A hallmark of PM Persad Bissessar and the PP Government
Whenever a discerning member of the electorate evaluates the performance of a government, they do so primarily with respect to three aspects of its functioning. Firstly, leadership and vision, secondly, its track record of delivery and thirdly, quality of governance experienced by the people.
On assuming office in 2010, Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar laid in Parliament the Manifesto of the Partnership Government. For those who keep harping that her Administration is bereft of a vision, it is but plain politicking. The Manifesto reflects government policy and as such gives the people an opportunity to measure the performance of the government. Thus from the onset of this government the PP Government has practiced a form of open government and transparency which prior to May 24th 2010 did not exist. This openness and transparency is further enhanced by the fact that 95% of the questions asked in Parliament by the Opposition or the Independent Senators are answered along with several follow up questions. The PM has faced and debated a no-confidence motion in her leadership and as well has successfully weathered the daily storm of criticism and accusations directed at her and her administration.
The leadership of the PM has also been undoubtedly confirmed in terms of the performance of the economy, the social and political stability that exists and the stabilization of the finances of the country and this the latter, in the wake of the then very troubling CLICO/HCU financial debacles.
Leaders are expected to be tough and fair. There should be no doubt in the minds of the people that the PM has been tough when it was necessary and fair to all. While sections of the population have criticized the PM for calling a state of emergency, the reality is that she acted positively when it was necessary to do so for the preservation of citizen security and national safety.
At the international level she has made this nation proud and has led an international campaign to promote TT as a place to do business and to visit. The success of this has been seen in terms of the billions of dollars of new foreign investment which have been coming in every year, as well as the growth in new investments by nationals of TT. For those who claim that there are no new investments by the local business community, maybe you could think again. People are using their cash resources to invest rather than solely depending on borrowing from the banks. They are doing this in face of the low interest rates which they are receiving on deposits compared to the high rates at which they have to borrow. The spread between what the banks pay as interest and what they lend at is too high. banks have protected their profits at the expense of the citizens who are using their services.
Leadership is also expected to inspire confidence. There is no doubt that the leadership of the PM has been inspiring confidence in this country and its people throughout the globe. If this were otherwise, TT would not have been the recipient of foreign investment and locals would have been fleeing the country. The reality of the politics in TT is that the lines have hardened between those who support the government and those who do not. They have hardened due to the fact that many persons tie their support to the “personal benefits” they receive without thinking about the national benefits which continue to accrue to the citizens as a result of the more equitable distribution and efficient management of the financial resources of the country. We have in a sense entered the realm of a politics in which we have to manage the individual rather than the group.
Is this country doing well under the PP Govt and PM Kamla Persda Bissrssar? The answer is an unequivocal YES!
When persons can invest in homes averaging one million dollars by borrowing on thirty year mortgages, then they must be feeing a sense of security under this administration. As the statistics will bear out home mortgages are up every year. If business was bad in TT, the conglomerates and the banks would not have declaring super profits as they are doing, nor would the bars and restaurants be a filled as they are throughout the year. The domestic spending reflected in the number of new and foreign used vehicles being bought each year is a reflection of a level of happiness with the Government and the expression of confidence in the future of the country in terms of job security. For carnival this year fetes have been oversubscribed with Fire Service Officers having to demand that gates be closed. The NAGICO finals at the Oval saw many persons unable to enter for the game was oversubscribed. Our citizens have money which they are spending on leisure and entertainment. It says something about the vibrancy of the economy. When persons can pay $500 US Dollars for a ticket to fete at Hyatt and an average of 2000 to 2500 to fete elsewhere it tells a story of prosperity.
The Partnership Government has not been operating without a vision. From the very first few months of it being in office, the PM has been saying that she wants a TT where people can fulfil their potential through a sound education, where TT citizens can compete with the brightest in the world, where there will be prosperity for all and where the resources of the nation will be equitably distributed for the benefit of all. The PM recognizes that the ability of TT to succeed and create a sustainable economy and future will be dependent on knowledge as a competitive tool. Hence the emphasis on education including universal early childhood education. One will also want to add that part of her vision for TT is to ensure that no one and no community feels less important or less respected than any other. In this regard she has not been afraid to act out of the box as she did in having both Sparrow and Minshall in Penal where she made the announcement to give to them the highest national award.
