sisters,
brothers and fathers mercilessly wiped out.
What would it take to make them sit up and get serious
about dealing with crime. I wonder what is required for
them to actually do something? And it is not because of
a shortage of funds! The Minister of National Security
has spent over 10.5 billion dollars in the last five years
to achieve this state of crisis. Again, there is nothing
to show for all that money.
Every day a life is snuffed out and they sit idly by.
Crime continues to be the number one concern for Trinbagonians,
and the PM offers nothing in the budget.
Our citizens continue to live in fear. Private security
services are booming as people take extra precautions
to protect themselves. Even the PM has beefed up his security
detail. But not everyone can afford this luxury.
The murder, the rapes, the robberies continue unabated.
Mr. Speaker I want to share a frightening discovery with
you and the nation.
British criminologist and Oxford University professor
Roger Hood recently in a presentation on the crime situation
in Trinidad and Tobago expressed great alarm at the results
of his research.
He found that the chance of a murderer of getting caught
is miniscule (about 20 percent for this year). The likelihood
of them being convicted is even smaller (about 5 percent)
and of those caught and convicted 90 percent of them will
be released after appeal.
To take the analysis even further, what this means is
that on average, for every one thousand murders that take
place in this country, only one conviction is ever upheld
999 murderers out of 1000 get away.
This little country has a murder of 30 per hundred thousand.
Higher than Haiti and Guyana combined! (11.5 and 15.7
per 100,000 respectively)
It is 19 times the rate of England, 1,900% higher!
1,600 percent higher than the murder rate in Canada!
To complete the analysis, of the more than 1,340 murders
committed to date under the PNM, the analysis suggests
that only 1 person would be convicted and made to serve
his sentence after appeals - 1,339 of these murders would
It is axiomatic that the entire system of the administration
of justice in Trinidad and Tobago is operating in an unsatisfactory
basis. The basic infrastructure : courts, police stations,
jail, personnel, equipment all are in desperate need of
Morale in the police service is at an all time low. Public
confidence in the police service is also at a low.
In a survey conducted by the UWI/ANSA McAl Psychological
Research Centre last month, more than half of the respondents
indicated a serious fear of being victimized by an officer
of the police services.
I am certain that after the events of Barrackpore, Chatham
and Fyzabad, that number will increase substantially.
Perhaps significantly, some 70 percent of UNC supporters
surveyed felt that they would be victimized as opposed
to 49 percent of those who claimed to be PNM supporters.
Significantly too, a massive 84 percent of persons surveyed
believed that not enough was being done to investigate
shootings by police officers. In other words very few
people believed that justice was possible in a case where
the police were the aggressors.
Similarly, 84 percent of the persons asked responded that
they did not support the government's purchase of the
Blimp. Needless to say that sentiment had been carried
by many commentators, but in typical, the public will
was ignored and the blimp bought by the government.
Mr. Speaker, the prison service is also in crisis. Prison
officers have taken legal action alleging that the Prison
Commissioner is compromising their authority and is in
fact supportive of the prisoners! Reports last week of
the discovery of several pieces of homemade knives in
the prison appear to confirm the officers fears.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps for the first time in this country,
there are two Ministers of National Security and a separate
Minister who is in charge of the National Security Council.
There are several National Security advisers including
former PNM Ministers. This country is paying more today
than ever before for the administration of the national
security Ministry and getting substantially less than
it ever has.
I ask you Mr. Speaker : should you be asked to pay more
for less? Would you?
Mr. Speaker, the government has demonstrated that it cannot
or, for whatever reason, will not deal with the issue
of Crime. I think this country has been asked to tolerate
enough. We have offered on more than one occasion to work
with the government in dealing with the issue. Always
they has postured but never conceded.
Enough is enough. We are serious. This matter is too crucial
an issue for me to allow him to let his petty political
agenda get in the way of stopping this brutal wave of
violence against our citizens.
The Opposition demands that the government provide a seat
on the National Security Council for a person nominated
by the Opposition to participate and work with the parties
involved, in an effort to rid this county of the scourge
An Opposition representative will force the PM to stop
playing games or justify inaction. I expect them to talk
about national secrets, but we are representatives too,
and thus far none of his national or strategic secrets
have resulted in a reduction in criminal activity.
I believe that we can make a difference if the government
is serious. After all the population wants the state to
protect them, and that is their due.
QUALITY OF LIFE: POVERTY
Mr. Speaker one of the most painful manifestations of
this government's failure to provide for the basic human
needs of our citizens is its record in regard to its social
policy implementation and its treatment of the poor.
Despite the numerous social programmes with the fancy
acronyms, the social policy framework is characterized
by a network of unstructured, uncoordinated and duplicative
programmes, with associated waste, inefficiency, mismanagement
and corruption. Poverty concerns rarely appear in a prominent
or real way in national planning efforts. Instead, anti-poverty
programmes are frequently a set of small-scale targeted
interventions, usually involving social services or the
provisioning of credit to poor people, despite the fact
that macroeconomic policies if, of course, they are handled
properly have just as much or even more impact on poverty
reduction as do targeted small scale interventions.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the populations of the Asian miracle
economies had experienced rising levels not only of income,
but also of education and social welfare.
These economies had experienced what Nobel Laureate Amartya
Sen has called 'growth-mediated security', or rising social
welfare as a by-product of increasing affluence, rather
than 'support led security' based on wide-ranging public
support in domains such as employment provision, income
redistribution, health care, education, and social assistance
(Dreze and Sen 1989).
This government has done the reverse. They have been pursuing
"support led security" to little avail.
Today it appears that despite increased state intervention,
increased expenditure certainly, we have deteriorated
into a situation whereby the aged and the increasing poor
have become dependent on an ever failing state for their
quality of life.
What is the true level of poverty in this country? There
are many figures bandied about, most of them depending
on the research done in the early 1990s.
I decided to use the government's own figures and was
amazed to learn that after five years of PNM government,
with the highest ever revenues and expenditure in this
country and a collage of programmes, the government confesses
that at least quarter of a million of our citizens still
live in poverty.
The arithmetic is theirs, not mine.
Multiply 60,000 smartcards (YES! The Prime Minister used
the words smart card in budget 2006 - which he has rechristened
TT debit card so he could use the name smart card again)
for the very needy by an average of four persons per household
and you come up just shy of 250,000 persons living below
the poverty line.
And I have not added old-age pensioners who depend on
the NIS pensions and who, because that system has failed
to keep step with reality, have been pushed into poverty
by government induced inflation.
In last years Budget Speech the PM stated:
proposed cash transfer through a Smart Card, which will
target about 60,000 families. The Smart Card will allow
for the purchase of food on a defined list of items of
$300 for families of three of fewer persons; $400 for
families of four to five persons and $500 for families
with six or more persons. This is on a monthly basis."
This cash transfer was to deal with the most needy of
families, people unable to make ends meet and who were
essentially borderline or actually destitute.
Allow me to elaborate on what the members opposite were
thumping their tables about.
Let us do the math: $300 for a family of three or more.
So if you are part of a family of three who are unable
to make ends meet, the government's benevolent contribution
to ensure your family's survival would be at most $100
per person per month or $3 per day.
The international bench mark for extreme poverty is $6.
3 TT ($1US) per day, and for moderate poverty the defining
level is living under $12.60 per day. Government is "helping"
the poor to live at $3.00 per day!
Social Development Minister Anthony Roberts managed to
keep a straight face when he spoke about what he promoted
as a poverty-eradication scheme.
TT Card aims to provide food for the needy persons in
Trinidad and Tobago and to liberate some members from
the jaws of poverty. It promises a healthier and better
standard of living for some families as we strive to create
a better Trinidad and Tobago for us all,"
the Honourable Minister said at the media launch of the
It is preposterous that this government expects to liberate
needy persons from the jaws of poverty by giving the three
dollars per day. That cannot even pay for a potato roti.
Smart Card recipients are also required to access classes
under one of the government's social programmes so, out
of the three dollars per day, they have to pay transportation
to and from these classes and, still buy food.
I would really like to see - just as an academic exercise
- any one of the members on the opposite side complete
those transactions with $3, even $3 US dollars which is
what they expect poor people to make magic with.
But the Minister continues:
card is an evolution in how the government supports the
needy citizens of our country."
I would like to commend his candor, because that is precisely
how the government supports needy citizens, by keeping
them in abject poverty on $3 per day.
great man, who truly understands suffering, once said:
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they
do" and, I might add, they know not what they are
talking about either.
This has got to be the lowest level of deception, absurdity
or downright foolishness ever, but we must not forget
incompetence as a major element in the various disasters
this government has inflicted upon us.
It becomes obvious why the social policy framework of
this government is such a spectacular failure - The Minister
has lost his way!
Let us compare this with how they treated themselves!
Three dollars a day is what they expect the poor to live
on. Minister Christine Sahadeo who tells workers their
demands are too high earns $1,335 per day including perks!
So do the other government Ministers.
The PM earns much more!
Now, just think of how much tax these same workers have
to fork out, just to keep these ministers living in the
style to which they have so quickly become accustomed.
Mr. Speaker, it costs the taxpayers of this country 14
million per year just to pay the Ministers in this government.
And many more millions for their advisers! What do we
have to show for it?
A booming economy according to the Prime Minister.
One only has to compare the glowing macro economic indicators
the Minister of Finance has quoted with the stark reality
of contemporary living in T & T to realize that those
indicators on their own do not transfer into a better
quality of life for the majority of the citizens of T
Since this government has been in office, the Standard
of Living has fallen for everyone, except Ministers of
Government who are supplied with body guards, who drive
on the PBR and who are given free rides and meals on luxury
Pensioners have been amongst those hardest hit by inflation.
In simple terms, the rate of growth of government pensions
and savings has not matched the rate of growth of inflation.
The frightening part of this is that the purchasing power,
or real value of money placed in savings is being whittled
so that we may find pensions will not be enough to sustain
life....except of course for Ministers of Government.
That is exactly where pensioners are today. The money
they have put aside for retirement is worth substantially
less now because of this government's aggressive inflationary
How heartless, how cruel it is to have effectively raised
the pensions of these persons by $100.
The government's approach to handling the conspiratorial
combination of rising food prices and subsistence for
the elderly also sends all the wrong signals.
It is callous treatment of, and utter disdain for patriots
who cleared the path for those who today enjoy the fruits
of their efforts.
To raise the old age pension - or whatever he now wishes
to call it - the grant for the elderly by $100 per month,
is probably designed to bring a little humour into the
winter of their years, because the government simply cannot
I don't know when last the Honourable Prime Minister personally
did food shopping, but surely his dear wife could have
enlightened him on the issue of food prices. Since the
PNM came to office food prices have increased by 100%.
It is unconscionable that out of a whopping $38 billion
scheduled for spending over the next fiscal year, those
who have toiled for this country, those who have helped
to create the largesse now being enjoyed by Members on
the other side and their posh peers, are worth only a
pitiful $136 million.
The budget contains no hint of a plan to stem runaway
inflation, so the elderly, armed with an extra $100 are
definitely going to suffer, and increasingly so, with
each passing month as food prices continue to increase.
Given inflation and the absurd leaps in the cost of living
during the past year, the elderly have gained exactly
nothing. In fact, in real terms, they are behind where
they stood at the start of fiscal 2006.
I wish to remind Members on the opposite side, that during
last year's budget debate, the Honourable Minister of
Consumer and Legal Affairs promised on October 14th that
the government had declared war on rising food prices
and promised to lead the charge in a new era of consumer
awareness and empowerment.
The government announced new measures aimed at reducing
at least 35 food items, including rice, flour, cereal,
salt fish and condensed milk.
All of these items, every single one of these items has
shown substantial increases in retail prices.
We were told that, in order to ensure the prices are reduced,
the Consumer Affairs Division "will act as a watchdog
over the process of price reduction which ought properly
to follow upon the introduction of these measures."
Given our experiences over the past year, why should we
believe the new promises?
Roughly one year earlier, on Wednesday November 10th,
2004, to be precise, the Honourable Minister Christine
Sahadeo, promised that the price of selected building
materials would be reduced as Cabinet had agreed to remove
the Common External Tariff on those items and predicted
reductions of between 2.5 percent and 20 percent. Mr.
Speaker, it is common knowledge that the prices of these
items went up rather than down. Why should we believe
any new promises?
Mr. Speaker: The only real tax break announced in this
government's budget, accrues to persons with children
studying abroad. Doesn't that tell you something? Does
that not speak more so to a particular social stratum?
You increase a tax-break from $18,000 to $60,000 and you
don't tell us how many people are likely to be relieved
by this measure, which indicates to me that you probably
already know the number is especially small and decidedly
What is in the budget for the little people is a clumsy
attempt at verbal gymnastics, intended to con them with
a set of very fragile statistics.
Numb them with numbers, fool them with lyrics seems to
be the concept upon which the 2006/2007 budget is predicated.
The PM speaks glibly about nurturing a caring society,
or healthy lifestyles. What nonsense!
There is no dignity in poverty Mr. Speaker. Poverty results
in prostitution of our women to feed their children, crime,
destitution and vagrancy.
Poverty results in the destruction of relations, family
relations included and the mess of social ills.
It places additional strain on the resources of the health
sector, the Ministry of Social Development, police service
etc. There is a high financial cost effect to it.
Instead of pumping money in ill fated social programmes,
the PM would be well advised to prevent these problems
from occurring in the first place. Treat the root rather
than the symptom. That is basic common sense.
I note with concern that the PM has not increased old
age pensions per se but in fact has given a grant of $100
per month. I object not just to the amount but also the
method of giving.
A grant can be given or taken away by executive fiat at
any time and does not require legislation so it is not
Today I call on the Prime Minister to increase the pension
for the elderly to $2,000 and forget about any grant.
In this way he would have to entrench the amount in legislation
so that if he attempts to take it away, he would be subject
to accounting to the people through the parliament and
so would be deterred from taking it away by "vaps".
Let us compare the $100 per month increase for old age
pensioners, the disabled and those on public assistance
as well as the $3 per day for the poor and destitute under
the Smart Card with the millions government has spent
and will be spending on entertainment, hosting, overseas
travel, promotions and publicity.
Every year government has budgeted huge sums for these
items in what I have dubbed their propaganda vote.
This year a grand total of $209,751,350 has been budgeted.
This number now brings the total amount spent by this
government and to be spent by them to almost one billion
And this is figure of $1b is only for ministers and their
ministries and not for the 89 state enterprises/Statutory
Authorities like WASA and NLCB and so on, as well as the
15 new State companies that have been established so that
the total amount is even greater.
Almost one billion dollars wasted by this government to
spree, fly abroad and advertise themselves in full colour
pages in the newspapers.
In 2006/7, let us see who gets what.
