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Will the real Keith Rowley, please stand up

By Capil Bissoon

Anyone trying to find out what policy options Keith Rowley would pursue if he were elected prime minister will most certainly run up against a blank wall.
Is he for greater divestment of state enterprises as a means of citizen empowerment? What is the balance between public and private sector involvement in the economy which his government would adopt? What would be Dr Rowley’s new crime-fighting strategies that would dramatically reduce crime? How would he improve the ailing health sector? How exactly would he prepare us for the customer-focused, knowledge-driven society of the future? How would he reduce our ballooning food import bill? What exactly would he do with children in situations of abuse and exploitation at home?
These are just some of the questions which Keith Rowley has yet to answer to a GATE-educated population.
Clearly Dr Rowley feels that he does not have to answer and that we will elect him in total absence of a policy framework for governing our country. Being thin on policy has always been his strategy.
He was given the leadership of the PNM without differentiating himself, policywise, from his predecessor. He became political leader of the PNM solely by criticising the Manning administration for corruption, arrogance and by being the baddest “raging bull” Rottweiler on the political block.
How does his policy prescriptions differ from Patrick Manning’s? By very little; in fact by zero. We now know that by adopting wholesale Vision 2020 he has in fact co-opted Mr Manning’s policies lock, stock and barrel.
Is this laziness on Dr Rowley’s part? Or is it that he cannot be bothered by the hard work of providing a framework for governing a complex, multi-ethnic, inherently cynical, constantly evolving society burdened by escalating crime, a pervasive carnival mentality, and a PNM culture of near total dependency on the state?
The only difference between Mr Manning’s PNM, on the one hand, and Dr Rowley’s PNM on the other, is a change in the leader. End of story.
Can we then assume that the only difference between a Kamla Persad-Bissessar-led government, and one run by Keith Rowley will be merely a change in who leads?
Will we be simply changing a woman who has matured immensely on the job of being Prime Minister for a man who is untested in the art of governance?
That is why we are yet to hear any policy differences from Dr Rowley on a range of issues, from health, education, crime, food production, culture and any of the myriad challenges facing us.
His campaign, like that which led him to succeed as PNM leader, consists mainly of criticising the UNC and Kamla Persad-Bissessar in particular.
We are yet to hear any policy prescriptions which differ from Kamla’s.
With Eric Williams we knew it was Massa Day Done and control of the commanding heights of the economy. With Nelson Mandela in South Africa it was dismantling apartheid. With Barack Obama in the US it was creating a more equal society. With the Tea Party in the US it is seeking the interest of the rich in the hope that the wealth will trickle down. In Britain the conservatives adopt a pro-business, market-driven, less-government approach to administration.
With Dr Rowley we simply do not know and perhaps will never know.
We do not even know which parts of his “plagiarised” Vision 2020 document he will discard and which he will keep.
Vision 2020 calls for reducing our food import bill by ten per cent. Part of the strategy for achieving this goal will be the creation of large commercial farms like the 200-acre state-owned farm at Tucker Valley in Chaguaramas. Is this still Dr Rowley’s agricultural policy?
Vision 2020 on page 119 talks without specifying about dealing with “children in situations of abuse and exploitation’’. Will Dr Rowley care to elaborate?
Vision 2020 speaks about a target of US $37K annual per capita GNP by 2020. This according to the document “seems plausible since it requires an average growth of nine per cent per annum to that year’’. Given recent developments in global finance and the creation of a green economy in 2015, is this still Dr Rowley’s target? Maybe it is.
And worse Vision 2020 states on page 230 that “World Gas to Liquids (Trinidad Ltd) will diversify the use of natural gas in Trinidad and Tobago and add value to natural gas.” It talks on page 234 of the Petrotrin Gas Optimisation Programme and an Alutrint Aluminium Smelter Complex at Union Estate and an Alcoa Aluminium and Downstream project. It speaks on page 232 of Essar Steel Iron and Steel Integrated Complex and an LNG Train X. Are these still on the cards in a new Rowley government. Will Malcolm Jones be resurrected to restart the failed and costly GTL project?
Or could it be that Dr Rowley is too lazy to be bothered by the details of Vision 2020 and has just adopted it hoping that some of us will not be bothered to read it.
Dr Rowley and his associates have already concluded that come 2015 they will just assume the reins of government. They have adopted an air of arrogance and talk as if victory is theirs.
T&T, if it wishes to become like Canada (my second home) in terms of developed country status, must demand of Dr Rowley and his associates specifics of their nonexistent road map for taking our country forward.
By the standards used in developed countries Keith Rowley has so far achieved a failing grade.
Criticising Kamla and the UNC alone will not do the trick –– not in 2015.
Will the real Keith Rowley please stand up!

• Capil Bissoon is a Trini-Canadian
looking on at T&T politics from a distance
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