Keith and Kamla on corruption

 

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Category: Trinidad Politics Date: 26 Nov 00


As December 11 - election day draws closer, Ira Mathur explores, in this the first of a two-part series, how MP for Diego Martin West, Keith Rowley and MP for Siparia, Kamal Persad-Bissessar feel about the issues of corruption and the economy.

 

Mudslinging and corruption

 

Keith Rowley:

I disagree that our campaign is about mudslinging. If you have been following the PNM campaign you will see the main issue is that of right and wrong. I have heard people say: “Yes, the UNC thief, but at least I get something out of it, too.”

 

I can’t support that. The Government’s role is not “thief some and give me some.” Every night I am showing our population how our money is being misspent; how laws are being broken; checks and balances removed so money can be siphoned by ministers and bag men.

 

What I find most interesting in the UNC’s claims of performance is what they studiously stay away from:

  1. No talk about their flagship airport constructed at over a billion dollars. They are distancing themselves from it because of the scandal.

  2. No talk of the billion-dollar water for all project.

  3. No talk of the beauty show costing $100 million. They say it cost $79 million but add the THA $10 million and the Chaguaramas Development Authority’s $12 million and that is $100 million.

I don’t know any greater issue in this election other than to deal with the unsuitability of this present team on the grounds they have had the opportunity to manage our affairs and have appropriated and misspent public funds.

 

Kamla Persad-Bissessar:

I disagree that the UNC campaign has been mudslinging. We are making the real and important comparison of regimes from ‘91 to ‘95 and ‘95 to 2000. We are dealing with the indicators of good governance - bread and butter issues. We are focused on improving the quality of life for our people in every area - jobs, health, education, crime, housing.

 

The PNM is mudslinging - going beyond the grave to 1956, to dig for achievements, but those offering themselves to the population, Manning, Rowley, Imbert, are the same people who were dismal failures between ‘91 to ‘95 when they had a chance to govern.

 

The PNM has no leg to stand on. They are crying “corruption” to distract from the real bread and butter issues on which they have no idea on how to run the country. They have nothing to bring to the electorate so they raise the bogey of corruption, thinking if they shout loud enough people will believe them.

 

Anyone who appropriates public funds will face the law and like the Prime Minister has said repeatedly to Rowley, bring the evidence. But they haven’t, because that’s all they are, allegations, hot air because they have no plans on how to run the country.

 

The PNM has no moral authority to talk about corruption. Remember their famous “One Dollar Company,” “Project Pride”, and “Pegasus” - $100 million was spent with nothing to show for it? Remember the Tesoro and the O’Halloran scandals? What did they do about that? Nothing. I can’t answer individual allegations. Let them bring the evidence and it will be dealt with. We have introduced the Integrity Commission and other legislation to deal with corruption at the highest levels.

 

The economy

 

Keith Rowley:

After spending $64 billion, the UNC is bound to be in a position to point to a few things of value. They are taking the credit for doing what they are supposed to do - paving roads, and hurriedly building schools at twice the cost to get them built before the election.

 

If the economy has been growing, its because they met it like that - it has been growing since 1993. They are taking credit for taking no action. The UNC has done nothing to adjust the economy. The economy hummed along on its own. You can’t point out a single initiative to say this caused the economy to grow. When Selby Wilson was Minister of Finance he introduced VAT, cut the Public Servants pay. When Wendell Mottley came in, he floated the currency, repaid the public debt. What did Brian Kuei Tung do?

 

The best thing he did was to leave it alone, as he stated in his last budget. He owes 99 per cent of the success of the economy to the fact it was left alone.

It would have done better if there was a housing construction project, instead of a beauty show. More employment would have been created and the decline in agriculture would have been halted if they didn’t mess up Caroni’s crop.

 

They take credit for the minimum wage, but the Act has been in place since 1976, and gives the Minister of Finance the power to adjust it according to economic growth. That is all they have done. Anyway, seven dollars today, might not buy you the same four dollars did five years ago, because it doesn’t take inflation into account, so that is naked political misrepresentation.

 

Kamla Persad-Bissessar:

It is ridiculous to say the economy went on autopilot. It has prudently and actively been managed by the Prime Minister, and the Ministers of, Finance, Trade, and Foreign Affairs. All Manning did was go to Hong Kong and fire by fax, and fire the Speaker, and try to get rid of the Speaker.

 

Even when the oil prices were low we were able to stabilise the economy and put it on a path of growth, so it’s not true to say higher oil prices alone are responsible for our growing economy.

 

The economic indicators say it all and are there for all to see.  Inflation is down, unemployment dropping rapidly, investment is up, savings up, and there is a steady growth in the economy.

 

If you take the statistics given in the Central Bank Quarterly Digest at the end of ‘99 and subtract it from the ‘95 situation - 60,000 jobs have been created. The Prime Minister has since revealed that up-to-date statistics show an additional 17,000 jobs have been created. We can’t go backwards now as a nation.

 

Next week: Race, education and an appeal to voters from both parties.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur