Kamla: “At the crossroads of history – a nation in crisis: a government in collapse; a people betrayed”
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE POLITICAL LEADER’S RESPONSE
The House of Representatives
Friday October 5, 2018
I want to use this opportunity to share with you some of our comprehensive plans for the advancement, progression and transformation of our nation.
We have a vision for a Trinidad and Tobago in which each citizen can enjoy a better quality of life, more prosperity, safety, access to quality healthcare and improved equal opportunities for all.
We will re-engineer our society, from one that has to protest for roads, drains and water, to one that is aspirational in nature.
We will re-calibrate the chaos that they have created by the mismanagement and incompetence of the Government.
We will return Trinidad and Tobago to a nation of prosperity rather than the failed state that they have reduced us to.
We will get to work immediately, and we will ensure that the persons they have left unemployed and impoverished will get back to work too.
We will do this by rebalancing our finances, reforming our institutions, with particular attention to the State enterprise sector and most importantly we would do all of this with the people at the centre, as the single most important priority to MY government.
With diligence, resolve and a shared vision, we can transform our nation, and ensure a brighter future for every single citizen of Trinidad and Tobago.
Our economy has not grown – it has shrunk under this Minister’s watch, where is the turnaround?
The Minister, however, doesn’t want you looking at his tenure. The Minister prefers we only look at last year 2017 and compare it to this year, 2018.
Minister Imbert wants us to forget that they were in charge since September 2015. That it is this Government that has crashed the economy.
As a result of this hapless government’s policies, what we are witnessing in Trinidad and Tobago, is a crisis of confidence in the non-energy sector.
This crisis of confidence has resulted in there being no new investment in the non-energy sector since they came into office three years ago
It’s not just our domestic business sector that lacks confidence in the Government and the economy as a result.
The World Bank reported that after receiving Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows of over 855 US million dollars in 2014 and 2015, the country suffered a significant net outflow of 398 US million dollars in 2016 and 2017. This means that the money is leaving – capital flight under the management of the current Minister of Finance.
I have taken note of the multiple projections of the Minister based on the latest IMF report, and I find it extremely disingenuous, to say the least, for the Minister to throw up the IMF projections for growth of the Trinidad and Tobago economy and associated indicators, when he knows fully well, that those figures did not factor in the contractionary effect on revenues, foreign exchange generation, productive capacity, labour, government taxation and expenditure, consequent to the dismantling of Petrotrin. In other words the IMF had no knowledge and did not factor in the shutdown of Petrotrin.
Turnaround” in Gas Production: This growth is due mainly to an increase in natural gas production from the BP Juniper Project which started in the second half of 2017. This project brought 590 million cubic feet of natural gas per day into production. What the Finance Minister doesn’t like to tell you is that BP’s decision to invest over US 2.1 Billion US Dollars in this project happened during our time in government (August 2014) due in part to fiscal incentives we offered. Construction began almost immediately. Today the nation is reaping those benefits.
These investments happened because we put in place an aggressive exploration strategy by incentivizing seismic companies, the up streamers (BP, Shell, and BHP) to find NEW reserves of Hydrocarbons. This strategy was successful. Had these investments not been made at that time, the situation in the country today would have been dire.
Stagnation in Energy (Future Problems Looming):During our time, we made fourteen amendments to the fiscal regime aimed at creating a business-friendly environment to facilitate investment that led to the recent surge in natural gas production. After 3 years of this PNM Government we can see no investment in our future. There is only incompetence in HD, High Definition.
Debt: The level of indebtedness of a nation is another indicator of an economy’s health. This PNM administration has embarked on a dangerous borrowing path to take this country straight into the hands of the IMF and its structural adjustment policies.
As at June 2018, the country’s Gross Public Debt stood at 122.1 billion dollars, which is the highest it has ever been in our recorded history.
Our children and grandchildren will have to clean up the mess that this current administration is making. It is a debt-funded disaster.
In just three years, this government has already borrowed over 20 billion dollars.
Today, the country’s net public sector debt outstanding stands at 96..6 billion dollars, the highest in our nation’s history.
And this does not include the additional 4..2 billion dollars taken out of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) and another 4 billion dollars lifted from the public via the National Investment Fund (NIF) bond issue, the latter of which the Minister miraculously named “profits from state enterprises” even though those revenues are generated by assets owned by taxpayers which must be repaid.
Today, half of the country’s foreign reserves are mortgaged to repay the external debt.
All of these factors point towards an inherent danger of our country being unable to meet this runaway debt, particularly the foreign debt, putting us at the mercy of countries engaged in what has been described as debt diplomacy.