At the top of the list is the Tourism Minister at $61.3m
with $60m to be spent on overseas travel. He is definitely
a high flier. Not so the Housing Minister who has been
allocated a mere $250,000 nor THA and CAST which has been
The Office of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance
has been allocated over $21m. Entertainment is the largest
part of this at $7.7m
Next, I am sure that you would have guessed correctly
is the Ministry of Education at $15.9m and not surprisingly
the largest slice of this is hosting ($8 m) and for promotions
and publicity at $5.1m
Tobago is at the bottom of the propaganda list in 2006/7
with a total of only $325,000 and the Ministry of Housing
is second to last at $1m.
In such a context, we on this side of the House were astonished
at the ease with which The Honourable Prime Minister trotted
out a string of largely useless measures described as
bringing relief to the poor and low-income groupings.
In his very first budget speech four years ago, this Minister
of Finance boasted
are in the process of evaluating recommendations on pension
reform with a view to providing the national community
with a comprehensive pension reform framework for wide
Again in 2004/5 Budget speech he spoke of pension reform
but not surprisingly, in fiscal 2007, there is no reference
to pension reform and the critical need for same.
There is a desperate need for government to index Pensions!
This becomes even more important in the context of the
increasingly aging population of Trinidad and Tobago and
the possibility of unsustainable pension funds to maintain
Already we have realized that the income provided for
the aged is insufficient to keep them above the poverty
I propose that government institute an Earned Income Tax
Credit to assist our nation's working poor. Introduced
during the Clinton administration in the US, the EITC
has met with tremendous success in protecting the working
poor and help them become part of the formal economic
The working poor include maids and housekeepers, drivers,
gardeners, secretaries, clerks, cleaners, etc.
How the system works is that a basic amount is predetermined
below which we do not want our citizens to fall. It could
be the poverty line if you will.
Working persons would be required to file their tax returns
and will be assessed. If they fall below the established
amount, they would receive in effect a grant of the difference
between their income and the defined line.
This would mean that a wide cross section of the population
who presently work but fall outside of the formal sector
because of being paid under the minimum wage, working
part time etc. would now benefit from NIS, become registered
and generally improve their standard of living.
Consider it Mr. PM. It is better than anything you have
in the budget.
I turn now to another sector, which also is critical to
the well being of the citizenry, it is the one sector
which the government boasts of greatest success.
In his speech, Hon. Prime Minister promised 8000 new homes
in 2007. He chose not to tell us whether he met the promise
to this House for 8200 houses in fiscal 2006. But we know
that accountability is a mortal enemy of this administration.
By now everybody knows that this government's housing
program is not to provide shelter but is a house- padding
exercise in the marginal constituencies.
They have no concern with operating a comprehensive programme
that examines need on the basis of demographics and then
distributing low-income homes on that basis.
Their number one criterion is the party card. When we
ask them to come clean on their allotment policy, they
avoid the question. They say there is a process. We find
their process nebulous, if not magical since it selects,
somehow, basically their party members, notwithstanding
the diversity or configuration of applicants.
Further, Mr. Speaker, in the last year's budget speech
under the title of 'affordable housing' these were Hon.
Prime Minister's words:
inability to access mortgages because of income constraints;
the high cost of land combined with the high cost of construction
just takes this dream beyond the reach of many, particularly
females earning less than $3,000 per month.
This Government's strategy is to make acceptable housing
available through major construction and upgrading programmes,
while simultaneously addressing the issue of affordability."
But on the official website of the Ministry of Housing
for the lowest priced house of TT $200,000, gross monthly
income that a prospective home owner must have is $3417.44.
This gives the lie to the words from last year's budget
speech that provision was being made for persons earning
less than $3000 per month when in fact all persons below
$3,417 are excluded. The dream was definitely beyond their
And the dream was beyond the reach of 47% of all households
in the nation. The CSO clearly states that 47 percent
of all households in this country earn less than $3,000
per month. Therefore government provision of housing based
on a household monthly income of $3,417.14 already rendered
ineligible about half of the households in Trinidad and
This year the Hon. Prime Minister quoted a new income
eligibility criterion where the households now must have
an income of $4,000 per month in order to be eligible.
Now that the PM has stated a new minimum monthly income
eligibility criterion of $4,000. When we cross compare
this with the CSO data, it means that more than 61% of
all households will not be eligible since they earn less
than $4000 per month.
This means that the dream has been taken beyond the reach
of 61 per cent of all households who will not be eligible
for the mortgages offered by the PM to afford to own a
This is a dreaded situation and we want Prime Minister
to explain the stand of HDC in this regard. This implies
that there is more than a reasonable doubt that government's
housing program is another of those projects the government
trumpets as though it is doing something for the small-income
earner, when in fact it is hurting the persons most, in
need of help.
The Prime Minister talked about an income bracket of $1440
to $8000 and stated that the people in this bracket will
"continue to be eligible for the houses for which
they originally qualified without an increase in monthly
This is classic semantic jugglery of PNM.
Will the Prime Minister explain to this house exactly
when, under what conditions and through what methodology,
this government considered people earning $1440 per month
as eligible for housing now?
We also want to know what dedicated efforts were made
by the government to make the people who earn $3000 or
less per month eligible for housing?
Mr. Speaker, this government increased the loan amount
from the $200,000 to $315,000 without lowering the eligibility
criterion but instead increasing it to $4,000. This means
they again attempted to fool the people as it is customary
to the PNM culture.
The programme, therefore, is another of those projects
the government trumpets as though it is doing something
for the small-income earner, when in fact it is hurting
the persons most in need of help, the lower middle income
and lower income groups
The government has clearly lost its way.Now, clearly the
Prime Minister was making his offer last year in a vacuum,
wishing to palliate women by giving the impression he
was thinking of them, when the concept itself is unworkable
The flippancy in his words is galling. He knows the problem
and acknowledges it. CSO verifies the verbal concern.
And then they do nothing to solve the problem.
They first deprive the most needy people. Then they have
audacity to say, again in the words of Hon. PM in the
last year's budget speech. "Government is convinced
that squatting has gone beyond necessity. This trend has
to be stopped."
What are the rules of necessity here? What do they want
the people to do?
In order to solve this persistent problem of squatting,
you need to have a well thought out policy. In this regard
too the government has lost its way.
order to take away the worst aspects of public and subsidized
housing you need to have reforms that acknowledge and
facilitate powerful social dynamics that shape communities.
When we institutionalized the land Settlement Agency,
we wanted to avoid a new generation of previous policy
mistakes. We went for property rights which were neither
politically divisive nor dependent on government subsidies.
The logic was that shelter policy is a local matter. Title
security increases investment in home improvement. Then
you do not need to give grants. People are able to do
the job themselves. Mr. Speaker, this nation has a history
of self-help home construction.
Further to this, the value of a house is partly dependent
on the condition of the neighborhood. If you revive the
culture of rewarding achievements, such as savings and
investment among the aspiring home owners, it will keep
the neighborhood safe and clean and people will work hard
to arrest any hint of decay. This was the logic Mr. Speaker.
This is how you encourage upward social mobility. Not
by building houses you consider cheap but are still outside
the reach of those who need shelter most urgently.
Now when you do the opposite, you get social ramifications.
And that is what the PNM has been doing for years.
Costly subsidies for housing destroy the incentives of
the people to save money and to maintain the condition
of their environment. Look at some of the housing schemes
they built which have turned into the ghettos. What do
There is something called internally displaced people
(IDP) crisis in the world. Normally this crisis takes
place due to the war, strife or dictatorship.
We are a small nation that never went to war and have
relatively few examples of social strife, although I cannot
say we have been immune from dictatorship - or, at least
the clear promise of it - yet we have an IDP crisis.
If we look at the ominous noises this administration is
making in the context of East Port of Spain residents,
people in the smelter affected areas or poor squatters
in general, we would realize that they are utterly resolute
to cause havoc in the already hard life of the thousands
We know that this government is not adverse to the use
of violence against the small farmers, hard working poor
people and quiet, peaceful communities.
This government has demonstrated its duplicity by its
pathetic surrender in front of the thugs, yet it is cruel,
pugnacious and impatient in front of the common people.
Again Mr. Speaker, this government will fail the individuals.
Again this government will create a crisis where none
intrinsically existed and, not even the fact that we are
the signatories to the Habitat agenda that rejects forceful
evictions as an effective enforcement measure would stop
They have already begun to evict people from their homes
in several areas in the country.
Unless you perceive people, individuals, as inanimate
objects, you cannot move them around by "vaps".
This creates a fresh catalogue of social problems.
There is dislocation that brings with it domestic upheaval,
where new schools have to be identified and fresh relationships
If government really wants to ensure that people have
shelter, I suggest that they implement a Home Ownership
Savings Plan which would not only assist the working poor
to be able to afford to build their homes but would also
encourage savings and thereby reduce inflation.
A HOSP would entail that for every dollar saved by a prospective
first time home owner in the below $4000 household income
per month bracket, government matches same with a dollar
- Dollar for dollar for housing at the time of commencement
Yet further, I propose that government gives a tax credit
to the prospective first time home owner for the money
put into savings by them.
In addition to the basic needs for security of life and
limb and for food and shelter, another basic requirement
of our people is the well being of the body. This requires
personal commitment, appropriate lifestyle choices and
access to quality health care.
But here too government has lost its way in providing
reliable public health care.
NATUC Secretary-General, Vincent Cabrera has said that
health sector is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode."
(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN 15 September 2006 )
The only positive step in the Health sector this government
has taken is the appointment of Madame Justice Gladys
Gafoor as the Chairperson of the Commission of Enquiry
into that sector.
This lady has taken a hands-on approach and is bringing
the issues to the fore so that they can no longer be covered
up or swept under the carpet by government's public relations
What she has been able to do in a remarkably short time
frame is to unmask the chaos, mismanagement, corruption,
understaffing, neglect and downright abuse present in
the health sector.
I salute Lady Justice Gafoor today as an exemplar and
suggest that other chairpersons of Commissions of Enquiry
and Parliamentary committees use the same format, making
proceedings available to the media, so they could, in
turn, let the people know what we are being forced to
accept from this uncaring government.
Mr. Speaker, in 2000 the PNM leader proclaimed to all
will sit down immediately with the representatives of
the Health Sector personnel and negotiate with them in
good faith, to arrive at a speedy settlement of their
many justifiable grievances. At all times we will treat
our health workers and their representatives as mutual
partners with a shared goal and mission and show them
the respect and dignity they deserve."
It is now well-documented history that this Minister of
Health has presided over an exodus of health workers largely
triggered and sustained by his abrasive attitude.
Health sector workers have been held to ransom, threatened
and belittled in the media.
To date the government has failed to officially recognize
the professional body representing doctors. Advertising
campaigns have been waged to present doctors in a negative
light. The morale of health sector employees is at an
all time low.
In his 2003 Budget speech, the Minister of Finance unveiled
to fast-track the implementation of the Reform Programme
by promoting wellness and providing affordable, quality
health care in an efficient and equitable manner."
Empty Lyrics! As with every other commitment from this
government, nothing has changed. Amazingly, it continues
to get worse.
* Hospitals are overcrowded and understaffed,
* There are long waiting lines for basic surgery and patients
are being asked to wait for periods sometimes over years
for serious surgery.
* Hospitals are without medication.
* The infrastructure is antiquated and poorly maintained
- in Sangre Grande surgery had to be cancelled and doctors
had to protest in order to have oxygen lines repaired,
although since 2002, the Minister of Health promised faithfully,
and in this House to refurbish the Hospital.
* The Forensic Science Centre is severely understaffed
and unable to cope with the work load. Criminal cases
are in limbo as a result.
* There is a shortage of ambulances although they had
committed to buy 50 ambulances over the five year term.
* And I can go on and on.
The question is where has the money gone?
The government listed as one of its priorities for the
in quality healthcare by expanding the availability and
strengthening the delivery of health and wellness services"
(HANSARD 2005/6 Budget speech)
Unfortunately, it has done little to actually effect this
The Government is running behind Justice Gafoor trying
to put plasters on every sore. What have they been doing
over the past five years?
People have died!
Children have died!
This country is receiving the highest income of all its
Caribbean neighbors and we cannot have a functional basic
health system? Vision 2020? That is a joke Mr. Speaker.
Another five years, another ten years will only add to
the rot. It is a question of priorities. We have a shortage
of beds in the San Fernando Hospital but the PM endorses
the expenditure of almost 50 million dollars to refurbish
a liming area for his friends at Beach Camp. People are
dying Mr. Speaker! Priorities! Priorities!
This government has absolutely lost its way!
Mr. Speaker when we demitted office, we left a health
sector on the mend from 30 years of PNM neglect. Unfortunately,
as soon as they got back into power, the PNM reverted
to their age old practice.
The ambulance service (a UNC initiative) is now in private
hands as the PNM could not manage it, and many of the
ambulances are now lying derelict in Couva. They act as
if ambulances, like police vehicles, do not run a higher
risk of getting into accidents, so they have no provision
for ongoing maintenance.
We deserve better Mr. Speaker.
On the issue of health care, every objective Trinbagonian
will agree that the UNC government delivered, and with
substantially less resources at our disposal. It was then
and is now, a question of priorities.
For five years, the PM and his Minister of Health have
twiddled their thumbs and thumbed their collective noses
at us. The only positive development which took place
under this Minister of Health seems to have been in the
Pharmacy business and we do not need to wonder why.
When he gets the opportunity to speak he will regale the
House with his achievements.
Here are a few I hope he comments on:
is the worst place I have ever seen" said Justice
Gafoor after touring the Lab at the San Fernando Hospital
(Express July 2005.) After five years of the PNM.
Doctors were unable to assure the population that tests
done at this lab were correct. Can you imagine that? You
are waiting for test results to determine if you should
have surgery and there is no guarantee that the result
would be accurate? You run the risk of being misdiagnosed
Hear the Minister of Health in 2002:
San Fernando Hospital upgrade has gone out to tender.
Tenders are in and are being evaluated for a complete
revamping of that hospital. We are putting a new burns
unit there and a new lab in the San Fernando Hospital."
(HANSARD HOR 2002, Colm Imbert, Minister of Health)
Yes, this is the same facility, the same lab that Justice
Gafoor was talking about two months ago!
Like everything else, no implementation and a fresh set
of promises the next chance they got.
Mr. Speaker, the hearings of the Commission became stalled
for several months until earlier this year due to Government's
tardiness - and there are those who argue this was deliberate
- in appointing lawyers to work with the Commission.
You would of course forgive me, and the rest of the Nation
for thinking that the government could not take the heat
and thus became "negligent".
