“Rowley’s recent trip to China and Australia was poorly planned, not targeted on our trade and economic diversification goals, and lacking in measurable outputs,” says Naparima MP Rodney Charles.
“The only outcomes that we have heard thus far from this trip were; extending of invitations for investors to consider T&T, the signing of numerous Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs), discussions on national security matters and the PM searching for a marine vessel. A serious Prime Minister would have ensured that the majority of these negotiations were close to finalization, before trekking halfway across the world. The PM’s visit should have been the icing on the cake inclusive of plans to establish a factory to build coast vessels in our country instead of buying boats, which is certainly not a priority at this time.
“This PNM administration is trying to bamboozle the population into thinking that they have done a lot on their visit to China by signing four MOUs. However, signing MOUs; to “strengthen cooperation in the field of medicine and health”, to foster “human resource development cooperation” and an “Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation”; boils down to diplomatic “nice talk” with no guarantee of any follow through.”
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is a nonbinding agreement outlining the terms and details of a possible future relationship, including each party’s requirements and responsibilities. It need not contain legally enforceable promises as it is often the first stage in the formation of a formal contract. But, signing an MOU does not guarantee that a contract will eventually be formed.
During his visit to China, Dr Rowley, reiterated the impending ease of visa restrictions for Chinese nationals wishing to visit T&T. With one of the recent reported robberies being at a Chinese Supermarket in Warrenville, where the proprietor Chadwin Lin and two employees were robbed at gunpoint, how much of a tourism incentive can this be? The murder rates of and robberies against Chinese nationals in our country are well publicised.
China has been making major investments in the Caribbean without Prime Ministerial visits. In Guyana, Chinese-owned Bosai Minerals Group invested US $10 million in Matthew’s Ridge Manganese Project in 2016. In 2017, the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), purchased roughly 33% of an estimated $200 billion in their oil discovery programme.
Last year schools and education institutions in Barbados received a donation of US$5 million worth of desktop computers, laptops, tablets, desks and chairs from the People’s Republic of China. In Bahamas, China donated military equipment worth approximately US$1.2 million to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in 2017.
Did the PM Rowley sign agreements to receive any such investments or gifts when he visited China?
Rowley has invited Beijing Construction Engineering Group (BCEG) to partner with TT’s Lake Asphalt Ltd in the construction of a new Beijing International airport. Dr. Rowley needs to tell us the quantities of our pitch to be sold, the FX benefits that will accrue to our country, and the number of jobs that will be created. Surely a Prime Ministerial visit should result in specific, quantifiable benefits.
With all of the prospective projects announced by Rowley, such as the New Industrial Park, we must be wary of Chinese “investments”, which are actually concessionary loans, that can possibly increase the Debt to GDP Ratio of T&T.
Rowley and his delegation then travelled to Australia seeking to spend money we do not have, on marine vessels we do not need. Our Coast Guard has reportedly been struggling to provide fuel for their current fleet. We are still unsure about the arrival date of this government’s last purchased vessel (the Galleons Passage). Dr. Rowley needs to tell us the procurement approach to be used, should they choose to purchase vessels from Australia.
Furthermore, he devoted a portion of his time there discussing West Indies cricket. Rowley has chosen time and time again to dedicate his attention to issues of considerably less importance than those facing our country. An editorial published in a local newspaper yesterday noted that, “it makes no sense for the Prime Minister to be out in the world wooing foreign investors to come to a country whose own people do not feel safe.”
Feigning action once more, Rowley and his delegation attended what might be described as an impromptu meeting with the New South Wales Police Force seeing as a TT national security expert was notably absent.
We are continuously witness to this PNM government’s disconnect with the urgent issues facing T&T and their haphazard approach to running our country. What is the point of development and increased trade, if your citizenry is paralyzed by fear of crime and cannot benefit from it? Rowley needs to realize that he must address the abhorrent crime situation in TT before he makes foreign investments his main focus.
MP for Naparima