Ferdinand Ferreira, a founding member of the People’s National Movement (PNM), is quoted in the media as saying that the party has always had difficulties raising money and its Political Leader Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, “is in a better position to negotiate with donors.” He further stated that if Rowley said the party got the money to construct the new five-storey building through fundraising initiatives, then “he will take him at his word.”
Ferreira is too experienced in the country’s politics to be so naïve in his conclusions.
There are two distinctive issues he has pronounced on which further adds to the entire question of the financing of this new Balisier House.
Firstly, exactly what does he mean by saying Rowley “is in a better position to negotiate with donors.” This is not a charitable cause that would require the PNM to be reaching out to “donors” to solicit donations; this is a major political project so just who will the PNM’s political leader be “negotiating with?”
If you are the Head of a conglomerate, a bank, a construction company or any other business entity and you receive a call from the Political Leader of a Party who happens to be the Prime Minister and he is “asking” you for such a donation, how would you respond, especially if your company/organization is a supplier of goods and services to the Government or if you are pursing getting such a contract from the Government?
And if you receive such a request from the PNM’s Political Leader, would it be, in your mind, from the PNM or the Head of Government?
This is too simple a response from Ferreira on the burning question on just how is the PNM raising the estimated $100 million that some are saying is what this new building will cost.
Rowley is on record in 2018 as saying that when he became the Political Leader in 2010, the PNM was owing its bankers over $4 Million, PTSC $800,000.00 and TTT had another bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In 2015 when the PNM was elected into Government, had the Party already paid off these huge bills in addition to keeping its secretariat “running?”
Ferreira says that “the party has always had difficulties raising money” but he will take Rowley’s word that the Party “got money” for the new five-storey building next to Balisier House “through fundraising initiatives.”
The major fund-raising venture by the PNM for this project has been a raffle.
Is the PNM telling the country that the Party was able to sell 1,000,000 tickets at $100 each to raise this type of money?
And while the building is under construction, how will the PNM finance its day-to-day operations when it is completed? The cost of utilities (air conditioning, electricity, telephone, maintenance), staffing and taxes for a property that size will cost at a minimum between $300,000 – $500,000 per month. Where will the Party be getting the millions needed annually for its operations?
Why the continued deafening silence on the many unanswered questions with regards to the financing of this new PNM Balisier House. Is there something that the Party is hiding from the country?
It is not by any means a private building being constructed… not when seven of its elected officers hold senior Cabinet positions in the country, including that of Prime Minister!
The Government is not an arm of the PNM.
No one will disagree that fund raising is a necessary element for any political party to operate and run smoothly and effectively. In this instance, the PNM occupies the corridors of Government and therefore the country must have a clear and transparent account of all the funds raised and that they are properly accounted for with total public exposure and always subject to public scrutiny and oversight.
This deafening silence must end now! It is time that the Finance Intelligence Unit and the CTU of the TTPS step in and demand answers to the question of the party’s fund-raising exercises.
Commentary by Capil Bissoon
April 3, 2023