But you cannot keep a good woman down forever. It is now
history that Madam Justice Gaffoor continued the hearing
despite the government's refusal to provide the requisite
Predictably, her findings were a serious indictment on
the Government and the Ministry of Health.
aplenty in health system...medical malpractice, bad management"
was the headline (EXPRESS September 8th 2006.) and I quote:
Commission of Enquiry into the operation and delivery
of Public Health Care services has found that poor management,
misappropriation of Government property and financial
mismanagement, as well as what would appear to be medical
malpractice, plague public health care services."
The article "System worst under RHAs says PSA"
(NEWSDAY September 12th 2006) was particularly enlightening
as it contained the testimony of Mr. Stephen Thomas, first
vice president of the PSA:
is the general perception, based upon the evidence that
comes in the public domain, that the quality of health
care delivery is highly questionable,"
he said, citing a sorry state of affairs in our health
service, including the case of a man who apparently died
of nothing more complicated than a broken leg! He also
revealed the shocking tale of a child who mysteriously
became comatose, after being admitted for treatment of
non life-threatening burns.
Mr. Thomas also highlighted the fact that there was no
proper accounting to monitor the use, abuse and theft
of drugs, pharmaceutical and medical supplies at the EWMSC
although there were numerous complaints of inadequacy
of medical supplies over the years. There seems to have
been no desire on the part of management including the
Minister to address these problems although they were
clearly aware of them
Other headlines tell a similar story: "Tobago's healthcare
system potential disaster" (TRINIDAD GUARDIAN September
Ironically this story did not even mention the embarrassment
that is the Tobago Hospital. It is my fervent hope that
Justice Gafoor tackles that issue as the massive cost
overrun, public fracas, attempts to remove the government's
preferred contractor, time overruns all point to corruption,
mismanagement and wastage of millions of taxpayers dollars.
Somebody is responsible and must be made to pay. Children
have died in Tobago because of inadequate of access to
health care. We cannot and must not allow these deaths
to be in vain.
And perhaps the Hon Minister of Finance can recognise
at Hospitals" (TRINIDAD GUARDIAN September 15 2006)
The person highlighting allegations of corruption and
more so, negligence on the part of the Government is none
other than Dr. Petronella Manning-Alleyne, sister of the
Minister of Finance.
also spoke of misallocation of funds and equipment for
the neonatal unit, while the physical structure continues
to erode. ... For the 20-how-much-years I worked here,
we never had a commercial cleaning" she said."
Mr. Speaker, the irony here is that since 2002, in his
2003 budget contribution, the Minister of Health had promised:
will return the Sterilization Unit to the Port of Spain
General Hospital, which is going out for tender very shortly,
if it has not been done already."
They forget Mr. Speaker. And every year they repeat the
same promises. And every year they fail to deliver.
Today, four years later, Dr. Manning-Alleyne advises that
this is yet to be done. But the woes in the sector continue.
supplies company AA Laquis was named by neonatal consultant
Manning-Alleyne in her allegations of tendering corruption
and a medical supply monopoly at the Prot of Spain General
A Member of the Tenders Board, she claimed, indicated
that certain medical suppliers were "Preferred"
and were often privy to inside information."
Her public accusation has not been refuted by the named
company! That tells us all something.
Listing staff shortages, and the absence of middle management,
the consultant also pointed to a bigger problem when she
Health Sector Reform Programme is not something that people
have been practicing as far as I understand.
These are just documents...we don't seem to be fulfilling
the requirements that are suggested by that."
What is more telling is her revelation to the Commissioner
and to the country:
the archaic system is not the problem...It is the lack
of will to do anything different...and every time you
try to do something here, somebody, because of some partisan
reason, decides to step on you."
What do you call deliberate negligence Mr. Speaker?
Put to shame by these revelations, Health Minister John
Rahael recently said that all her claims had since been
What was he doing before?
The Newsday Editorial of Tuesday September 26th described
his comments as:
shamefully inadequate explanation since if this were so,
then at the very least certain procurement procedures
would have been changed and there might even have been
criminal charges laid against certain individuals...the
hardest proof of Dr. Manning- Alleyne's allegations lie
in some simple and awful statistics: an infant mortality
rate of 17 per 1000 live births (with other estimates
running as high as 24), an under-five mortality rate of
20 and a maternal mortality rate of 38."
The newspaper also reiterated the core point:
a nation as rich as Trinidad and Tobago, the high mortality
rate of babies is not the result of lack of resources.
It is the result of lack of a professional, ethical and
caring attitude." (NEWSDAY Editorial 26/09/06)
No amount of promises to deal with the problems can erase
the fact that after five years of government by the PNM,
hundreds of millions of dollars, the health system is
in shambles. Mrs. Manning-Alleyne calls it a lack of will.
I call it criminal negligence.
Mr. Speaker, this year has been marked by some of the
worst crimes committed against and by children in our
history. It appears that life is as expendable as those
of the characters in the violent video arcade games now
popular in Trinidad and Tobago.
I listened to this budget with great expectations of hearing
how government was going to improve the standard of living
of our children, how they were going to be protected,
exposed to a better learning environment, how the issue
of street children was going to be addressed, or simply
how their access to health care was going to be improved..
Alas, whilst, I was definitely disappointed, I was not
surprised. This is the government that refused to implemented
the Childrens' Authority which would have provided protection
for children like little Amy Anumathodo.
Across a wide range of children's issues, from poverty
to education, from investment in the future economy to
the debt we will hand off to our kids, this budget fails
at every sequence, disregarding the present and offering
nothing to future generations.
I stand here not only for my children, for my grandchildren
and their generation, but for yours too and the future
generations that our decisions in this House must respect.
They are the ones who will spend the most time living
with the consequences of our actions.
It is the children of Trinidad and Tobago who are most
vulnerable and without a political voice unless we stand
up for them here, and now.
There is a huge generation gap but perhaps more important,
we are witnessing today wholesale importation of the worst
aspects of American ghetto culture. It is in the music,
in the videos, in the graffiti, in the street language
and in the clothes they wear. It is in the new wave of
crime as well.
We are witnessing a growing number of youth in jail for
increasingly severe crimes. We are witnessing today increasingly
younger criminals; Children killing children.
We are witnessing an increase in the use of alcohol, marijuana
and other prohibited substances by our nation's schoolchildren.
As the former Minister of Education, but more so as a
mother and grandmother, I am extremely distressed at the
scant courtesy with which the Minister of Finance has
dismissed the children of Trinidad and Tobago. On the
face of it, there is obviously a strong clear correlation
between illiteracy and social misconduct.
To be certain there are other factors including poverty
levels, the particular living environment, family life
and a broad base of cultural considerations which are
also relevant. The improvement of several of these factors
will undoubtedly impact these social problems and must
also hinge on government policy (poverty, crime etc).
We understand what is in store for the youth, because
we have long witnessed this government's continuing failure
to address these.
As Minister of Education, I had ensured that diagnostic
and other testing was introduced at the Form One stage
for what we had called the Form One Specials. This would
have informed literacy levels and guided the provision
of educational opportunities and teaching procedures for
those most requiring it.
I am heartened to learn that this programme was not stopped
by the present Minister. Unfortunately, the Minister of
Education does not seem to have moved it forward either.
Mark you, it is not her fault, she just does not know
what the next step should be. She, no doubt has also lost
Having recognized the problem of illiteracy, we began
by tackling the new Form ones but there is obviously a
need to work backward, to get into the primary school
system and deal with the issue even earlier, given the
elapsed time and concomitant lethargy since we demitted
The next step, assessing and identifying earlier, offers
the opportunity to treat the problem before it gets into
the secondary school and thereby phase out the need for
the Form One Specials as we bring ALL our children up
THAT was the UNC agenda for education.
But literacy needs other approaches also to deal with
elder students still in the system and with adults who
would have already left our education system but who are
I salute the pioneering work done by the Adult Literacy
Tutors Association (ALTA) who have adopted the onerous
task of tackling the problem of adult illiteracy whilst
I lament the government's continuing disregard of this
critical programme that is run privately and with no funding
help from the State.
Mr. Speaker, the international lending agencies: the IMF,
the World Bank, the IADB all use the government provided
figures which suggest a 95 percent literacy rate in Trinidad
However, as ALTA has advised us in an Express report headlined
"T&T's 95 percent literacy rate is a thoroughly
misleading indicator" (August 13th 2006), the last
surveys done by ALTA itself and by UWI revealed that,
and I quote, "...at the time...between 22 and 23
percent of the population could not be considered functionally
literate, and an equal but additional number had limited
reading skills. From all observances, those statistics
have not varied significantly since...In the sum, about
45 percent of our people cannot be considered literate
according to agreed international assessment systems"
This means almost half of our citizens cannot be considered
literate, according to the experts in the field.
This disclosure was made early in August this year, in
enough time for consideration for inclusion in the annual
budget. Instead, this Government has refused to do so.
Nothing in this budget, nothing in any previous budget
of this government sought to address what we all appreciate
as a very serious problem of adult literacy in Trinidad
and Tobago. The Government has abdicated its responsibility
to the people in this regard as well.
Mr. Speaker, ATLA has over 250 volunteer tutors, they
have developed over 60 books and local teaching manuals,
an entire teaching structure is in place to teach both
the teachers and the student.
And this Minister of Finance has offered absolutely nothing
to this organization, not through the Ministry of Social
Development, Ministry of Education or the Ministry of
Community Development. Is this a deliberate and sinister
plan by the PNM to keep people in ignorance?
PROTECTION OF CHILDREN
This budget like those before, speaks volumes of this
government's lack of care and concern for our Nation's
children. Like in every other sector, they know what is
required, they just lack the will.
In 1991 this country ratified the UN Convention of the
Rights of the child,. This means an acceptance of the
responsibility to introduce relevant measures so as to
ensure the general welfare and protection of children
in Trinidad and Tobago. The UN then requires periodic
reporting of the status of the implementation of the rights
of the child. In January this year, this country reported
to the UN via the former Attorney General and now High
Commissioner to England Mrs. Glenda Morean Phillip. She
spoke of a revised National Plan of Action for Children
which was to be considered by the Cabinet during the first
half of this year. She boasted:
strides have been made in the introduction and implementation
of measures to safeguard and promote the rights of children...my
delegation would like to affirm that the Government of
the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is committed to working
for the full realization of the rights of children."
(Mrs. Glenda Morean-Phillips opening address at the 41st
session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the child,
January 16 2006)
Mr. Speaker, she went further to state that in 2000, the
Government had enacted five critical pieces of legislation
for the benefit of children:
The Children's Authority Act (No 64 of 2000),
The Children's Community Residences, Foster Homes and
Nurseries Act (No65 of 2000),
The miscellaneous Provisions (Children) Act (No 66 of
The Adoption of Children Act (No 67 of 2000) and
The Children (Amendment) Act (No 64 of 2000); all of which
was done in 2000 by the UNC government.
Having been robbed of the government, it fell unto the
PNM Government to implement the legislation and our Nation's
children would have benefited from protection.
Five years of PNM rule have passed and these laws remain
on the statute books but have not been implemented while
our children are raped, murdered, sexually and otherwise
This entire government should hang its head in shame over
the callous disregard for our nation's young.
The deception of the UN by this government was highlighted
in the UN CRC report on Trinidad and Tobago where it listed
as positive aspects the enactment of these laws.
I wonder if the UN knew that this government has steadfastly
refused to implement the critical legislation, what the
response would have been.
As it is, the UN expressed dissatisfaction that the government
had been negligent in following up its commitments:
those relating to coordination, data collection, resource
allocation for children, abuse, ill treatment and domestic
violence, corporal punishment, alternative care, reproductive
health, education, street children, child labour and the
administration of juvenile justice." (CRC/C/TTO/CO/2,
March 2006 )
This government has failed on every single major plank
of the Conventions of the Rights of the Child. On every
single issue relating to the protection of our children
this government has failed to deliver.
And this year's budget continues the despicable tradition
of negligence. None of these issues are addressed! This
country is swimming in money and nothing is being provided
to safeguard our children!
If not now, when?
Mr. Speaker, last year, when the Prime Minister refused
to implement the Children's Authority legislation twenty
seven children were killed. This year we are aware of
some horrendous murders which have already taken place
in which children were the victims.
The Prime Minister has this year for the third time promised
to implement the Children's authority this legislation.
You would ask Mr. Speaker why I find no solace in that?
It is because he has made that promise before. In the
Budget presentation for the 2003/2004 financial year ,
the minister of Finance promised :
establishment of a Children's Authority which will champion
the rights of children;"
He refused to implement it then but condescendingly repeated
his promise in the following year's budget:
of the Children's Authority and the survey of needs of
Children's Homes, which commenced in fiscal 2004, will
be finalized in the new year." (Manning Budget Speech
That was exactly two years ago, and still, nothing has
been done Mr. Speaker.
There is not now nor has there been for months now, anything
stopping the Prime Minister from implementing the law.
Nothing except a lack of will.
I call on government to implement the package of Children
Mr. Speaker, this government keeps shooting itself in
the foot and then uses guile, double-speak, outrageously
expensive advertising campaigns and blatant deception
(as evidenced in the UN example) or, where all else fails,
aggressive denial to convince the population that it is
In every sector relating to children this government has
Nowhere is this more evident than in the Ministry of Education
which has not met any of the glorious promises made by
this Minister of Finance.
The Minister of Education, when asked about the tardiness
of repairs to schools, and the fact that there were still
schools under repair at the time of opening the new school
term, glibly insisted: "We are really happy with
what we have done."(EXPRESS Hazel knocks critics.
September 9th 2006)
Referring to the special purpose Education Facilities
Management Company of the Ministry she boasted:
am very happy that we have stretched our team and they
Mere days later, the EFMC was confessing that it had failed
to achieve the promises made in the 2006 Budget in regard
to school construction.
Mr. Speaker, talking about universal childhood education
by 2010 the Prime Minister in his Budget Speech estimated
that 600 Early Childhood Care Centres (ECCE) would have
to be built between 2006 and 2010. Of course, he did not
let us off without a firm promise: "50 of these centres
will be completed and established during this fiscal year.
It would accelerate the construction into 2010,"
he said in a tone that suggested something might actually
The financial year is now over and the Ministry of Education
has not delivered a single ECCE. Not one completed!
To make matters infinitely worse, only three are expected
to be delivered by the end of October 2006 - the new financial
year Mr. Speaker. (Construction scuppers PM's Budget promise.
GUARDIAN 21 September).
The response from the Minister of Education for this failure
was to deny it. Mrs. Manning insisted that the EFCL, who
directly guides the work, hires the contractors and does
the quality control were uninformed and in true Manning
fashion, sought to misdirect attention from her failures.
Although only 50 ECCES had been promised, Mrs. Manning
would have us believe that 110 sites had been identified.
You do the arithmetic.
While studiously ignoring the fact that none of the promised
ECCEs were delivered in 2006, she brazenly offered that:
"It was possible that construction on the 50 promised
ECCEs would start this year."