A lot of critics have missed the essential point of her leadership and administration which is that as a government the Partnership has been “Governing For Every Citizens.” Too often governance is mistaken for what happens in Parliament . Too often governance is only associated with laws passed and crimes solved. Not that these are unimportant , but governance is also if not more so, about how those charged with leading the nation responds to the everyday needs of people, how their day to day lives and survival needs are assured, that they eat, they have shelter, their children are in schools, that they have recreation facilities in their communities, that the price of food remains affordable, that they have running water 24/7, that their health care needs are met, that the elderly and the differently able are supported and that there are jobs and HOPE for young people.
These are in my view the real issues of governance, what people can feel, taste and smell. Yes, it is also about decision quality, but if we are honest and truthful this administration has made mistakes but has always admitted these mistakes and taken corrective action. In this regard the humility of the PM in accepting her mistakes and even apologizing for them stands out in her favour as a mark of a leader who is humble before the people.
The critics of the government do not seem to favour the approach of the government to ensure equitable distribution of resources. Consider how many times the members of the Opposition have objected to the UWI Campus in Debe as well as their cryptic comments they make about persons and development works “South of the Caroni.” Consider the not to veiled “racial” connotations they have been introducing in the national political discourse starting with the Calcutta ship in Tobago. Thankfully, our people have become more discerning and are rejecting such tribal political mutterings. Compare their comments to the reality of delivery of the PP Government on the East West Corridor and you will see the truth about equity as practiced by the PP Govt and Kamla Persad Bissessar. For example the children south of the Caroni are not the only ones who have gotten lap top computers! The Trincity Bridge is not South of the Caroni as is the St Joseph River Bridge. See therefore the foolishness about discrimination on the East West corridor.
In terms of governing for all, did the PP Govt govern for a section of the population n or all of the citizens when it chose to settle through the Ministry of labour and the Ministry of Finance almost 75 outstanding labour agreements? How many of us recall that the former PM had offered 1% to the workers and caused so many persons in the public sector to be living below their standards due to inflation and other cost of living increases including taxi fares. Does the PP Govt govern for a few or for all when it continues to subsidize the price of diesel and gas? The subsidy on a litre of diesel as I am advised is about $4.75 per litre. If your tank of diesel holds 50 litres then every time you fill up the Govt subsidy is $237.50. If you consume one tank per week the subsidy on an annual basis is $12,000. In keeping the subsidy is the govt governing for a few or for all the citizens?
In building 74 schools geographically spread across the country (Early Childhood as well as Primary and Secondary) in three and a half years for all the nation’s children, is the govt governing for a few or for all the citizens?
When the Gov’t converted the Chancery Lane Administrative Complex in San Fernando and added 216 beds and created the Teaching Hospital was it for a few citizens or for all citizens? When Minister Fazal Karim converted the El Dorado Girls camp into a Nursing Academy and registered 1200 students was it for a few or for all citizens? WE govern not with a few in mind but for all of our citizens.
When the Oncology Center is completed as well as the upgrades to other hospitals by Minister Fuad Khan will it be for some or for all?
When the Prime Minister as she now does annually give to all Churches, Mosques and Temples $5000 for their Xmas, Eid and Divali Celebrations does she give to a few or to all who apply? No PM has sought to support the religious institutions as she has done. Last Xmas the parent Christian bodies were also given substantial grants to carry out their work. The PM and the Govt recognize that if this nation is to be put right, if a values based society is to be developed the religious institutions have to be supported to contribute in a more substantial way. The PP Govt and the PM are waking the talk in this regard.
When the Gov’t as it is doing moves to makes TT a more business friendly country thereby causing higher foreign and local investments does it do so for a few businesses and entrepreneurs or for all. It does so for all because through such initiatives jobs are created, taxes are earned for the benefit of all citizens.
When the Children’s hospital in Couva is completed will it be for some children or for all our children? When a fire station is built in a community as is being done or when a Police station is being constructed in a community are these for PP people or for everyone? It is highly erroneous and politically nastiness to conclude that the PP Gov’t is not governing for all of our citizens. The evidence is there to see for those who do not wish to be blinded. Given the way the opposition has governed during its times in office, if they return to office this country will see a dramatic shift in governance form the point of view of equity, fairness and open and transparent management of the resources of the nation. The history of favouritism and nepotism by the opposition is there for all to see. The time to coalesce around a Gov’t that has demonstrated what it means to govern for all is NOW!