As policy makers, we must demand an explanation from this government of how they propose to meet the new debt obligations with which they are saddling Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to the existing billions of debts.
Vanity Projects and Priorities
Let us look at the priorities of this government in the past 4 budgets and the people of this country could judge for themselves whether the government’s priorities are in line with the needs of the population.
They can judge whether stadiums, castles, golf courses and paintings have made their lives better, their pockets heavier and their families safer.
- PAINTINGS 3M
- SOCA ON THE SEAS .5M
- NEW MERECEDES BENZ FOR THE PM 2M
- CL FINANCIAL SEXUAL HARASSMENT SETTLEMENT 3.5M
- A HELLO AND GOODBYE TELEPHONE CALL TO THE US PRESIDENT 16M
- TAROUBA STADIUM THAT STILL HAS NO ACCREDITATION 130M
- RED HOUSE THAT THEY PROMISED TO DELIVER IN MAY 2018 44OM
- BUCCO ESTATE 174M
- LOAN TO THE TOILET PAPER FACTORY 30M
- TRADE UNIONS 15M
- MASSY COMMUNICATION 225M (AMPLIA)
- ERNST & YOUNG AUDITS 20M
- JAZZ FESTIVAL 20M
- PRIME MINISTER’S HOUSE IN TOBAGO 15M
- DIEGO MARTIN STADIUM 200M
- CABO STAR MOBILIZATION FEE 13M
- OCEAN FLOWER MOBILIZATION FEE 20M
- HILTON SWIMMING POOL 7M
- WET LEASE PLANE FROM LIAT 4M
- FETE MATCH TO OPEN LARA STADIUM
- SHAMFA 59,000 ROAMING BILL
- DARRYL SMITH ROMPING 95,000
- SETTLEMENT OF INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR IN MINISTRY OF SPORT 150,000
- 4 BOATS WITHOUT ANY PROPER PROCUREMENT 1.4BILLION
- DOG POUND 3M, AH DOG POUND!
The Minister of Finance made a lot of noise about my Government reaching close to the limit of the overdraft facility. While we made use of the permissible overdraft limit, let me remind the Minister of Finance that in fiscal year 2016/2017, he actually crossed the limit of the overdraft by over 3 billion dollars without a single tangible project to show for it.
(Auditor General report 2017 pg NO. 97).
Foreign Exchange Reserves
Today, after three years of PNM, the level of net foreign exchange holdings has collapsed by 27% to US$7.6 billion, just about 8 months import cover, the lowest our reserves have been for over a decade.. And they want to talk about growth and recovery.
In the last three years, there has not been a single project which the Government could point the population at which will generate the additional foreign exchange desperately required in the short or medium term.
The Minister of Finance came to the Parliament patting himself on the back boasting that they have lowered the inflation rate to 1% in August 2018. When one looks at the Inflation rate it is deceptive because:
Firstly, there has been a rebasing of the Consumer Price Index recently and as a result the methodology has changed so the inflation rate could be a bit deceptive as they would have altered the weights of the items in the basket of goods.
Secondly, the economy is characterized by low business confidence with a stagnant non-energy sector and inflation approaching near zero. These are signs of a deflationary economy.
Thirdly, rising unemployment levels and resulting falling demand means the population simply does not have the money to pay higher prices.
This government has adopted a fiscal policy of increased taxation, sale of assets and borrowing to generate funds. But they are not using these funds to build productive capacity; instead they are using these funds to finance recurrent expenditure.
The result is predictable: the continued contraction of the economy, which in turn has caused a sharp reduction in the tax base so that in 2018, the revenue from taxation was almost $11 billion lower than in 2015 before the advent of more and higher taxes.
The Minister’s incompetence is demonstrated by the fact that he has failed to put the budget on a path to fiscal sustainability.
He has run large budget deficits for the last three years, intends to run another large budget deficit in the coming year, and with elections looming is likely to run a substantial budget deficit in 2020.
Labour – Unemployment – The Great Betrayal
The worst examples of the Government’s hypocrisy and betrayal – and there have been many – has been the deliberate brutalization and terrorizing of our nation’s labour force.
When the then Opposition Leader Dr Rowley asked this country for their vote in 2015, he sat with members of several unions, signed agreements, promised all manner of interaction, access and support, and appointed a former PSA President as the Minister of Labour to represent labour interests.
Not a single promise to workers have been kept.
Instead of creating skilled employment opportunities – the PNM is scrapping entire industries that require a specialist labour force.