Playing games with projects for adults is one thing, because
grown-ups tend to be more resilient but playing with words
in disrespect of projects aimed to assist children, Mr.
Speaker, must be punishable at some higher level, although
stark incompetence may be argued in mitigation as, in
this case, there is not even an attempt to mask it.
What is worse is whilst the UNC built ECCE centres for
$250,000, under this government one centre will cost $1m!!!
Having not built the ECCE centres, I ask, What are you
going to do with the 100 teachers you were supposed to
have trained for these 50 centres you promised? And what
about the children who were supposed to have attended
these schools...where will they go?
Do you know why these units were not built ? The EFCL
said that they were unable to secure contractors. Market
pressures! Well, who created the market pressures in the
first place? $500 million building a tsunami stadium for
a cricket match which it will never see, and without the
required approval too! The Prime Minister had no problem
finding a contractor to build this white elephant stadium
in Tarouba which no one but him wants, but he cannot get
a single ECCE building completed.
Only the PNM can plan this way.
It is a question of Will. An issue of Priorities, and
we have just shown that children are very low on the list
of priorities of this government.
PRIMARY SCHOOL CONSRUCTION
Hear them again:
the primary level, the Government would rebuild some 150
primary schools to replace schools which are up to 50
years old. In fiscal 2006, 20 of these schools which cater
for approximately 10,000 pupils would be reconstructed."
(2006 Budget Speech)
How many were actually done? The answer is shameful. Let
me quote :
release added that the EFCL has begun construction on
only one primary school in Icacos."
Yet, the Minister of Finance and his dear wife, the Minister
of Education are happy with their individual (and we may
suppose joint) performances in those portfolios. Hopelessly
and unrepentantly lost.
And, Mr. Speaker, they ain't 'fraid to promise.
Remember this gem from the 2006 budget speech:
the secondary level, the major initiative is the de-shifting
and conversion of junior secondary schools to five and
seven-year schools as well as the conversion of senior
secondary comprehensive schools to seven-year schools.
In fiscal year 2006, an additional 10 schools, five junior
secondary schools and five senior secondary schools would
be de-shifted allowing an additional 3,200 students to
benefit from full-day schooling during this academic year."
(2006 Budget Speech)
How many were actually done? Again the EFCL confessed
that only three of the ten have been de-shifted. What
was the response of the Minister of Education to this?
Studiously ignoring yet another failure, she noted that
no de-shifted school would have more than 875 students.
Who asked her that?
What about the staff, the allocations which were targeted
for the proposed de-shifted schools. De-shifting requires
a planned programmed approach, ensuring that all the infrastructure
is in place, not just the physical structure but the staff
and equipment etc. What has become of that?
Were they in fact ever sourced or even put in place, or
did the government expect to fail so nothing was done,
or worse, did they ever have any intention to fulfill
their budget promise?
By now we should have had a surplus of teachers, desks,
chairs, computers and other equipment, which would have
been assigned to the de-shifted schools but were left
unoccupied or unutilized because they did not de-shift
the promised number of schools.
Instead we have schools protesting because of staff and
But the problem does not end there. TTUTA President Clive
Permell has complained that maintenance of schools is
also a problem. In one incident recently fire officers
condemned two blocks of the Point Fortin Secondary School.
Citing complaints about the quality of the work being
done, Permell has called, and I support his call, for
an engineering audit of all schools.
May I repeat that the Minister of Education is extremely
happy about her performance.
Mr. Speaker, as minister of Education, I had ensured that
principals receive a maintenance grant so that they could
be responsible for minor maintenance at the schools.
I was shocked to learn that schools - more so the primary
schools - have to go cap in hand, begging for funds to
fix chairs etc. That is not the way to treat our nation's
future Mr. Speaker.
The New Grant Government Primary School is in such a decrepit
state that, whilst the government is talking about de-shifting
secondary schools, this primary school had to establish
an involuntary shift system. That is not the way to treat
our nation's future Mr. Speaker.
Elswick Presbyterian School was condemned and no building
has been built for them. Students had to be moved to the
Poole River Presbyterian at great inconvenience to the
children, their families and the staff of the schools.
Shame on you, Madame Minister.
The TTUTA President seems to be more aware of what is
going on in education than the Minister in charge. He
suspects it is because of bureaucracy, but we are convinced
that all our complaints are not handled. But trust me,
there are a large stock of primary schools and other schools
that need help...fast". (Construction scuppers PM's
Budget promise. GUARDIAN 21 September)
An issue of priorities Mr. Speaker.
You see, Mr. Speaker, this government has developed a
love for catchy phrases "Vision 2020" but their
priorities are confused. Money to burn, as the saying
goes, and the Ministry of Education is in chaos. Schools
being condemned, teachers not being paid, short staffing,
failure to build....
But I ask again, so much money has been spent by this
government....where has the money gone? What have we to
show for it?
Not only is the future education of our children compromised.
The very quality of their lives are also in trouble.
Mr. Speaker, if this government is remembered in history
for one thing: it would be for the destruction of the
environment of Trinidad and Tobago.
Its housing policy is dependent on converting arable land
into house plots without EMA approval.
Today we see hundreds of acres of land which was formerly
under sugar cane being used to build houses on, and the
government tries to convince the people that these were
not good arable land.
They have to clear organic material several feet deep
prior to construction, but this they say was not good
But by far the worst example of wanton destruction of
the environment is taking place as we speak in Chatham
and La Brea. Hundreds and hundreds of acres of virgin
forest are being destroyed, converted into a vast dust
bowl. Natural flora and fauna, unknown specie, natural
habitats for our wildlife, the wildlife itself slaughtered
under the direct instruction of this Government.
Not ironically too, Mr. Speaker, this is happening despite
the pleas of concerned residents who are faced with armed
police because of the instructions of this government.
The Prime Minister's response? The smelter will go on.
The response from their MP, the PNM MP for Point Fortin,
his response to their cries and pleas is to label them
as obstructionists, aping the words of his Leader, the
smelter will go on.
There are so many unanswered questions about this deal.
Mr. Speaker let me advise those involved now, this would
not be a repeat of the escape which took place with the
Labidco scandals in the 1990's, in which the Manning and
others were involved.
This time, the UNC government will investigate all these
clandestine deals. Be warned.
Mr. Speaker I want to refer you to two environmental studies
done by SEDAC (The socioeconomic data and applications
centre) called the Environmental Performance Index (EPI)
2006 and the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI).
The EPI records high scores for Trinidad and Tobago on
air quality, water resources and productive natural resources.
(We know that these will change once the smelter plants
come into operation).
However it recorded extremely poor performance when it
came to the use of sustainable energy (like oil and gas)
and the protection of our bio diversity and natural habitats.
Let me repeat what the environmentalists, the Cedros residents
and the people of Trinidad have been saying: this government
has been given failing marks in its use of sustainable
energy and the protection of our bio diversity and natural
habitats. But this is a totally new index, there is nothing
available for comparison.
The more relevant index is Environmental Sustainability
Index (ESI) which was released at the World Economic Forum
in Switzerland in January 2005.
Not the performance index which we already have seen chastises
the government but the sustainability index.
The ESI details 146 countries' ability to manage and sustain
their environment over the next few decades.
Trinidad and Tobago ranks 139th having fallen from 121st
place in 2002.
The index goes further, citing that a vast percentage
of our rich, natural endowment of biodiversity is under
serious threat! This is directly because of this government's
actions! This country has the largest number of threatened
species of birds, mammals, amphibians and "eco-regions"
of any nation in the ESI.
When it comes to land management, or the percentage of
land suffering negative man made impacts - including inland
waters - a vital indicator given our geographical size
and population density, Trinidad and Tobago was listed
as the worst ranked in the world!
And this is before the forests were cleared in La Brea
and the wildlife, flora and fauna destroyed.
In the physical areas of land, water quantity and quality,
air pollution reduction, and reduction of stresses on
water and ecosystems this country was among the lowest
scorers in the world!
Is this what we are to give to our children? This government
is already frittering away their legacy, all the benefits
of oil and gas. To top it off they are also destroying
the future of our children, and their children!
This is why we are concerned Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, our Global Stewardship is the third worst
in the world according to this report. But I have one
more for you. According to this research, this country's
greenhouse gas emissions (that is the emissions of gases
which destroy the environment) is the third highest per
capita in the world.
And the proposed smelter plants plan to add more than
800,000 tones of carbon dioxide to our air every year!
Are you still satisfied with your stewardship Mr. Prime
It is not enough to say that we have the EMA to look after
the environment. The responsibility is that of the government!
Even with the EMA we are in this sad situation!
It puts shame to this country's signature on international
obligations such as the Kyoto Protocol and the UN Convention
on biological diversity.
Mr. Speaker, this Parliament cannot allow itself to become
swayed by the distractions of the members opposite. We
must focus on this issue. I want you to note carefully
that the poor ratings in protection of the environment
and in the use of sustainable resources in 2006 means
that our ratings will be even lower next year.
There is no laughing matter here. We are discussing the
future of our children and grandchildren. We are discussing
the future which you will give to them. And that future
as I have just shown you, is not very bright.
Environment/ Green Fund/ Beverage Containers Bill
Mr. Speaker, while we are on the topic of the environment,
we note that the Minster failed to even mention the Green
What has happened to the Green Fund? By now the monies
in the Green Fund will be approaching one billion dollars.
Maybe the Green Fund will be used as a slush fund for
the PNM's campaign in 2007. In the last budget the Minister
promised to bring the Beverage Containers Bill. One year
later we are still to see that bill introduced in this
Mr. Speaker, the Opposition has no problem with industrial
development but it must be done in the context of sustainable
development with care and concern for the lives of citizens
and the environment. It must not be done with arrogance
and contempt for the people and their community. The disregard
for the opinion of the citizens of this country with regard
to industrial development in the South West of the island
is typical of this Government.
It is as insulting to the intelligence of our citizens
for the Hon. Prime Minister to come here one more time
and make the same promises he has made for the last three
We know that he has failed to deliver it in every one
of those year, and again he will fail this year.
His giggly Minister of Works has not been able to deliver
on his promises but he continues like a stuck tape recorder
saying the same words. I want to remind him that his predecessor
was just as giggly but does not smile anymore.
Mr. Speaker, he has not been able to maintain the Princess
Town San Fernando road as it exists today, but he is planning
to build a new highway.
This is the same gentleman who was supposed to have built
the interchange in 2004/2005 financial year and spent
nine months building a little, uncomplicated lay bye.
It will take him the rest of his lifetime to build that
interchange and like every other project that he has undertaken
it will be unprofessional, overpriced and of abysmally
Really Mr. Speaker, I feel sorry for the Prime Minister
to have to put in this embarrassing position every year
because of the incompetence of his Minister of Works.
He was a failure as a Minister of Health and he is a failure
as a Minister of Works. It is time for him to be transferred
to the Ministry of National Security, the home of failed
This unfortunate Prime Minister was given the text to
read "Infrastructure that works" by his PR team....Obviously,
they, like the Minister of Works are oblivious to the
huge traffic jams which frustrate our citizens resulting
every day in millions of dollars worth of productive time
The entire attempt to introduce the water taxis is really
just a holding mechanism to distract the population from
their inability after five years to deal with the congestion.
The penalization of people who cannot afford new cars
and chose instead to invest in less expensive foreign
used vehicles is another attempt to shift the blame for
the traffic jams to the general public.
To point out how foolish the entire approach is we only
need note that the Comprehensive National Transportation
Study has not yet been completed but the government is
making multi billion dollar pronouncements on major transportation
infrastructure projects, promises which they made three
and four years ago and failed to implement.
The sheer duplicity and deliberate misleading of this
Honorable House, and the Nation Mr. Speaker causes me
great pain. We know now that when this Minister of Finance
promised the over pass in 2004 he had no plan, he had
no contract, he had no contractors, he had no price and
in fact Mr. Speaker he had no intention to build any overpass.
Yet he stood here and unashamedly mislead this nation,
and he talks about moral and spiritual values?
When the UNC government demitted office, Mr. Speaker,
there was a full set of plans which had been developed
after consultation with all the relevant bodies in Trinidad
For both the interchange and for the series of interchanges
and overpasses at the key intersections! We have lost
five years because of his bungling. For the last five
years, citizens of this country have had to ensure traffic
jams on the east west corridor because of the incompetence
of this Minister.
The idea of the water taxis, Mr. Speaker, you would know
was a UNC idea. But I AM CUROIUS Mr. Speaker. I am perhaps
looking at the wrong sections because I have seen not
one mention of any infrastructural work catered for in
the budget to facilitate these water taxis.
As you would know, prior to the introduction of the water
taxis, we must have appropriate ports established, parking
facilities, berthing areas and so on.
To hear the Minister recently one would conclude that
you simply have to charter a vessel and start. That would
be an oversimplification of what is required for the project.
Or maybe like so many other projects proposed by the government
since 2002, this one is just another pie in the sky.
Mr. Speaker, as an attorney I want to place on record
my grave concern about the way this government operates,
the callous disregard for professional conduct and the
rules of engagement of contract.
I refer specifically today about the Bombardier affair.
I see a clear case of conflict of interest and possible
misconduct in public office on the part of the Prime Minister
for accepting a gift from a company bidding for a government
contract. He has compromised the entire process and lacks
the courage to take responsibility for his own actions.
GENDER AND CULTURE
The Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender
Affairs has her own set of fancy words to describe the
deafening silence from that quarter, by saying it remains
"committed to the process" of developing consensus
towards the establishment of a national gender policy.
The PM and his colleagues continue to discriminate against
women in Trinidad and Tobago. There has been little process
and no progress.
I call on the Prime Minister to put his personal preferences
aside and fast track the introduction of a gender policy
that would be in keeping with the wishes, aspirations
and hopes of the women of the Nation.
We are tired of waiting.
Once more, perhaps there is need for the Opposition UNC
to be allowed to play a more direct role to get this done.
Staying with the same Ministry, Mr. Speaker, the matter
of administration of culture in this country is a scandal
of scary proportions.
In 1993, Mr. Manning declared the steel pan the national
musical instrument of Trinidad and Tobago and, since that
time, he has, almost annually announced grandiose plans
for pan, none - I repeat none - of which has ever been
I am told that prizes are outstanding from last years
World Steelband Music Festival, which was held at Madison
Square Garden in New York in June of last year, are yet
to be paid.
The pan in schools project is a disaster and the government
has committed not a single cent to research and development
of the instrument.
We sat here last year and heard that the Grand Stand at
the Queen's Park Savannah would be torn down on Ash Wednesday
to make way for an elaborate Carnival Arts Centre that
nobody asked for. Result one year later? Nothing!
Like the rest of our totally embarrassed population, I
really would like to find out how the recently concluded
Caribbean Festival of the Arts, Carifesta 9 could have
turned into such an ignominious fiasco.
