PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar congratulated Trade Minister Vasant Bharath for his Ministry’s TT BIZLink scheme winning a top United Nations (UN) award for innovative governance. News of the win came at the UNC’s Monday Night Forum at Tunapuna Hindu Primary School, in the St Augustine constituency where Bharath was once MP.
“I want to pay tribute to Vasant Bharath. Under his Ministry, we won the award which he spoke about earlier,” said Persad-Bissessar. She also paid tribute to Bharath’s father, Dr John Bharath, who had earlier stood up to be acknowledged by the public. Noting that Dr Bharath was also a former St Augustine MP, Persad-Bissessar said he is fondly remembered for having once stood up in the path of bulldozers sent under a past PNM administration to protect the interest of his then constituents.
Earlier, Bharath told the audience that he had just received news of the UN award being made to TT. At that, the crowd erupted in loud cheering and a din made by vuvuzuelas, conch-shell and bells, drowning out Bharath as he was speaking.
He said the 2013 United Nations Public Service Forum awards are given for five heads — anti-corruption, delivery, participation, ICT-use and gender-responsiveness — with each head awarded in each of five geographical areas.
Bharath said his Ministry’s “TT BIZLink” programme won first place for the ICT award for Latin America and the Caribbean, formally known as “Promoting whole-of-Government approaches in the Information Age”.
Earlier in his address, Bharath told supporters that three years ago, during campaigning for the 2010 general election, as the area’s outgoing MP, he asked constituents to vote for the Congress of the People’s (COP) Prakash Ramadhar to be the new MP, so as to help remove the scourge of the former PNM administration.
“After three years, I am more than convinced that we made the right decision,” Bharath said adding that the Peoples Partnership (PP) Government ended the abuse of the Treasury. He recalled that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on the Tarouba Stadium which to date, is not finished and of no public use. He lamented the high cost of the “Emperor’s Palace” — the official residence built by former prime minister Patrick Manning — outfitted with bed sheets costing $3,000 each and $3 million in drapes.
Bharath reminded listeners of the former PNM regime’s $2 million flag, $500 million spent on a “feasibility study” for a rapid rail and secret scholarships given to PNM sycophants and supporters. “All this occurred while children went to bed with hungry bellies and women gave birth in hospital corridors,” he lamented.
Bharath said while the PP Government had inherited an economy on the verge of bankruptcy and suffering contraction, today TT has one of the strongest economies in the region and the world. In contrast to TT’s thriving economy, he said the USA and Japan have had negative growth; Cyprus, Greece, Portugal and Ireland are on the brink of bankruptcy and Grenada and Jamaica have sought help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This country has good growth and low inflation, with $10 billion in foreign reserves and $30 billion in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, he boasted. Bharath said in contrast to criticisms of a World Bank report on the ease of doing business, his Ministry is reducing the time to set up a business from 43 days to three days, and the time to clear a container from the port from 20 days to 24 hours. He noted a new bill amending the Customs Act now imposes a $600,000 fine on any crooked customs officer.
To learn more about the award visit: www.unpan.org/2013unpsa