The imminent closure of the Petrotrin refinery means nearly 5,000 skilled workers will out of a job by next month. The Prime Minister said the numbers do not matter but these are human beings with families.
So not only are they not creating new jobs, they are taking away what already exists!
Over 50,000 have lost their jobs since they came in office. 30,000 by their own admission.
Our country is facing a crisis of confidence and we have heard of no comprehensive, concrete or viable plans from this Government to treat with and lead to our recovery.
What prescriptions have they offered to fix our sick economy?
They came with the same repeated promises that they’ve been announcing over and over – we’re hearing again about the Moruga port, the Valencia to Toco Highway, we keep hearing about Sandals, and now the newest thing since sliced bread, a drydocking project at La Brea.
They said “Let’s do this” that they had a “Dr” to fix the economy but based on all the economic vitals, it is clear that the economy is Sick, Sick, Sick and is flatlining; this Doctor is guilty of Malpractice and should be fired.
PNM Repeated Promises/No Delivery
The PNM has a history of repeat, repeat, repeat with no performance and no delivery.
For the past 4 budgets we have heard several of these promises. Let us look at some of the PNM (refer to the PL’s speaking notes) – THE PROMISES THAT NEVER MATERIALISED!
The country continues to suffer under this merciless PNM Government, having endured the utter incompetence of not just one, but two Ministers of Works and Transport that led to a total breakdown of the sea-bridge between Trinidad and Tobago with the destructive force of a Category 5 hurricane, wreaked havoc on Tobago’s economy, which has been described as a ‘total collapse’ of businesses in Tobago.
The most troubling part of it all is that the nation has received no assurance that this PNM Government will ever change its process and method for procuring capital assets.
Until such time, we are doomed to suffer the calamitous consequences as we have endured with the saga known as the Galleons Passage, which, having been purchased some 10 months ago is yet to make a commercial sailing.
It can only be described as a monumental waste that has burned a hole in taxpayers’ pocket to the tune of over $120 Million Dollars. And our woes do not end there.
That La Brea Drydock
Based on a recent Trinidad guardian story, for the Prime Minister, this single La Brea drydock project is his government’s solution to our foreign exchange crisis, and our need to grow the GDP.
The deception is not just that PM Rowley is asking residents of La Brea to vote for him in 2020 in the hope of getting jobs in 2023 when he claims this project will start operations.
The deception is not just that there will be no foreign exchange generated by this project for years to come.
The deception is not just the untruth that “a large number” of the thousands of people he is firing from Petrotrin will bring their skills and get jobs in the project, because everyone knows that the skills and training required to work in a refinery and in exploration and drilling are not the same as to work on a dry dock.
The deception is not just that no local content agreement has been signed for labour and materials.
For me, what is most frightening is the admission that THEY HAVE NOT DONE A MARKET ANALYSIS YET! On what basis are all these promises being made? How do they know that this project is even viable or that 5,000 jobs can be created? You are making it up as you go along!
The promise that “the Chinese have agreed to arrange for their ships to use the La Brea facility” is no guarantee of a market.
How many Chinese or other vessels have expressed an interest in coming to Trinidad to be dry docked?
Is the plan to build the facility, at an unknown financial cost to Trinidad and Tobago, and HOPE that it is used?
What happens when the facility is unable to attract sufficient clientele?
Will the dry dock have to be ceded to a foreign state?
Is this another WGTL waiting to happen?
Even worse, the report states that China will control 30 percent of the equity in the project and the Trinidad and Tobago Government will control 70 percent
What is the source of these funds? Is the Government going to be drawing down a loan from China for this purpose?
If so, this constitutes a further and significant foreign exchange debt on a project for which the Government cannot prove a confirmed market as they haven’t even done the basic research.
This PNM administration has already wasted three years hopelessly trying to stabilize our economy, and given their poor track record of economic management, they will waste another two years into 2020. Their economic policymaking is characterized by incompetence, illiteracy and insensitivity.
UNC NATIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY AND DIVERSIFICATION PLAN
Our country needs the implementation of a strategic and systematic treatment protocol to pull us out of this critical illness they’ve inflicted on us.
The first critical step is to have a plan. In keeping with its forward-thinking approach towards building an independent, self-reliant, resilient and confident society of the future, the UNC has working on a credible economic plan to regain fiscal balance, stabilize public debt, stop the bleeding of official reserves, and bring our economy back onto a growth trajectory.
And the party I lead, the UNC, has the plan that can move us forward.