I too would like to know why this government thought it
necessary to subject Trinidad and Tobago to such ridicule
by having a last-minute production of an event for which
it had more than a year of lead-time.
The PM boasts of the Soca Warriors shamelessly but we
remember. We remember that Government funding was delayed
until almost after the World Cup.
We remember the delay in sending a cultural contingent
to Germany. Our Prime Minister claims the Soca warriors
now, but he never endorsed them then!
Little wonder that that same document makes it clear there
is no prospect whatsoever of achieving what the Government
claims to be its highest priority, namely raising the
living standards of all Trinbagonians to those enjoyed
in other developed countries.
Never before had a Minister of Finance and a government
faced such an opportunity to invest wisely in the future
of our country.
Never before had a Minister enjoyed such capacity to say
to hard-working, innovative Trinbagonians that he saw
them as the key to unlocking the country's potential,
and that the Government would back them.
Never before had a Government enjoyed such an opportunity
to say to the tens of thousands of Trinis living abroad
- the children and grandchildren of people still here
- you can have a great future back home.
But this Government did not see this as a Budget of opportunity.
Asked to choose between self-reliance and dependency,
they chose the latter. Given the chance to chart a bold
and better way forward, they chose to retreat to their
comfortable position of dependence and destitution.
The clear and overwhelming message in this Budget to all
of those who believe Mother Trinidad and Tobago can do
better, is that the only way to achieve this is to bring
about a change of Government.
The sooner, Mr. Speaker, the better.
But, not only has the government neglected the general
citizenry when it comes to the poverty, health care, national
security, education, infrastructure culture and gender
affairs etc, (one wonders exactly where the money went?),
they have also placed the business community at a tremendous
Mr. Speaker it is the business community which generates
full time productive employment, which provides the fall
back in the event that the oil and gas sectors collapse.
If the energy sector is the backbone of the country, the
business community is the rib cage which protects the
heart of the country.
In the last five years the government has done little
to encourage expansion.
As a matter of fact, we are all aware that there has been
a substantial exodus of business families to safer shores
because of this government's failure to deal with the
And whilst they are busy patting themselves for their
"success" in reducing kidnapping, let me advise
them that kidnappings have gone down not because of government
actions, because there was none.
Kidnappings have gone down because of the precautions
which the business community have adopted including the
hiring of armed guards and the self imposed curfew. Ask
And worst, Mr. Speaker, the criminals have moved away
from kidnapping and have developed a new method of extracting
ransoms from the business community.
The Business Express of September 20th 2006 featured on
their front page "Crime in Central: The price of
safety", a most disturbing and frightening trend.
The following is excerpted from that article:
bullies have expanded their "business" in central
Trinidad, where coward tax is being paid to protect wives,
daughters, sons and self. A silent hell is how some Central
proprietors have described their lives, with many saying
that the criminals now form the real business community"
In 2006, in a country in which the Ministers claim they
are trying to encourage the business community, these
businessmen and women are being threatened that if they
do not pay these criminals extortion money, their families
will face a selection of perils, including raping of their
children and tortured or murdered before their very eyes!
What would you do Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker, one of the businessmen interviewed said:
are not down, we are just paying by installments."
The article continues
we asleep? Are we blind? This country is on the verge
of collapse," said another entrepreneur, who has
postponed the expansion of his business while he decides
whether or not to stay in T&T"
Is this the way to treat our businessmen? And yes Mr.
Speaker, people are afraid to talk. But the public knows
Mr. Speaker that these things are going on to our people
in our country. No one is safe.
The business community is reaping the whirlwind which
this government has sown, and I want to warn the businessmen
in Port of Spain and throughout the country. This new
wave of extortion will not stop in Central.
Mr. Speaker, in the IADB Special Publications on Development
Volume One entitled "Policy Perspectives for Trinidad
and Tobago: From Growth to Prosperity" (released
earlier this year), the writers noted:
light of Vision 2020's stated goals for Trinidad and Tobago,
an issue that deserves special attention is crime, both
common and organized.
this aspect, Trinidad and Tobago ranks unusually low among
countries with similar incomes and the above-described
According to the business costs of crime and violence
indicator, Trinidad and Tobago ranks 87 in a sample of
104 countries, with a score of 2.8, compared to the world
wide mean score of 4.4; likewise, according to the organized
crime indicator, the country ranks 89, with a score of
3.4, compared to the worldwide mean score of 4.8The imbalance
these indicators aim at measuring business-related costs,
it is reasonable to assume that this problem bears on
the rest of society. Clearly, if Trinidad and Tobago wants
to provide its population a developed-country quality
of life, eliminating crime and violence must be an issue
of the highest priority."
The business community is in crisis and this government
is merrily ignorant, or more likely willingly negligent
in dealing with their concerns.
The World Bank Group produces an annual ranking of countries
based on the ease of doing business.
Trinidad and Tobago entered this listing last year, and
whilst 20 new countries have been added since then, the
rankings in the 2006/07rankings have been adjusted to
The Doing Business database provides objective measures
of business regulations and their enforcement. The Doing
Business indicators are comparable across 175 economies.
They indicate the regulatory costs of business and can
be used to analyze specific regulations that enhance or
constrain investment, productivity, and growth.
Not surprisingly, Trinidad and Tobago has slipped from
55th in 2005 to 59th in 2006.
The rating also reflected increased difficulty in terms
of starting a business falling from 32 in 2005 to 35 in
The worst showing however, was in the measure of the ease
of getting credit which shows the country slipping from
41 to 48.
This performance, it must be borne in mind, is during
the period of greatest government income and expenditure
ever witnessed by any government in the nation's history.
Doing business in Trinidad and Tobago is becoming increasingly
more difficult under this government.
This was further confirmed by the Corporate Confidence
Indices or the CCI for third quarter 2006 which shows
a decline in five of the six economic dimensions examined.
What is the CCI?
The CCI is an index produced by the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate
School of Business looking at the short and long term
prospects for the economy.
Let us look at the indicators
The Financial Performance Index gives a generalised overview
of the past financial performance of the firm.
More executives felt that their financial performance
had deteriorated over the past six months than in the
last quarter, as this index decreased by 25 index points.
The Financial Outlook Index measures executive opinion
about the expected financial performance of their firms
in the relative short term (six months) and long term
(12 months) in order to determine what their level of
economic activity is anticipated to be over these time
Over the last three months, executives' short run financial
outlook fell by 20 index points, while their financial
outlook for the long run fell by 15. This slide merely
continues the downward trend of this index since the third
quarter of 2005, and is consistent with movements in the
Financial Performance Index.
Executives are cautious about the financial prospects
of their organizations in the coming months and have been
so for some time.
Local and global economic outlook
These indices explore the overall expectations of the
level of economic activity on a local and global scale.
The aim is to quantify expectations about the performance
of the macro-economy.
In addition to investment, employment and micro financial
health, this index examines consumption, government spending
and the value of imports and exports.
The outlook for the local economy was less optimistic
in this quarter. Executive expectations for the local
economy in the short and long run fell by 20 and 21 index
points respectively, while the Global Economic Outlook
index fell by 15 and ten index points in the short and
long run respectively.
Expectations for the local economy are consistent with
the other indices which comprise the CCI.
In general then, outside of the energy sector, the business
community is extremely concerned about the business climate
in Trinidad and Tobago. Key issues such as personal and
operations safety, runaway inflation and the high and
rising costs of labour have contributed to this level
Another factor has been the difficulty in accessing foreign
exchange, which is even more pronounced now as entrepreneurs
try to get their Christmas stock in.
This flies in the face of the high foreign exchange reserves
exhibited in the Central Bank figures.
We are reminded of the Governor of the Central Banks concerns
of foreign exchange migration earlier this year as members
of the business community apparently sought to relocate
their families and investments.
This Government has succeeded in dismantling a once strong
business class, a once strong manufacturing class.
Minister in the Ministry of Finance Conrad Enill in August
this year told the Business Guardian that:
of the major issues facing Government is that of the decline
of the manufacturing sector and how do we ensure that
the manufacturing sector ceases to decline and instead
He went further too, remarking:
manufacturing sector is changing in T&T with some
manufacturing industries choosing to move away from manufacturing
to become distributors. So we have to deal with that."
As usual, they know the problem and they know the solution.
They just do not have the skills to implement it or, as
been suggested, the will to correct these reversals. There
is nothing in the Budget for this sector!
Mr. Speaker, even whilst taking steps to further liberalise
the economy, the government has handcuffed exporters by
making our exports more expensive externally.
This government's policies have virtually wiped out the
export market for our products except for oil and gas.
The government induced runaway inflation has raised the
cost of labour and has prompted increased interest rates
thereby raising the cost of borrowing and the opportunity
cost of investment.
When the new cost of security is now combined with these
input costs, it is easy to see why the manufacturing sector
is dying, and why the business sector generally is becoming
increasingly uncompetitive locally and internationally.
It is cheaper to import a product from the large international
producers than to accommodate the multiple risks to produce
it domestically. It is easy to see why our manufacturing
industry is in crisis.
The Global Competitiveness Report
The World Ecoomic Forum annully isues a Global Competitiveness
Competitiveness is defined as a collection of factors,
policies and institutions which determine the level of
productivity of a country and that, therefore, determine
the level of prosperity that can be attained by an economy.
In comparing countries competitiveness, the World Economic
Report has found that the quality of the macroeconomic
environment is a key determinant of competitiveness.
The Growth Competitiveness Index (GCI)
In formulating the range of factors that go into explaining
the evolution of growth in a country, the GCI has identified
what it terms the "three pillars":
1. the quality of the macroeconomic environment,
2. the state of the country's public institutions, and,
3. given the importance of technology and innovation,
the level of its technological readiness.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that this country continues
to rate poorly based on these criteria.
In fact since this government has come into office, Trinidad
and Tobago has continually been in a downward slide, from
a rank of 38 in 2001 to 60 in 2005.
The Business Competitiveness Index
The Business Competitiveness Index (BCI) focuses on the
underlying microeconomic factors which determine an economy's
current sustainable levels of productivity and competitiveness.
It measures two areas that are critical to the microeconomic
business environment in an economy:
1. The sophistication of company operations and strategy,
2. the quality of the overarching national business environment
in which they are operating.
Since both macroeconomic and microeconomic factors are
critical for driving productivity, the BCI and the GCI
provide complementary perspectives on national competitiveness.
The results of the two indexes are highly correlated.
We have come from pride of place at number 34 in the 2001
ranking to a lowly 65th in 2005 in the BCI.
QUALITY OF THE NATIONAL BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT
This is a separate index which ranks this country at 63,
an unacceptable level given the high incomes and strategic
location of this country.
The 2006 World Economic Forum Report was partially released
last week (September 27th 2006) and shows Trinidad and
Tobago's Global Competitiveness Index slipping further
down from 66 last year to 67 in 2006.
An even poorer showing was revealed in terms of our institutions
(85) and our infrastructure (70). And market efficiency
To highlight the fact the economic indicators are poor
indicators of a country's state, Trinidad and Tobago's
macro economy was ranked 38th.
While the figures for the BCI and GCI are not yet in,
it is reasonable to assume that given the fall in the
Global CI, the other two indices will reflect a continued
downward slide in 2006.
What these indicators are telling us directly correlate
with the previously mentioned Corporate Confidence Index
which is that on an international level, Trinidad and
Tobago is becoming less competitive.
Ironically perhaps, Jamaica which is higher ranked than
us at 60, improved from 63 last year. Our next door neighbor,
Barbados is ranked at number 31!
This government has surely lost its way.
It has completely reversed its stated policy. In the Draft
National Strategic Plan the government clearly states
at page 11 under the rubric The vision for national development
State will provide the enabling environment as it recognises
the private sector as the engine of economic growth"
Today we see the emergence of government not as a facilitator
but as a major player in the economy often crowding out
the private sector. This is true particularly in terms
of the construction sector. Given the government's record
of economic mismanagement, we cannot be confident that
we can expect positive economic performance.
Mr. Speaker: this is how our current Prime Minister and
Minister of Finance responded to the 2000 budget as Opposition
Speaker, the country is concerned about the wanton waste
and gross mismanagement of our prosperity by this government.
The government's record of poor financial management threatens
to undermine all the sacrifices and good work that went
`After five years of this regime, we are in grave danger
of losing the possibility of real achievable promise of
the future that our overall economic potential suggests.
It would be a great shame and a devastating blow to the
vast majority of our citizens who kept the faith and demonstrated
their patience and who are so close, only to see their
prospect of a better life snatched away by the uncaring
actions of a destructive government which believes it
is accountable to no one.
However, we can't go on this way forever. Sooner, rather
than later, the economy would run out of momentum and
we would plummet right back to where we were prior to
the attainment of economic prosperity in the mid 90's.
What happens when the oil price return to more normal
levels as it is bound to do?"
(P. Manning, Response to the Budget 2000)
Mr. Speaker those were the words of Mr. Patrick Manning,
six years ago. They fully describe the situation today.
After five years in office, wasting 140 billion dollars
on monuments, joyrides, friends and cronies, today the
country is worse off than it was in 2000, thanks to his
In 2000, he was worried about what would happen when the
oil prices stabilize. In 2006, The Prime Minister says
that oil prices will remain high forever, and obviously
since Trinidad and Tobago has an unlimited supply of oil
and gas we should not be worried how HE spends it.
Minister Patrick Manning, the Minister of Finance Manning
stated that the high prices and high output which was
being witnessed in the oil and gas industry today was
not a boom but rather "...it is a movement towards
sustainable development." (EXPRESS 28 August 2006)
There is a very real possibility that this Minister of
Finance has completely lost touch with reality.
I doubt he even knows what the term "sustainable
In five short years this government has spent 140 billion
dollars! In this year alone, the government intends to
spend $38 billion at an average rate of a one million
dollars per day. This is more than was spent during the
entire 10 years of the previous oil boom. In one year!
The government revenues are higher than it has ever been.
But what do we have to show for it?
In an exact repetition of the PNM of the 1970's, the PM
has been wildly throwing money this way and that - spiking
inflation and doing everything except ensuring that the
citizens of this country benefit from the windfall.
We recall only too well the depression which followed
and which will follow this boom also! The difference is
that the PM would have feathered his nest and those of
his friends and it will be the ordinary citizens of this
country who will again be asked to sacrifice for the errors
his government is making!
The Prime Minister boasted that the economy grew this
year by 9 percent. During the oil boom of the 1970's we
experienced "economic growth" of an average
of 9% but immediately after when we experienced the oil
shock, when prices fell, the economy actually contracted
by 11 percent in 1984!
Mr. Speaker has this government learnt nothing from the
experience of the 1970s or , and this is my belief, is
it that the government expects there to be an oil shock
and is consciously ensuring that they and their friends
derive maximum benefit so as to ride out the hard times?
