Obika: Rowley Govt misses the point of economic transformation with talk of Sandals, Drydocks and Smelters
UNC Senator Taharqa Obika is warning that the Rowley Government misses the point of economic transformation. He was responding to statements made by Minister Robert Le Hunte the Vice Chairman of the post pandemic Economic Planning Committee of the Keith Rowley Government.
Minister Le Hunte was interviewed on CNC3 by Hema Ramkissoon on 23rd April, 2020 and asked pointedly whether his government has made plans to diversify in four and half years. Senator Obika noted that in response the Vice Chairman focused on the Aluminum Smelter project of the past and two other failures as game changers in the now failed Sandals venture in Tobago and the yet to get off the ground La Brea Drydock facility.
On the question of agriculture as to why the government has not turned to agriculture the Vice Chair of the committee said that Dr Rowley has an advisor on Agriculture.
Senator Obika found it glaringly embarrassing that no mention was made of the work of the Minister of Agriculture when asked about food security. However, it came as no surprise to him that the Minster of Agriculture is not a member of the Economic Committee given his negative stance on food security measures in light of Covid-19. To compound matters, instead of speaking to supporting agricultural access roads, financing, and support for farmers the Minister trumpeted his government’s gifting of Aripo estate to a private sector businessperson.
Senator Obika noted that no mention was made of education as pertains to economic transformation. Obika indicated that economic transformation relies upon an educated and trained labour force based on job market expectations.
Senator Obika called for the Rowley Government to give an indication as to the date for the mid-year review. This was because, the mid-year review would present the nation with the best opportunity to know where we are. Additionally, the policy makers in the state sector would be able to sharpen policy directives to better position our national economy. Finally, decision makers in the private sector would be better informed as to where capital flows are required from such a review.
The Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturer’s Association under its new leadership has a goal of doubling manufacturing sector output in the medium term. One would expect the TTMA to be keen to have all stakeholders aware as to the current state of the economy.
Senator Obika waits to see what will be the initiatives promised in the first week of May by the Vice Chairman. However, given the three projects trumpeted at the beginning of the interview together with the track record of the Rowley Government over the past four years and seven plus months the bar is set very low.
Ultimately, the Rowley government was advised to pay attention to the needs of every sector of society and desist post-pandemic from romanticising on failed projects. The Rowley Government must know by now that the formula for economic transformation cannot be found in failed projects whether they be Sandals, Drydocks or Smelters.
The United National Congress has presented in addition to our Economic Transformation Plan a plan to address the economy and nation post covid-19. The time is upon the Rowley Regime to turn to the plans and policies laid down by the United National Congress to transform the economy and society that we love here in blessed Trinidad and Tobago.