We shall engage and implement the following:
a. The Digital Economy
b. The Innovation Culture
c. The Entrepreneurship Impact
d. The Diversification Strategy
e. Good Governance
f. Corporation Tax issues
g. Job Creation
h. State Enterprises
(REF TO THE SPEAKING NOTES FOR A DETAILED EXPLANATION OF THE UNC’S PLAN)
I have just learned that by letter dated today, October 5, 2018, titled “Distribution of Letters of Termination” Petrotrin states, “Based on overwhelming feedback received during this week’s employee communication sessions, the Interim Executive Transition Team has decided to accelerate the distribution of termination letters.”
What a contemptuous and callous action by the company!
Petrotrin’s history makes it all the more difficult to accept the PNM Government’s mismanagement of Petrotrin.
We’ve seen mismanagement of similar proportions with the Tobago Seabridge and now we are seeing it again with Petrotrin. In the end, people are suffering.
We are worried that the situation being created will allow the PNM Government to sell the Petrotrin refinery at bargain basement prices to a preferred financier.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Property Act, 2015 is not fully proclaimed.
I mean no disrespect or to draw the Office of the President into this debate, but I would like to indicate that because the Office of the Procurement Regulator falls under the Office of the President, I intend to write to her Excellency regarding this matter, specifically requesting her to exercise her power as the head of state to advise the Prime Minister to hold his hand on the sale of any Petrotrin assets until the Procurement Act is fully proclaimed.
Over the past five weeks, the tens of thousands of people who rely on Petrotrin for their livelihood have woken up every day uncertain as to whether the Minister, Prime Minister or the Chairman would change the course of their lives with a fateful announcement on that day.
(REF TO THE SPEAKING NOTES FOR THE FULL CONTEXT OF THE PL’s RESPONSE)
When I opened this Vision 2030 document I really thought that it was a joke. Every single indicator in the housing sector is “to be determined”. TBD.
In three years, with five Housing Ministers, including Diego Martin West, the Prime Minister, if you cannot account for how many houses you inherited or distributed, then something is terribly wrong. I don’t want to be discourteous to the Minister of Housing but we all know that he knows a lot about housing apartments.
This PNM Government is unable to say how many housing units have been completed, how many have been distributed, how many loans have been granted for citizens to purchase houses or how many grants were disbursed. All of that is “to be determined.”
They are unable to account for any of these things because they have done nothing!
The Vision 2030 document told us that Trinidad and Tobago ranked 48 out of 137 under Pillar 4- Health and Primary Education on the Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018, I was very happy when I saw this.
However, when I looked at the Global Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 myself to fact check this, I saw Trinidad and Tobago ranked 60.
I really hope that this is a typo because I would not like to believe that Government is misleading or fabricating statistics to suit them, otherwise that will be tantamount to conmanship
It shows that anything this Government tells us we cannot believe it, this is a Government we cannot trust.
They have done nothing for primary, secondary or tertiary education.
Through the incompetence of this Government, schools remain closed since school has been reopened for the term, children have to flush toilets with buckets, many of our nation’s schools are in a state of disrepair and not enough is being done to curtail the high levels of school violence..
As I conclude I wish to share some of our plans with regard to safety and security.
The desperate cry of our people no matter where you live in our country today, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, whether you are Indo Trinidadian, Afro Trinidadian, Syrian, White, Chinese or Lebanese, is to be safe and secure.
After three (3) years of this government and having spent more than 24 Billion Dollars on National Security and proposing to spend another 6 Billion in fiscal 2018-2019 our country is more unsafe now than it ever has been before.
Every year the Minister stands up and tells us how many hospitals he is going to build, it is a throwback to each budget when we hear about the Arima Hospital and the Point Fortin Hospital.
There is a need for more hospital beds, we hear the cries of the hundreds of families who have to wait days for a hospital bed at the nation’s hospital.
By their own admission in this Vision 2030 document nothing has been done to alleviate this problem of provision of hospital beds.
This cruel and heartless government blatantly refuses to open the Couva Children’s Hospital and play politics with the lives of our nation’s children.
I call upon them to open the Couva Children’s Hospital!
This can add up to 230 beds to the current hospital bed shortage.
Public Safety and Security
On the homicide detection rate, this Government does not have a target rate that they will like to achieve. It shows that they have no plans and no target.
Then the Government to make themselves look good placed their target of the crime detection rate for serious recorded crimes as 35%!
This is simply unbelievable as the Government is setting a low target so that it can be easily achieved to measure their performance.
They are being deceptive with the statistics.
This 1% increase in the detection rate for murder is negligible by itself had it not been laughable.