I ask again, what will happen to the small man, the average
2000, Mr. Manning was saying:
in the PNM, believe that in good times, the very first
concern should be the strengthening of working families,
and rewarding them for their vast contributions to society.
To all those who have worked hard, played by the rules
and sacrificed for the future of the country and our nation,
the PNM's vision will work to improve your lives and reward
In 2006, he is saying build the smelter plant and to hell
with the citizens. In 2006, he is telling hundreds of
thousands of our fellow citizens to live on $3 per day
per person. He continues to play "trick or treat"
with pensioners and to mask his failure to deal with pension
Let me remind you: Do you remember when pensions were
increased by 15 % and pensioners celebrated? Food prices
doubled, and the price of everything increased by substantially
more than 15%. What did you really get?
Remember when taxes were reduced and everybody thought
they were getting more in their pay packets? What did
you really get?
That is what happens after PNM's Christmas, the illusions
disappear, and the true character of the Grinch emerges.
For the past five years our citizens have heard him promise
the world and deliver nothing. When the bell rings he
will hear them resoundingly.
I do not jest when I say that this Prime Minister seems
to think that the population of Trinidad and Tobago is
exclusively comprised of idiots.
You would recall Mr. Speaker, just two months ago, the
Minister of Finance was at pains to convince businessmen
and the nation at large that:
Chairman of the Cabinet, people ask me how I live. I do
not make as much money as most of you. But money is not
(NEWSDAY August 9 2006: Manning not on money)
He is the highest paid Parliamentarian in the history
of Trinidad and Tobago. I dare say no former Prime Minister
had a higher salary and certainly, his salary today is
higher than any he has ever received in private practice.
Money is not his focus Mr. Speaker? Yeah right!
Since becoming Prime Minister, he has increased his income
from $30,000 to $61,867 per month . That is money that
he puts in the bank because the state (taxpayers pay for
his food, drink, travel, medical everything else separately!)
His annual, bankable salary is a whopping 742,400 per
year! And he expects citizens half the people of this
country to exist on 3 dollars per day.
Money is not his focus? Yeah right!
Having made his wife Education Minister, he managed to
further supplement the family bankable income to $1,229,800
per year. TAX FREE!
And as if that was not insulting enough, he then said:
"I don't think anyone in this room gets the job satisfaction
I get from being associated with the development of Trinidad
The murder rate in Trinidad and Tobago is at an all time
high and the Prime Minister is satisfied.
The nation is under siege by criminals but the Prime Minister
is happy with the job he is doing.
Poverty levels are unacceptably high. People in this country
are existing in absolute poverty. But the Prime minister
is satisfied with his performance.
The health sector is in shambles, people are dying. But
the Prime Minister is satisfied.
The agricultural sector has been all but eliminated and
this Prime Minister boasts of being satisfied with the
job he has done.
Food prices have doubled since he became Prime Minister
and he is happy!
Absolutely out of touch with reality Mr. Speaker!
As Prime Minister, he is in charge of a government which
is supposed to uplift, safeguard and promote the welfare
of the citizens of this great nation. He has failed miserably
and ia unashamedly proud of it!
The PM talks about sustainable development. This country
is suffering from classic Dutch disease and the stubborn
refusal to acknowledge this has resulted in policies which
exacerbate the problem!
Where has all the money gone? Let me give you a little
Do you know that it costs this country fourteen million
dollars per year to keep this government employed. This
has got to be the largest government in the Caribbean!
There are 20 Cabinet Ministers each receiving $487,400
per year and 7 non-Cabinet Ministers each collecting $419,000
But what have we, as taxpayers, as citizens received for
Mr. Speaker, the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, founded
in 1975, recently posted on its website its considered
opinions on the state of the economy of Trinidad and Tobago.
The Report whilst highlighting economic growth indicators,
is most amazing, however, is the disregard shown by the
leadership in Port of Spain concerning the very real danger
lurking behind this tiger of an economy.
Trinidad and Tobago, with its single-sector economy and
its managed peg to the U.S. dollar, must track its revenue
and make a special effort to prevent a disastrous, inflation-induced
Failure to do so would spell disaster for the islands'
price stability and hurt the country's overall productive
the energy sector benefits from government preference
and crowds out investment in other potential activities,
Trinidadians and Tobagonians will eventually have to come
to terms with the consequences.
Ultimately, these policies will result in highly adverse
effects on Trinidad's external competitiveness in non-energy
exports. Even construction costs related to energy production
are beginning to suffer from inflationary pressures.
The ripple effects of a burgeoning inflation rate will
eventually affect all segments of Trinidad and Tobago's
economy, with little or no discrimination."
Frightening! Everybody except the Prime Minister and his
government can see this!
The government has refused and continues its reckless
behaviour even into this next financial year, despite
all the advice to exercise control and caution.
The results thus far have been predictable, as are the
results for the future.
Moodys Investment Services, one of the world's leading
credit rating firms, is sounding a note of caution about
the Manning Administration's spending binge. The firm
warned in an assessment of Trinidad and Tobago's economy:
energy boom has led to a large rise in revenues that has
been matched by the increasingly aggressive expansion
in expenditures, At this stage it is not clear whether
the rise in expenditure will be easily reversed, if needed,"
Noting the increase in the cost of living, Moody's was
also concerned about:
increases in the non-energy fiscal deficit suggest public
finances are increasingly exposed to potential swings
in the energy cycle.
spending has led to contingent liabilities and may be
trouble in the long run. Any loss of competitiveness in
the non-energy sector would exacerbate economic vulnerability
in the energy sector.
A sharp reversal of foreign direct investment in Trinidad
and Tobago could force a downgrading of the country's
stellar credit rating."
(NATION NEWS 18/09/2006)
This Government has put all its eggs in one basket, to
the exclusion of all other available receptacles. It is
based on the PM's conviction that everybody else is wrong
and like Don Quixote he runs off askance and tilts at
windmills created in the fantasy of his own mind.
With all the billions in revenues from the energy sector
at his disposal, the mismanagement by this Minister of
Finance, this Prime Minister, this government is disgracefully
When the revenues from the energy sector are removed from
the GDP, an even more frightening picture emerges of a
people totally dependent on the vagaries of the international
market for oil, gas and methanol sales, over which we
have no control. The price of oil has just dropped to
below sixty dollars per barrel as evidence of its volatility.
Whilst this Government is busy treating our treasury like
its private campaign fund, they have been drastically
increasing the level of recurrent expenditure. Even the
capital expenditure being undertaken now, will result
in even larger recurrent expenditure tomorrow. The government
is committing future generations to greater recurrent
expenditure at unsustainable levels.
The government's inability to manage is most evident when
we look at their expenditure pattern as opposed to their
budgeting. Not only has expenditures risen drastically,
but there has been a virtually consistent underestimating
of expenditure by about four billion per year.
In 2005, this government planned to spend 24 billion,
they actually spent 28 billion. In 2006, they planned
again to spend 32 billion and ended up spending 37 billion.
For fiscal year 2007, they are advising that they will
spend 38 billion but will probably keep true to form and
spend closer to 43 billion.
This is in direct contrast to the UNC budget in 2001 which
was 13 billion!
Over the PNM's five year period, we have seen a three
fold increase in terms of expenditure without a three
fold increase in capacity.
Another economic flaw in government's policy is contained
in this Budget Speech.. The Minister of Finance has made
no effort to increase the level of efficiency of collections.
He either thinks that the system is efficient or he has
not figured it out. So we must continue to depend on foreign
exchange earnings to finance government's operations.
I want to warn the national community again of the effects
that this government's "doh care damn" attitude
will have on the future of the country. We have now a
macro disequilibrium which we did not have before.
Dealing with inflation is going to occupy the attention
of policy makers for quite a while. The PNM is leaving
a legacy in this country similar to what they did in 1985.
We have warned them. Others have warned them. But old
habits die hard.
Managing the fiscal deficit given the slowness of the
economy to diversify will occupy much of the time of the
UNC government next year and onwards. Once more, another
government will have to step in to clean up the rubbish
of incompetent economic management.
We need to marry the non oil fiscal deficit with competitiveness
in particular with reference to exports, agriculture and
tourism, all of which are experiencing a reduction in
competitiveness on account of the impact of the fiscal
What we are seeing is a clear re-emergence of classic
Dutch disease. This government has learnt nothing from
I want to ask the Prime Minister as head of this amorphous
government What is your position on the exchange rate?
Since they have given a targeted inflation rate, I ask
through you Mr. Speaker: Is this government committed
to a stable exchange rate and at what level? Does the
PM believe that the present exchange rate has temporal
Does he intend to devalue the TT$? I will give way, Mr.
Speaker, to hear his answer.
Mr. Speaker, the concept of financial education for our
citizens is a good one, and I want to recommend with all
sincerity that Government Ministers should be the first
ones to attend.
Managing peoples finances require certain basic rules
and regulations which Ministers in this Government seem
not to understand at all.
Mr. Speaker this budget is as deficient as it is heartless.
It is a manifestation of the sad fact that this Government
neither understands basic economic principles or the way
in which the macro economy works.
I believe too that the Minister was intentionally vague
in his presentations. Normally the Minister of Finance
would give specific details in terms of wages and salaries,
transfers etc, instead he chooses to focus on percentages
in given sectors.
We see this as a deliberate move to conceal expenditure
patterns and how they have been changing. To know how
the wage bill is going to change from year to year is
in the public's interest. We need to know if the country
is being saddled with an increasing wage bill which will
be difficult to manage in the event of an oil shock.
I would like to refer you now to yet another example of
deliberate misrepresentation in the 2007 Budget presented
by the Minister of Finance. On page 51 he says:
Speaker, the budget for FY2007 provides for total revenue
of $34,125.9 million which is 3561.8 million lower than
estimated revenue collections in FY 2006. The main reasons
for the shortfall are the LOWER oil and gas prices used
in the revenue calculations for the new fiscal year."
You will forgive my ignorance Mr. Speaker as I confess
to not being able to understand PNM economics, and as
you would see PNM arithmetic, both of which differ substantially
from the conventional genre taught in our nation's schools.
The reason given for the shortfall, I remind you of his
words, were the LOWER oil and gas prices used.
In 2007, the oil price used was $45 per barrel. In the
2006 Budget Speech the price of oil used was $35 per barrel.
Let me repeat that.
According to the Minister of Finance, the reason for the
shortfall in projected revenue was a lower price of oil
used to calculate FY2007 revenue. In 2007 he used $45
and in 2006 he used $35.
This Prime Minister seems to have a serious problem understanding
arithmetic. Here is a free lesson in Arithmetic for him
Mr. Speaker. 45 is NOT LOWER than 35. 45 is more than
This then is a clear attempt to hoodwink the population,
to misinform them. What is the real reason for the shortfall
since it is not the one given by the Prime Minister. Is
it because of an output shortfall?
Mr. Speaker, the Petroleum sector accounts for approximately
40% of GDP and almost half of Government revenue.
We know the economy is predicated on energy and as such
the proper management of this sector is essential. This
year the sector is framed against a backdrop of turbulent
times for oil and gas on the international markets which
are underpinned by geopolitical risk factors.
In recent times we have seen just how volatile the price
of oil and gas can be. From a peak of 79 dollars a barrel
in August, West Texas Intermediate crude has plunged to
59 dollars a barrel last week.
In the past 10 months natural gas prices in the United
States have fallen by 75%. In light of these falling prices
Government continues with its programme of economic inefficiency,
wastage and squander mania.
I have already alluded to the possibility that we have
entered the situation of reducing production levels for
oil and gas.
Last year when the former Leader of the Opposition warned
this Government that the price of oil could fall, his
warning was greeted by laughter and sarcasm from the benches
opposite. Today that prediction is becoming a reality.
Today I want to add another warning : Slow Down ! You
are biting off more than you can chew. The year 2006 bears
a striking resemblance to the early eighties which was
the calm just before the storm.
Gas Reserves and Deep Ibis Failure
Mr. Speaker, we are now faced with the reality of our
proven natural gas reserves running out in less than 14
years. I stress on proven reserves as we are well aware
that there are probable and possible reserves but it is
the proven reserves that matter the most to investors
Mr. Speaker, it is well known that the Government and
its main gas supplier bpTT had banked heavily on the Deep
Ibis Well delivering a major gas find. The disappointment
of the Deep Ibis Well has serious consequences for this
country. This must now alert us to output shocks in the
Given our tenuous position with respect to gas reserves
the Government must tell us about the status of the negotiations
with Venezuela. Those talks with Venezuela are shrouded
Despite the fact that we are running low on gas the Government
has signed a plethora of MOU's with foreign and local
investors for the construction of downstream plants.
It seems the Minister of Finance is not only misleading
the nation, he has taken his trade to foreign investors.
Perhaps, that is the reason for the clandestine arrangements
for the nation"s patrimony.
Proven oil reserves also are estimated to last only another
13 years. This means that by 2020 Trinidad and Tobago
could have no oil and no gas.
Is that the Vision 2020 of which the Minister speaks?
Given our rapidly declining oil and gas reserves, the
Opposition is of the view that the time has come for Trinidad
and Tobago to invest in renewable energy projects such
as solar energy and wind energy.
While this Government has rushed to close down and destroy
the sugar industry, in Brazil they have used their sugar
industry to produce ethanol which now fuels over half
the vehicles in that country. Today Brazil is a model
of what is possible in the field of alternative fuels.
However, since the PNM cannot think outside of the oil
barrel, it will be left to a UNC Government to implement
these renewable projects.
WHITHER SAVINGS? The R.S.F.
The government has implicitly indicated that it is de-emphasising
Last year it based its expenditure on an oil price of
US$35 per barrel. Naturally any oil price higher than
35 realised during the year would generate a surplus to
be placed in the stabilization fund as in fact happened.
What did the government do for the current fiscal year?
They based expenditure on an oil price of US$45, so if
the price of oil averages $45 for the new fiscal year,
then clearly nothing will be placed in the fund since
revenue will equal expenditure.
Saving for future generations is not a priority of this
It is clear that this government does not understand the
purpose of using a portion of the energy rents to build
a stock of assets to ensure an improvement in the well
being of those future citizens for whom we are but trustees
of the country's natural resources.
This government has failed to understand the purpose of
the RSF established by the UNC Government. It was never
meant to be a "stabilisation" fund. It was always
meant to be a heritage fund.
A stabilisation fund is triggered for use on the whim
and fancy of the Minister whereas the Heritage fund requires
parliamentary approval and supervision.
That is the true reason for the fund - saving for the
future as opposed to how this government sees it as simply
a parliamentary by pass fund for special projects.
Mr. Speaker, during the 1970's many oil producing countries
established stabilisation funds. Trinidad and Tobago was
one such country.
the history is that the entire stabilisation fund which
took ten years to accumulate from 1973 to 1983 was drawn
down by this government in 3 short years during 1984,1985
and 1986 to maintain its reckless spending habits.
