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Time to get cracking, Dr Rowley

Monday, November 16, 2015

The time has arrived! Two months going on three after being elected, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his government have to begin demonstrating to the national community that the effort to successfully confront entrenched criminality has begun in a meaningful manner and that the Government has at least initiated the outlines of the economic transformation promised during the election campaign. 

The notion of honeymoon periods for governments taking office was conceived of in more romantic times; those days of “wine and roses” have long gone. We are into an era in which the public is impatient and needs only the delivery of goods and services.  

The population will no longer be placated by worn-out promises; the politics of delivery has taken over all else; the society, the age is material. Stressed-out living through criminal penetration and the constant threat of a take-over of the society by the criminal culture have been relentless, they have worn-down patience and opened raw nerves.

So relentless have the times been on optimism and excitement of a new dawn that public sensibilities to so many things have been dulled. A video shown on national television of a big burly man kicking the stuffing out of a petit and helpless young woman, the attacker alternatively using a length of steel pipe to deliver blows on the woman from his six-foot, 200 pound-plus frame, arouses not the humanity of an attorney, but his cynical self concerned only with defending his client. Against a public outcry of brutishness he says it’s a “storm in a tea cup.”

If the raison d’être’ of Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s government was “spend, spend, spend” no matter where it came from and how it was to be replenished—once populist cries were silenced, the expectation of the new government is that it must open-up possibilities to “earn, earn, earn.” 

All that matters now is for the economy to be taken to the point in the short to medium term where workers, managers, investors et al can earn the right to productive and comfortable living and government through sensibly designed and managed policies and programmes can look after those genuinely on the margin and in need of assistance.

Prime Minister Rowley this is my first alert call to action. National Security Minister Brigadier General Edmund Dillon, your military career, academic qualifications, clinical contemplations about reconstructing the national security architecture for it to have vigour and smarts to eliminate the criminal element and your obvious sincere intentions are impressive.

However, action is what is required in the short term to ensure there is sufficient of a community of goodwill that will survive to benefit from a restructured anti-crime architecture. To quote former Prime Minister and now acknowledged senior statesman, the inimitable Basdeo Panday: “Performance beats ole talk any day.”

Finance Minister Colm Imbert, your interim budget could have been expected given the maddening extremes of Kamla Persad-Bissessar to call the election mere weeks before the budget was due and your well-placed jabs at the opponents were incisive and well-deserved.

However, Minister, your preparations for making mid-term budgetary adjustments and developing a comprehensive 2016-2017 programmatic plan are what matters now. Moreover Minister, you have a responsibility to give an indication to the population of the direction to be adopted if you are to buy some time for you and your government. Remembering that “patience is wearing thin.”

Similarly, the economic advisory team led by Dr Terrence Farrell, whatever its state of establishment and readiness, cannot expect a long and leisurely time for research and reflection. As Lloyd Best used to say, no rehearsing on stage; the lights have been turned on and the audience is awaiting the performance.   

In the instance of Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi and his support minister Stuart Young, it is recognised that there has to be thorough research and building of cases, if that be the realistic need, before the deeds of those who raided the Treasury and engaged in less-than-acceptable dealings and spending are made known in a systematic manner and with supporting data.  

However, here again the political society is not going to be overly patient before the conclusion is drawn either that the campaign allegations were froth, or that having attained government, Prime Minister Rowley and his team are comfortable with playing the blame game to no conclusive end, scoring political points being the objective.  

These are not realities created by this columnist, they have been generated by the very governments and political parties which have been in and out of office over the last 30 years. Meanwhile, the police seem not to have a definitive word to any major alleged act of criminality and or impropriety.

These are characteristics of a helpless political culture in need of root and branch transformation but seemingly incapable of achieving it. Stagnation has set in over the decades; but there remains the thread of hope amongst the optimistic that the country is too blessed physically with much that is necessary for development and with too much talent amongst the human resource to fail.

However, economic theory/logic advises that prolonged stagnation and failure to grasp opportunities will naturally subside into decline and chaos. So yes, while it may seem that this is a premature call to arms, the reality though is that the times are even more urgent than they were in 2010.   


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