Had it not been for my Government there would have been many villages, communities and homes without pipe borne water.
The Government stated that in 2015, 93.6% of the population had piped access of water to their homes. This was an achievement of my Government!
They have admitted that there has been no progress or any work to increase the supply of water to the homes of citizens in Trinidad and Tobago.
They have repeated their promises… Where is their ten point plan?
This government has come to the Parliament year after year for the past three (3) years and has disrespected the intelligence of the people of our country by making promise after promise with absolutely no intention of delivering.
The Anti-Gang Legislation
This government’s big ticket item for the last year to fight crime has been the enactment and proclamation of the Anti-Gang Legislation.
They said 80% of the murders that were committed were gang related and the passage of this legislation would give the police the ability to go after those involved in gang activity. It has now been four (4) months since the proclamation of the Anti-Gang Act 2018 and there has not been a single arrest, charge or prosecution of any person under the provisions of this legislation..
Since this legislation has been proclaimed here have been 170 murders.
We have now past 400 murders for the year and we have three (3) months to go.
Anyone who looked or listened to the Minister’s speech on Monday knows that the turnaround he speaks about is not real – it cannot be felt, it cannot be seen, it cannot be touched, it cannot be smelt and it cannot be tasted.
There has been no turnaround of empty pockets, no turnaround of empty kitchen cupboards, no turnaround of empty wallets, no turnaround of job loss.
There has not even been a turnaround of the lackluster performance from government.
This government has spent the last three years and four budgets campaigning for the next election.
The Prime Minister tells us that he is not afraid to lose the next election. In the same breath, he says that Balisier house is run better than the PNM government.
I think everyone will agree with me that anything and everything is being run better than this government.
No amount of bravado or strong man politics can change the reality that citizens cannot afford to buy school books for their children, they cannot afford to put bread and johnny bake on the table.
Citizens are fed up of the blame, of the excuses, and they are completely fed up of the PNM.
Their strategy is not to fix the economy, not to help the small man, not to create jobs, not to uplift the country.
Their strategy is to stay in power and to keep enjoying luxury yachts, golf trips and mustangs.
They do not know or care about the pain that you feel; they do not understand the hardship that you face.
I have told you before no one will control me.
I am not for sale.
I am for all the people of Trinidad and Tobago and everywhere I hear the same there has been no turn around.
Instead of a turn around all we get from this government is a run around.
This is not the turnaround government this is the run around government
They run you in circles, they blame Kamla, blame the police, blame the public servants, the teacher, unions, economists and lord knows who they will blame next.
For three years later and four budgets all the people of this country have gotten from you is excuses and a run around.
This is the tragic and frightening crossroads we find ourselves today—a Government destabilising every single sector, destroying our citizens’ peace of mind, their livelihood, taking away their democratic rights and protections.
This Government has willingly breached its social contract with the people who elected them in good faith to serve their basic needs and rights to live in a stable, progressive democracy.
My fellow citizens have been repaid with betrayal, treachery, brutality, ingratitude and inhumanity by this Government of heartless, dangerous incompetence and hate.
My fellow country men and women, I speak directly to you. If you are really looking for a turnaround in this country, I say to you turn your face to the rising sun, let the shadows fall behind you.
The shadows of darkness, despair, destruction, wickedness and hardship inflicted by the PNM.
It is time to step out of the shadows of big business, elitism, crumbs and a government that continues to take you and your vote for granted.
Original quote by anonymous: if you want to turn things around, turn your face to the sun and let the shadows fall behind you.
But I expect the response of the Honourable Prime Minister to be the same one he has consistently given when we confront him with questions of alleged corruption in the Petrotrin shutdown and other deals—I expect him to say “Meet me outside on the Pavement.”
Threats, evasion and bullying, betrayal and ingratitude are all hallmarks of a coward, so nobody is intimidated by your empty threats.
I am a civilized leader, a leader that demonstrates compassion and strength through what I do, not just what I SAY.
THEREFORE meet me not on the pavement but on the campaign trail, today, this very second, we are ready and waiting for!
Meet us on the hustings, where I am sure you will continue your strange, rants about biscuit politics while we raise the bread and butter issues.
As I was walking to the parliament on Monday I saw an elderly man and his grandson holding a placard and today I will use the words on that placard to end my contribution.
As I told you before I stand by the people
I stand for the people and
I stand with the people
Today I will give voice to what was said on that placard and what is on the minds of every right- thinking citizen of this country.
Madam I quote “we will riot with we fingers come 2020 or before”
I say to you, call the elections now and Meet the people the Voting Booths!!