That fund was established without legislation and was
used at the whim of the then Finance Minister. In fact
the current interim RSF was also established without legislation,
regretfully we were not able to enact the appropriate
legislation at the time we demitted office.
The legislation referred to by the Prime Minister in his
presentation then is flawed.
We can advise that now. We do not need to legislate for
a stabilisation fund that is a very simple mechanism to
establish. It is a simple basic account.
We do need to legislate for a heritage fund. It is suspicious
to attempt to lump both funds together.
Essentially they are like oil and vinegar : they do not
We recommend the establishment of a pure heritage fund
to hedge against the future economic shocks, so that we
can ultimately protect the young people and the next generation
of Trinidad and Tobago from having to undergo the hardships
we all faced during the economic depression of the 1980s.
It is clear to me that this government has either absolutely
no clear understanding of the nature of heritage funds
or, that they intend to mislead the population into believing
that they are saving for the next generation when they
actually intend to steal from this trust fund when their
wild and reckless spending spree can no longer be financed
due to falling oil and gas output or prices.
We would also recommend that the fund contain a minimum
of about US$ 5 billion which is the equivalent of one
years' cover before interest can be withdrawn.
Mr. Speaker through you I want to suggest that the government
needs help in figuring out the mechanics of the fund.
They obviously are lost when it comes to basic techniques
Further, we recommend that government cuts back on its
wild spending and save more in the heritage fund. The
UNC proposal was that anything in excess of $22 per barrel
should be placed in the fund. This government raised that
amount to $35 last year and in this budget to $45.
This means that despite the windfalls in oil prices, government
has been spending more and saving less of the windfalls
thereby robbing the next generation of that which is rightfully
Over the last five years of this regime, real agricultural
contribution fell dramatically. The shortsighted closure
of Caroni 1975 Limited caused a major supply shock to
both domestic and export agriculture, and allowed vast
acreages of oranges, portugals, rice and other crops to
be abandoned. The refusal to undertake a deliberate policy
of rural and access road development has prompted farmers
to abandon their fields.
This country has become totally dependent on imported
food to feed our people. Our ability to exchange petrodollars
for food has allowed imported food to mask the problem.
However, the continued substitution of imported food for
indigenous produce crowds out local farmers, and can have
dire consequences owing to the inability to control prices
and the ready availability of imported food.
While imports could make food supplies available, prices
may block access by a large section of the population,
which therefore restores the original problems regarding
But the problem is more severe that this. Increasing food
prices erode real disposable incomes. This is especially
true for lower income families, but when you consider
that the rate of food price increase far outstrips the
rate of wage increases, it becomes obvious that middle
income families are also affected.
The consequences include deterioration in nutritional
intake as families seek to balance a reduced budget with
competing needs, including the children's education.
In July 2005, the government set up a committee to "examine
initiatives to deal ONCE AND FOR ALL with the problem
of rising food prices," as promised by Mr. Manning
in the 2005 budget speech.
We may surmise that their report helped form the basis
of promises in the 2006/2007 budget, and yet food prices
have continued to escalate.
Wages have not kept pace. As a matter of fact it is only
the PM and his Ministers who have had their salaries doubled,
and in the case of the PM he has been "fortunate"
enough to have had his household income at least tripled!
But what about the the taxi driver, the tailor, the doubles
vendor, public servant or teacher? What about the mother
on poor relief, the pensioner, the widow on survivor's
benefit? What about the average Trinbagonian?
Worse, what about the average Tobagonian? He has to pay
even more for everything because government's ferries
continue to be a source of anxiety and frustration.
Mr. Speaker, a large percentage of the population of Trinidad
and Tobago is being forced to chose between eating a meal
today and eating a meal tomorrow.
One would have assumed that rising food prices would have
attracted persons to get into farming.
Instead, it has done nothing to stimulate the development
of the industry simply because farmers know that there
are too many risks involved.
The 2004 Agricultural Census told us that the number of
family farms had been reduced by more than 37 percent
and pointed out that the collapse of the sector is due
Declining productivity and/or competitiveness
Lack of technological advances and
Insufficient government support (subsidies)
These are serious problems as they underscore future social
and health considerations.
The much touted Vision 2020 declared food and nutrition
security as one of the major development goals. This year's
budget again promises to revive the agricultural sector,
which does not distinguish it from all its predecessor
nothing else, the Minister of Finance is consistent in
his failure to keep his promises to this sector. In last
years budget speech, he promised that this year we would
have seen a dramatic rise in food production as the former
CARONI workers received their lands after three years
of suffering. Again the same promise is made for fiscal
Every year this government has been proclaiming that 1000
youths were going to be trained in agriculture (YAPA)
and they would add to the stock of farmers who would then
be able to enhance agricultural production.
The Minister of Agriculture in 2002 assured the population:
are taking these young people and training them, exposing
them and advising them. Those who are really interested,
we shall make the lands available to them. We shall assist
them; we shall hold their hands and walk with them so
that they will be successful."
It almost goes without saying that this lofty plan also
failed, but is repeated once more in this year's budget
speech. If persons were in fact trained, obviously the
industry was not economically attractive enough to entice
them to stay.
Every year, the PM stresses the importance of the Agricultural
sector and the commitment of his government to bring the
sector into the 21st century. Every year he fails.
In his 2004 budget speech the PM said:
Government has assigned a very high priority to the modernization
of the agriculture sector and will immediately introduce
new and appropriate technologies, improve infrastructure
and generate a wave of new investments in the sector."
Three years later, he is still making similar noises as
sounding as though they are fresh and novel ideas when,
in fact, it is simply more of the same, promises with
no substance, no hope of implementing the grand plan.
Mr. Speaker, the PM has been extremely consistent in stating
goal is to increase the sector's contribution to economic
and social development, and employment creation while
providing an increasing level of the food requirements
of the nation."
This is not a typographical mistake or reading error,
Mr. Speaker, this is what he said in the 2005 Budget Speech
which, you will recognize is no different from what was
promised the year before, or what he has said on Wednesday
In fact, similar utterances may be found in the records
of budget speeches since 2002 and, as we ever so recently
heard, the game continues.
programme for revitalising the Agriculture sector is expected
to gain momentum in the next fiscal period,"
He had promised (and I quote):
A reform of the Fiscal Regime for the agriculture sector
& the streamlining of existing support arrangements
as well as the introduction of tax credits and investment
allowances to create a more effective fiscal regime in
He has variously promised a National Agriculture Information
System for further modernisation of the sector, said databases
were already developed on technology, markets, livestock,
crops, disease control, fertiliser use, seeds and other
relevant agricultural information. He promised too that
the government would promote fish production through the
establishment of the Fisheries Monitoring and Surveillance
Unit, and put sustainable management techniques in place
for renewable marine and inland fisheries.
By now, we should have had an agricultural sector capable
of delivering high quality foodstuff, capable of feeding
this nation at an affordable price but, as everyone knows,
this is unfortunately not the case. The only fresh produce
we get is fresh promises for next year, made each preceding
Mr. Speaker: I want to refer the Minister of Finance to
a recent interview titled "Last chance for farming"
reported on September 6th 2006:
19,000 local farmers are concerned that they are being
edged out of existence, to make way for heavy industrialisation.
Mr. Norris Deonarine, President of the National Food Crop
Farmers Association has lambasted the government for "frustrating
farmers out of the business"...He said that the mostly
middle aged traditional farmers have stayed in the industry
and they are turned off by a complete lack of support
and a negative attitude towards their trade. 'Most of
them are ready to give up agriculture as a livelihood.'
Deonarine said. ' They are the ones with the most knowledge
about growing anything in this country'."
In fact these are the people who possess the culture in
This is a most telling point. No new blood was being lured
to agriculture and the country is at risk of losing the
veterans in the field, its most valuable human resource
in this context, as this body represents the kind of experience
that comes from having personally tilled the soil. Mr.
Deonarine noted that the land use policy never has been
truly implemented. "There have been so many studies
done by the Ministry itself on land capability, yet no
real understanding of this place is being demonstrated
by the government,"
he said, his warning echoing those of all farmers in Trinidad
The Prime Minister has launched an assault on the 20,000
small farmers of this country. Why does he want to set
up 8 farms to plant Ochro and melongene and pumpkin. These
are well taken care of by the small farmers who can increase
their production reasonably quickly if the proper support
facilities are in place, e.g. Water, access roads, marketing,
planting material, field support from the Ministry of
Agriculture like soil testing, and pest control.
The crops identified the Budget statement have nothing
to do with inflation or cost of living. They are a very
small part in the basket of food (what about butter, cheese,
milk, oil etc)
The government has always been lost with respect to Agriculture.
Agriculture and energy have very little in common.
The emphasis on large farms is flawed. In Cuba large tobacco
farms were highly inefficient. The next time the Prime
Minister visits Cuba, he should ask Castro to explain
why the tobacco crop had to be returned to small farmers
in the 1960s who operated for profit in a highly socialist
He should then ask the Aranguez farmers how they are able
to make a small profit planting only an acre of cabbage,
tomato, cauliflower, patchoi and baigan. Unless this government
realizes that farming is about farmers, they will get
as usual, nothing right in agriculture.
The PM should say why he allowed the 3,000 acres of Caroni
Citrus to be abandoned and the 25,000 acres of planted
sugar cane to be abandoned.
His plan, his intention was to kill agriculture and to
kill the small people involved in agriculture. And it
looks like he is succeeding.
The dramatic collapse in the dairy industry is similarly
due to a lack of interest on the part of the government.
A September 17th, 2006 article in The Express titled "Farming
woes," cited the example of, a dairy farmer who has
become exasperated by the industry, vowing to sell his
farm if he got however little money for it - such was
In the same article, Chris Medford, President of the Cattle
Farmers Association detailed the decline:
1998, we produced 13 million kg of milk, almost all went
to Nestle. Last year, in 2005 we produced 5.8 million
kg. Since the year 2000, milk production has been dropping
by at least 1 million kg per year."
He further claimed that since 2000, the number of dairy
and beef cattle has been reduced by half. The 2007 Budget
has not a single mention about the dairy industry.
After all the annual and sequential budget promises, after
all the public pledges and commitments, after all the
recognition of the need for special attention to the sector,
agriculture remains in crisis.
The reason is not only that this gvernment is not seriously
interested in developing this sector, being focused instead
on the energy sector to the exclusion of all others.
It is that the process by which they propose to develop
the sector is stagnant in outlook, impractical and short
We need to develop technology-driven agriculture. Greater
emphasis needs to be placed on research and development
as a guide to agricultural production.
This is the view of the UNC.
A multi pronged approach to training or retraining farmers,
including an understanding of genetically modified seeds,
focus on irrigation to ensure water supply during the
dry season, infrastructure that concentrates on access
roads, deliberate incorporating of technology and mechanization,
as tools to ensure greater productivity.
But the basis of all of this must come from an evaluation
of our productive soil. This government is content that
merely assigning two-acre plots to farmers and trying
to convince them that planting peas is sufficient.
This will create a fresh issue of dependency and do little
more in the field than repeat the mistake manifested in
the Wallerfield livestock experiment.
How do you know that the soil nutrients in a particular
area, or its PH factor or colloids will deliver the best
possible yield of pigeon peas?
By handing out little squares of land, you may be dooming
those farmers who choose land from that area to spending
thousands of dollars on fertilizers, chemical treatments
etc. in order to convert the land to that use.
That is patently bad planning but then, that is a hallmark
of this Government.
A simple example of how farmers have used native intelligence
to discover these secrets, is the case of Paramin, an
area equally well-known for parang music and seasonings.
In the context we are examining, this village has become
the official seasoning basket of Trinidad and Tobago because,
for many decades, farmers there realized the soil is best
suited to cultivating chive, celery etc. and have specialized
in the production and export of these items. There is
a scientific practice hidden in this which has evidently
escaped this government.
The UNC's navel string is in the agricultural sector,
which is perhaps why this government has studiously neglected
A UNC government will undertake a plot by plot assessment
of the land and determine what crops can best be grown
there. Proper training will be provided to ensure farmers
can grow chosen crops efficiently.
We propose a reintroduction of the cooperatives in agriculture,
whereby farmers engaged in similar cultivation can share
resources including machinery, and the bulk purchasing
This is what is required to rescue the agricultural sector
and bring it first into the 21st century.
A deliberate, conscientious and protracted partnership
between the Ministry of Agriculture and the farming community
which, of necessity, must include tangible support from
the government and which will not limit itself to conventional
approaches, but consider horticulture, aqua culture, organic
The UNC proposes to let the research and development guide
the focus of the agricultural sector.
To do this we need to enhance our agricultural extension
services, our access to local and international R &
D and our training facilities for local farmers. We recognize
that our farmers will not go to school, we must bring
the school to them.
In the 2004 budget PM Manning had proposed to use some
100 acres of land to establish a Demonstration Organic
Farm. Of course, like all the other promises he has made,
the government has done nothing.
In 2007 budget speech, agriculture was given perhaps the
most attention. Again we have promises and more promises.
Perhaps the truth is hidden in the size of the allocation
to the sector. A total of 750 million dollars, which tells
us basically that very few if any of the commitments made
will be attained. For the third year running, we are recognising
the heavy dependence on the former Caroni 1975 workers
as the source of the food revolution.
I have already indicated that this government lacks true
commitment to the development of the agricultural sector.
The deliberate negligence of the dairy industry and the
domestic rice industry by the Minister patently ignores
areas in which we have tremendous expertise and which
have been operating with little assistance from this government.
I am deeply saddened by what appears to be a hastily compiled
list of reworded, rehashed old promises and the apparent
absence of a framework, a road map including deliverables
with regard to this sector. I see this as an attempt to
put in place a ready explanation for the failure, again,
of the government in agriculture.
There is no policy here, just a mix of programmes without
timeframes. This government has absolutely no idea of
how to resuscitate the agricultural sector. They are lost.
WHY ARE THEY LOST?
This has to be the great tragedy of the PNM government
- they have squandered a unique opportunity to lift our
relative living standards, to create a place where our
most able and innovative and enterprising young people
want to return to.
When the history of this Government is told, their epitaph
will surely read: Here lies the PNM. They nearly wrecked
the country but for the timely intervention of the UNC.
This Government has been the beneficiary of the best growth
in the history of the country, growth that has nothing
whatsoever to do with anything the Government itself has
To large degree, the good growth has been the result of
the economic reforms of previous governments, the policies
which they have tried desperately to brand as "failed".
The growth we may count today has not come as a result
of any initiative on the part of the government, but rather,
as a result of high international prices for oil and gas!
In addition, the Government came to office at the end
of 2001 at a time when the economy was already growing
at almost 4 % per annum. The price of oil then was nothing
like today. Three additional trains of natural gas will
continue to pump additional revenue into the country.`
So this Government has simply reaped benefits it did not
sow, but just happened to be given power on account of
its well concealed "moral and spiritual values.
