Friday, January 19, 2018

Keith Rowley’s visionless leadership

Dr Keith Rowley should be made to appear before the JSC (Joint Select Commit­tee) that is enquiring into the inter-island ferry mess created by the present PNM (People's National Movement) Government.

There was no mess before the coming of the present Rowley administration. I agree with Senator Wade Mark that the debacle was deliberately contrived. I am also adding, and I do firmly believe that the Cabinet crea­ted this mess for the sole purpose of enriching a few select PNM cronies at the expense of the people of Tobago, specifically, and indeed the entire country.

What is happening in our country today exemplifies in microcosm, a global trend towards the “globalisation of poverty”. The disorganised, unplanned manner in which the PNM oversees our economy makes the present administration easy prey to IMF (International Monetary Fund)-inspired self-des­tructive policies. The Rowley Government's attempt to correct a “budget deficit” can be likened to trying to fill a bucket with a large hole at the bottom. No matter how much resources he pours into that bucket, most of it runs off into the coffers of the wealthy minority who are well poised to collect most, if not all, of the run-off.

His Government continues to borrow heavily, running up a huge national debt while the fabric of the nation paradoxically falls apart before our eyes since insignificant sums are spent into the real economy. Guided by the intrepid IMF and God knows who else, Dr Rowley, over the few months since he duped the population into supporting the election of his party, has managed to dismantle existing social protection programmes insidiously and to erode pre-existing gains in health and education.

A victim of narcissism, he is easy prey to those who prop his hollow ego—both locally and abroad. He echoes the banali­ties of economic theorists—self-centred deceivers —regurgitating their gospel of “economic stabilisation”. He so flatters himself that he ignores the reality that he is depressing the earnings of working people, the people he is there to protect, and in doing so fails to discern that his shenanigans are emaciating the State. Money goes directly or tan­gentially into the pockets of the wealthy minority—big business, the banking, financial and insurance sectors—and from each of these sectors, in turn, into the pockets of PNM politicians.

Each annual budget is not substantially different from those of governments led by the UNC (United National Congress), or on one occasion by the NAR (National Alliance for Reconstruction). Yet, in the latter two instances, one was able to see what our tax dollars were paying for. With the PNM the situation is different. One always has to ask where our tax dollars are going as there is little or nothing that one can see or touch that is “new” or “different” in the environment, and the Government itself is non-transparent, operates in secrecy and creates excuses for its failure to account for its actions.

Historically, “cost overruns and wastage” of tax dollars have been their hallmark. PNM cutbacks in spending on social programmes are nothing short of scandalous. Ours is a Prime Minister who insists that ordinary people should “tighten their belts” while his indiscriminate and excessive spending on prestige projects such as the Brian Lara Cricket Academy fills the coffers of a chosen few. Rowley happily spent milli­ons on 12 Cazabon paintings but imposes restraint upon a Children's Life Fund built from contributions by politicians with empathy.

In a classless display, he demands money owed to him, his Government selectively pays favoured contractors and is content to bankrupt others into insolvency and starvation. He finds money to travel almost each month for the 24 months he has been Prime Minister, but refuses to pay a pittance to contractors who transport our children to and from school. His spending is selective and designed to transfer wealth to the corporate private sector or advance the pecuniary interest of the PNM while starving workers at the lowest rung of the ladder.

He is a willing participant in the social apartheid that separates the “haves” in the North, from the “have-nots” in the Caribbean. He has installed one of our business elites as head of the regional campus of our university. He is contributing to formalising the Caribbean as the holiday playground of the wealthy who would punctuate their pursuit of greater personal wealth by taking time to sip rum and coke on our beaches—their playground. Mother nature, through Irma—and soon through Jose—reminds us how fragile and fickle a tourist industry can be.

What an unpatriotic and visionless excuse of a leader.