Last night we listened in vain as the Prime Minister attempted to explain away his government’s first year of failure and their lackluster performance.
Instead of recognising the stark reality that his government has failed to deliver, we heard excuses, we heard shameless propaganda, we heard repeated complaints about the impact of low energy prices and the effect it has on the Rowley Administration’s cash flow and we heard continued blame on the Opposition.
We did not hear any vision or plan to improve the lives of our citizens, to deal with debts owed to public servants, to meaningfully diversify our economy or to boost low morale in the country.
The address to the nation confirmed what many have been speculating for quite some time now, that the Rowley administration is not working, has stalled our economy and is ill-equipped to lead the nation forward.
Let us look at where my Government found ourselves when we took office in 2010. We faced the collapse of Clico which resulted in a $22 billion problem. We had similar problems with debts owed to contractors and unpaid Vat refunds that the Rowley Administration points to. The debt we inherited was almost three times the amount Keith Rowley says he inherited.
If the revised figures quoted by the Minister of Finance in his mid-year review are to be believed, then between September 7 2015 and today the Rowley Administration has collected more than $60 billion.
Why then is PM Rowley complaining? Why hasn’t more been done to turn the economy around? Our reserves are strong with US$5.3 billion in the HSF (after they withdrew US$400 million of the money we left) and US $10 billion in foreign exchange reserves.
When I took over Government, I did not sit and blame the previous Government. I rolled up my sleeves on the first day and started the process of turning this country around.
Within our first year we accomplished many things, including establishment of the Ministry of the People, establishment of the Children’s Life Fund and began providing funds for life saving surgeries, delivery of laptops to all Form One students, re-introduction of the Land for the Landless programme and raising of the minimum wage and pension benefit and much more. We also began the long process of settling wage disputes some of which were more than three years old at the time.
Many of our initiatives were undertaken to improve the lives of the working poor and to establish a proper social safety net; but the Rowley Administration appears intent on ending many of these programmes.
We agree there is a natural gas shortage that is impacting the economy, however, in response to the volatility in the energy sector, we took action to increase natural gas production by changing the related laws 14 times to provide incentives to companies to invest and drill. That strategy worked. That is why today we can anticipate a 30% increase in natural gas supply in 2017 which will come from BP and EOG. The massive Juniper project has its origin under our Government.
Last night there was a deafening silence from PM Rowley with respect to his failure to deliver manifesto promises upon which he was elected.
He has failed to justify why he has taken food off tables, robbed children of educational opportunities, deprived families of a means of livelihood.
What was his message to the army of unemployed?
What was his message to parents who have to take loans to buy books for their children?
What was his message for the poor and the less privileged who no longer have food cards and milk money for their babies?
What is his message on the Commission of Enquiry Report into Las Alturas which indicates that high ranking officials of his government, Noel Garcia and Faris Al-Rawi were culpable?
What is his message on the return of Marlene McDonald who is still under investigation by the Integrity Commission?
Why did PM Rowley not explain that the $20 Billion debt facing Petrotrin is a result of decisions made by former Chairman Malcolm Jones and former Board Member Andrew Jupiter? Under the Rowley Administration Andrew Jupiter is Chairman and a Chaconia Medal Gold recipient and the Rowley Administration through manoeuvring by its Attorney General dropped a civil suit to hold Malcolm Jones accountable.
PM Rowley did not justify spending $100 million for a stadium that is structurally flawed and why paintings are more important than salaries for the public servants and compensation for families of fallen protective services in these trying economic times.
The PM did not explain why his government has a policy of bringing half-baked, hurriedly prepared, poorly understood and not well thought out legislation to Parliament and why they consistently refuse to work with the Opposition on matters of substance to improve legislation.
Unlike the Rowley adminstration, my Government had a plan which we outlined in our manifesto during the 2015 election campaign. We recognised that we faced challenges and we recognised that we had to be innovative in dealing with these challenges.
We recognise that there are places where adjustments have to be made but we must protect the working poor and provide opportunities to diversify and build our economy. However, the Rowley Administration has no plan, no vision and no ability to get things done.
I want to warn PM Rowley that all the money in the world won’t solve problems if you have no plan, initiative or imagination.
We have experienced a year of broken promises and the Prime Minister offered no hope that anything would change.
If the Government is not working for you, then they are working against you.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
12th September 2016