PNM heads for $50b budget.
UNC reviewing role of UNC chief whip Maharaj.
plans by Finance Minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira to use yesterdays
Finance Bill debate in the Lower House as a trial
run for her spotlight moment in Mondays budget
presentation were delayed.
Nunez-Tesheira had to relax until MPs dealt with bail bill
And even when she did pilot her Finance billa six-minute
jobshe was less in pit bull attack mode than she had
been last Friday during the no-confidence debate concerning
Prime Minister Patrick Manning.
Thencomplete with lipstickTesheira had alternated
between lavishly praising Manning and negatively pronouncing
on the Opposition.
Americans have 45 more days to decide whether US Republican
vice presidential contender Sarah Palin (who popularised
the pit-bull-with- lipstick analogy on women) is Veep material.
Or whether she may be viewed as a poor mans Hillary
The significance of female input in the US election has
been borne out by the interest generated in the Clinton
factor and the Republicans acknowledgement of that
in offering Palin.
Locally, yesterday in Parliament, Nunez-Tesheira, in scholarly
grey, didnt look quite like a woman about to create
Mondays 2009 budget presentation will pit Nunez-Tesheira,
the first female to deliver T&Ts budget, against
UNC deputy leader Kamla Persad-Bissessarboth lawyers
and both in their 50s.
Law degree apart, Nunez-Te-sheira holds legal education
certification and an executive MBA.
Persad-Bissessar also holds an MBA, law degrees, BA and
an education diploma. This, plus political experiencewhich
Nunez- Tesheira lacksincluding delivery of the Oppositions
budget replies in 2006 and 2007.
There was no sign of the impending competition during yesterdays
sitting save for Persad- Bissessars move when she
sat (for ten minutes) in the empty seat of her absent leader,
to speak to MP Hamza Rafeeq.
The latter acted for absent chief whip Ramesh Maharaj.
Nunez-Tesheira chose that period to move a seat closer to
her boss to speak to him.
Tesheira may be more pleasing on the eyes than her predecessors
including Dr Eric Williams, George Chambers, Selby Wilson,
ANR Robinson, Brian Kuei Tung and Patrick Manning.
However, the question whether as a woman Nunez-Tesheira
might formulate a budget with more focus on basic concerns
was answered by government sources yesterday who confirmed
priority spending will go towards agriculture and infrastructure
as well as education, health and national securityrather
than with initiating new mega projects.
They also said the budget will surpass the 2007-2008 budget
of $42 billion.
2009 package will be almost $50 billion, maybe even a little
more and its theme will focus on continuity, they
Major fundingdescribed by Government as Quite
a lot!goes to the Office of the Prime Minister
for preparations for Aprils Summit of the Americas
and Novembers Commonwealth leaders conference.
Increases in infrastructure will likely be geared towards
those events also, as have been mega projects currently
Innovations for agriculture, sources said, include flood-time
crop insurance, increased lending facilities and increasing
the sector by 7,000 new farmers and the Chaguaramas mega-farmthe
only one of those promised which has come on stream so far.
Cuban farmers for that facility arrived last month.
Energy officials said the gas subsidies will remain although
Government had hinted at reviewing this, and
Tobagoheading to THA elections in January will
get its requested $2.9 billion.
Rowleyfighting another day
Whether fired Minister Keith Rowley will speak in the budget
debateor stay out as he did with last weeks
no-confidence motionremains to be seen.
That UNCs Ramesh L Maharaj, who moved that motion
based his arguments against Manning on allegations which
Rowley has made against Udecott officials, put Rowley as
much centre stage as the Opposition in that debate.
A fact acknowledged by PNMs Colm Imbert whod
remarked that Maharaj was drinking others bush
Rowleys non-participation in debatewhile not
supporting the allegations Maharaj said he had madeleft
Rowley said yesterday, I speak as a PNM voice. Were
clear on who PNMites were mobilised to support in Woodford
Square last Friday. My concern is whether they were aware
of what they were supporting. Until thats clear the
full import of what occurred will not be fully understood.
conduct of an office holder was called into account. That
person sought to mobilise PNM in defence of the allegations
against him. But in the end, issues concerning public business
have not been addressed. They remain to be addressed. That
should be of concern to any right-thinking PNMite.
Rowleys view appeared to echo Maharajs summary
of that debatethat Manning hadnt answered the
But while Rowley has kept his position pristineprobably
to have his say in the upcoming Udecott enquirythe
failure of Maharajs motion has placed him on enough
of a backfoot in UNC to mitigate against his leading other
Maharaj, in London for a family emergency, was conspicuously
absent from yesterdays House after the failed debate
At Wednesdays UNC caucus, divided views prevailed
on whether Persad-Bissessar, Maharaj or MP Vassant Bharath
should deliver UNCs budget reply, those present confirmed.
Some felt a deputy should do the job in the leaders
Deputy Wade Mark was among Persad-Bissessars supporters
for the task.
Deputy Jack Warner said he was supporting Bharath in the
first instance then Maharaj.
This left Persad-Bissessar, who garnered majority support
in the caucus.
Maharaj said he felt UNC leader Basdeo Panday should have
decided instead of having a caucus vote. He said he would
withdraw if there was a vote, they said.
Sources added that MP Roodal Moonilal said Bharath was suited
for the task since, like Tesheira, he was new, but also
has the comprehensive financial background Tesheira lacks.
However, Bharath also withdrew saying he didnt want
to cause divisions.
Maharaj was questioned on his failed Manning motion including
alleged agreements with PNMites without consulting MPs.
Sources said Maharaj replied, telling some they could have
the chief whips job if they wanted it.
The caucus has agreed the chief whips role and functions
be reviewed on October 15, they confirmed.