And what do they do with this windfall? They spray money
around to a small minority of households who, they hope,
will vote for them in the next election, and by so doing
convert families into beneficiaries, dependent for part
of their income on the grace and favour of the Government.
They further entrench a debilitating culture of dependency.
This government has absolutely lost its way.
Mr. Speaker, I have repeatedly said that Government of
the PNM led by the Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of
Finance are lost, and while I am certain that you would
understand why, if not completely agree, I believe that
I should also explain why they are lost and perhaps help
them be on their way.
I have already showed you that the classical indicators
used by this government are inappropriate. I have also
discussed the indicators that should be used to measure
But Mr. Speaker, I have been going through their documents,
I have reviewed this "moving onward" speech
and found nothing moving onward. We are in fact stagnated
The reason is that this government does not know what
they are talking about. I ask the Prime Minister, What
exactly does he mean by Developed Country status? What
is the roadmap to get there?
Surely this must relate to a systematic reduction in negative
indicators and a deliberate improvement in the positive
For example we should be looking at maybe a one percent
reduction in poverty levels to get to a target of maybe
12% by 2020. What are the specific targets in specific
I ask Mr. Speaker, knowing that they do not know. So let
me guide them through you Sir.
Let me introduce a new concept to members opposite : enhancement
of Net social and economic welfare. In purely academic
terms, it means that well being must improve qualitatively
Here is another: "Ordinary people coming together
to do extraordinary things."
Development is about building institutions to help people
so that their social welfare can improve. This Government
has failed to build institutions based primarily on the
lack of understanding of their importance in the development
of a people. Instead, this government has spearheaded
the dismantling of the most sacred institutions of a country,
the independence of a judiciary, the medical profession,
You see Mr. Speaker, institutions develop traditions,
they develops cultures, they empower people. Individuals
themselves cannot improve their own welfare. Governments
on their own can do nothing. They need a transmission
mechanism and that is the institution.
Mr. Speaker institutions must instill confidence for them
to be effective. As such when you deliberately set out
to emasculate them for your own personal vendettas, you
reap the whirlwind after.
This government rather than engage in institutional reform
has developed an entire new set of institutions, parallel
institutions all of which are inefficient and expensive.
They have not learnt from last oil boom and bust and whilst
there were already over eighty nine state/statutory enterprises
all functioning inefficiently, they have gone ahead to
create about 15 other companies none of which are regulated
According to a Guardian editorial, "Overnight, then,
with no public or parliamentary discussion, public policy
changed. The effect has been to expand the state sector,
re-embracing the notoriously failed expedient of state
enterprises, which had mushroomed around the time of the
last energy boom.
Trinidad and Tobago has very few fully functional institutions
largely because of despotic nature of this government.
It is useful to stress too that programmes are not institutions.
This is why we have high GDP per capita but low quality
of life. To address this deficiency the government keeps
throwing money after the institutions.
It takes time to build an institution, and it takes nurturing.
The family is perhaps the best known institution whereby
family members get together to improve the conditions
of each other.
PUBLIC SECTOR MAINTENANCE PROGRAMME
Maintenance must also be an institution. I recommend that
in addition to the PSIP we should also have a PSMP, a
public sector maintenance programme.
This government is guilty of spending billions to construct
large buildings without putting in place the mechanisms
and machinery to maintain.
Mount hope is testimony to that grand PNM tradition of
WASA is an institution involved in water delivery and
also because of poor maintenance, we have a situation
where wastage is higher than the delivered product.
There is now an unsustainable deficit of $1.7 billion
due to the absence of a structured maintenance programme
for all the plant and buildings owned or used by the government.
Similarly for all roadways, drainage etc. The PSMP will
be the roadmap to inform the policymakers as to when the
repairs to which school will be required, which road etc.
so that we can effectively dispense with the need for
Mr. Speaker I want the Minister of Finance to present
the Cost/Benefit analysis for every water front and every
other government project to this Parliament through the
Finance Committee which should have a special session
to review and evaluate these projects.
We need to identify clearly an intellectual and philosophical
difference of the UNC from the PNM.
Our concept of national development vision is focused
on enabling the citizen as opposed to the PNM style of
sporadic intervention with short term cash inducement.
We are about providing property rights rather than knee-jerk
property solutions. It is about substantive democracy,
participatory democracy as opposed to the dictatorship
and despotism practiced by the PNM.
We are proposing a system of incremental but universal
development - preparing the groundwork, building the foundations
as we set out to do in our first term of office, re building
this nation from the ground up.
That is how you address basic needs. That is how you develop
sustainability. That is how you empower people. Real measures
not cosmetic, real solutions not false hopes.
It is a methodological approach which will include institutional
reform and the guaranteeing of institutional safety and
independence, which will guarantee the following results:
1. Improved Standard of Living
2. Sustainable growth and development of the country
* An appropriately educated population Secondary sector
- processing and service sectors - criminally neglected
- linking innovation with the science and technology rather
than seeing science and technology as segmented item...systemic
* Increased employment - full time, permanent well paying
jobs. Facilitating business and the development of the
small and medium sized business
* A responsible and responsive parliament - appropriate
legislation speedily implemented
* Systematic development of the non-energy sector - specifically
agriculture, tourism and education - T&T the centre
of Caribbean academic, technical and vocational education.
* Development of sport as a business -
* Targeting crime spots
* Enhancing the Administration of justice
These are carefully studied considerations, ideas and
methods that can work and deliver in a relatively short
space of time, dependent, of course, on the extent to
which the PNM will wreck the economy during its last few
months in office.
My response today has not been just to highlight the multiple
failures of this government. I offered some solutions
including the following:
For our senior citizens and the disabled and the poor
on public assistance, forget about the grant of $100 and
instead increase old age pensions, disability grants and
public assistance grants by way of amendments to the relevant
legislation to $2,000.
For the working poor, institute a system of and Earned
Income Tax Credit
For the homeless working poor, institute a Home Owners
Savings Plan and thereby encourage savings and reduce
For our children, implement the package of Children's
For our women, bring on board a gender policy in the short
For our safety and security, implement the package of
Police Reform legislation now.
For our public sector assets, institute a Public Sector
Maintenance Programme, PSMP
For reducing our dependence on the energy sector and for
our food security, go into a system of regional cooperatives
for farmers and so help the small farmers and keep the
culture in agriculture.
For our future generations, re RSF spend less and save
more and so decrease Inflation.We on this side demand
that the government specify in unambiguous terms, the
expected results of each intervention and tabulate in
reasonable detail, each aspect of its social policy.
How many are going to benefit and what result is expected
at the end of the quarter and at the end of the cycle.
In that way, we can judge the performance in finite terms,
where you have failed, and why and address those disasters
with appropriate dispatch and remedies.
Finally, we call on government to establish a joint select
committee of Parliament to review targets and assess implementation
of the budget promises.
In the final analysis, Budget 2006/7 is just another round
of promises from a government that has lost its way in
every sphere of activity.
And so as I examine the 2006/7 budget, Mr. Speaker, I
find myself at the junction where paths are either leading
towards the sustainability of our nationhood or towards
anarchy. While I can see a strong possibility that the
macabre of PNM rule will soon come to end, I can not ignore
the irreparable harm this administration is causing to
So today I did not just address those on the other side
who are morbidly visionless and absolutely apathetic towards
the hardship of the common people. I addressed the people
of this nation.
I am talking to the people of this country because they
represent the fundamental reason for our existence as
their representatives. I am also talking to the people
because this government can not complement the representative
form of democracy with the responsible form of democracy.
This government is anti-people.
The country's economic performance trumpeted as an indicator
towards developed country status remains silent on the
vast income inequality among our population as the gap
between the rich and poor continues to widen.
Industrial initiatives that are portrayed by the prime
minister as growth engines do not speak to sustainability.
Two of the most dismal aspects of this administration
are failed governance and a policy approach that is not
people centered. GOVERNANCE
A responsible government, Mr. Speaker, that has a sense
of servitude would be interested in providing the good
governance through the measures such as effective government
policies and administration, encouragement of and respect
for the voice of the people and maintaining accountability
to its people, upholding the rule of law, maintaining
the regulatory quality, controlling the corruption and
maintaining political stability. These benchmarks Mr.
Speaker are the internationally accepted components of
Six internationally accepted components of good governance
- Voice and accountability: a government that is willing
to listen to the voice of the people and make necessary
adjustments to policies that affect them, and one that
is vigilant about accountability to its people
- Striving to streamline administrative red-tape and reduce
unnecessary stress - government effectiveness
- just application of the rule of law -
- regulatory quality
- controlling corruption
- maintaining political stability
A current World Bank report which presents governance
indicators for Trinidad and Tobago for the last eight
years is glaring proof of this Government's poor performance
with respect to good governance.
This government's performance in each of the six areas
has dropped from when the UNC was in office.
(1) Voice and Accountability -
2000 UNC - 63.8 %
2005 PNM - 59.9%
(2) Effectiveness of the national government
2000 UNC - 71.8%
2005 PNM - 63.6%;
(3) Just application of the rule of law
2000 UNC - 64.9%
2005 PNM - 52.7%;
(4) Regulatory quality
2000 UNC - 78.3 %
2005 PNM - 69.8% (5) Controlling Corruption -
2000 UNC - 66.7%
2005 PNM - 56.2%
(6) Political Stability
2000 UNC - 55.7%
2005 PNM - 43.4%
But, Mr. Speaker, the PNM needs to tell us how this happened.
How could such a slide occur when they have holding trumps,
toying with public funds at will, using taxpayers' money
to launch expensive advertising campaigns trumpeting how
splendidly the government was doing when, by all the serious
and applied indicators of good governance they were -
and are - making an unholy mess of everything they touch.
WHERE IS THE PEOPLE CENTERED FOCUS?
There are many reasons why under the PNM we have been
witnessing a slide in all the governance and Human Development
Indicators. Principal among them is the failure of this
government to recognize the true nature of democracy and
the only faithful way to deliver in democratic spirit.
The true nature of democracy lies in the critical link
between politics and service. I firmly believe that unless
we understand this link and commit ourselves for its materialization,
we are not truly eligible to sit as representatives of
the people in this parliament.
Time and time again, we have seen that this administration
oscillates between two equally inadequate methodologies.
They see the State either as an omnipotent centripetal
force where the state decides and does everything without
reference to people or, they perceive the condition as
a demonstration of the power of market forces and allow
those forces to take charge of the situation to the peril
So they either put the State in the center or market forces
in the center but never the people making for a fundamental
flaw in each such process.
The vision of the UNC has been and continues to remain
putting people first. We are not about old new politics,
that is about egalitarianism. We are not about old politics,
that is totalitarianism. We are about the people. That
is true democracy, something things government knows nothing
Government views with disdain any protest from the people
and consequently fails to take notice of the concerns
and objections raised by the people prior to entering
into a dubious agreement with an industry, such as the
smelter' that presents a serious challenge to community
Instead this government bulldozes its path toward and
through imposition of controversial and draconian measures
such as mass resettlement without considering what they
may confer on the community and without engaging in meaningful
At every turn this government adopts a top-down approach
even for the most sensitive of issues, namely, constitutional
Under this administration we are fast approaching a phase
when we will be in danger of losing all correctives to
the distortions of having the State and the Market at
the centre instead of having people at the centre.
Already the population has concluded that speaking to
this government will not work. Protests have become the
only way to embarrass this government into some kind of
response and, as we have recently been witnessing, that
response is only swift when it is brutal.
In true despotic fashion, the government responds with
force, trying to silence opposition. Ask the people of
Barrackpore, Chatham and Fyzabad.
But vox populi, vox dei, the voice of the people is the
voice of God and the people will not be silenced. We will
no longer tolerate the disrespect of this malevolent and
mephistophilian government on hapless and helpless citizens
of our country.
The most recent example of this government's wayward and
irresponsible governance is the smelter deal.
Complete failure of good governance can be identified
in the case of the smelter plants where government has
given precedence to economic growth over the voices of
I make it clear today that a UNC government would take
into account the wishes of the people with respect to
the PNM's done deal smelters and terminate any deal that
they have made in the absence of meaningful dialogue with
the communities and a transparent accounting to the people
of this nation.
Having people at the center of policy formulation and
implementation is simply the best workable option. Our
people are smart, innovative and accommodating.
Consulting them is the counter guarantee against failures.
The PNM should try that. Participatory governance is not
about the procedural consultations held at the Hilton.
This administration clearly does not understand that it
is the centrality of people in the state of affairs that
makes good the affairs of the State.
This is why they are incapable of empowering the people
themselves as the central strategy for sustainable economic
In all of the circumstances, Budget 2006/7 is yet another
round of promises from a government that has lost its
way in every sphere of activity.
This government has had five years of uninhibited high
revenues and high expenditure. They have had every opportunity
to address the problems of the national community. They
have failed on every count. They have chosen to mislead
rather than lead, misguide rather than guide, insult rather
than consult. They have lost a great opportunity to have
placed this country among the highest ranked by the socio
economic and human development indicators.
Every budget from 2002 to present has tried to deal with
the same problems. Every one has failed.
I have shown that the reason is that their prognosis is
wrong and therefore their prescriptions are wrong. They
have misdiagnosed the problems and therefore they have
been unable to provide a solution.
They know that they have failed but they continue blindly
along the way hoping that the inevitable oil shock would
not come during their term or that they would have put
away enough for themselves as individuals to ride it through.
They are content to spend millions in propaganda to fool
the citizens of this country.
Unfortunately, again their premise is wrong. The People
of Trinidad and Tobago are not fools. They know that the
government has caused the inflationary spiral which has
robbed them of the value of their incomes. They know that
the promises are never kept. They know that the poor and
the working poor have been made worst off and that neither
this budget nor the ones before have offered any solution.
During the debate to follow this presentation, government
ministers will rise and boast of their accomplishments.
The public knows their failures. We have to sit in the
traffic, we have to face high food prices, we have to
pay for private treatment as the health sector crumbles
and we have to hide behind burglar proofed houses in fear
of the criminals that government calls their leaders.
There is no hope under this government nor any real solutions.
More and more people are recognizing this and realize
that as long as the PNM is in control of the government,
our standard of living will continue to fall and our children
will have no real future.
This government has lost its way. They seek their own
interests even when it clashes with the national interest.
The PR is not public relations, it is Patrick's rules.
He who has the gold pays the musician, and the rest, you
and I and our families, we do not count.
I urge the citizens of this nation to stand up and be
counted before it is too late. We are almost there.
In closing, I wish to pay public tribute to the founder
of the United National Congress whose battle against injustice
and oppression, whose fight to improve the standard of
living of all citizens, we carry on still.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you.