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Saturday, September 2, 2017

It was inevitable. While the PNM Government maintained silence in the face of this week’s spotlight issue—criminal charges against former PP Attorney General Anand Ramlogan—Prime Minister Keith Rowley still ended up making indirect reference to it just before he took off for his medical check-up yesterday.

UNC MP Roodal Moonilal’s constituents and other UNC supporters may not necessarily admire PM’s inference (or language) in his accusation that Moonilal’s statements about the Ramlogan issue were a “dog whistle” to incite tensions.

But in condemning the perceived actions and calling for others to reject it, Rowley appeared to be doing his own “whistling” which will hardly quell the pulling and tugging that’s being spawned.

PNMites will particularly hope PM returns reporting a clean bill of health after his 11-day trip since he’s expected to helm PNM for the next 36 months after Government’s two-year anniversary on Thursday coming.

Rowley won’t be here for the occasion. But Government’s two-year tenure carries sufficient markers—insufficient of them dynamic—for it not to be forgotten.

Certain PNM frontliners concede “some” areas have been beset by “fumbling, bumbling and wandering” in addition to the economic challenges.

Government has been off-message from assorted manifesto promises concerning national operations. Inspirational leadership deficits have affected implementation in key areas, including property tax.

Outreach has lagged. Distinctions haven’t fully been made (or likely understood) between “talking” and “communication”. It remains to unfold how effective the new communications team entering the PM’s office this month, will be in reversing negative trends of the last two years.

Consequently, Government now suffers a wider range of governance performance issues to be ranked upon. With subdued performance activity in Ministries from National Security and Works to Tourism and Trade, third-year challenges will call for tangible momentum in promised quarters before PNM is judged in the three elections arising, 2018-onwards.

Testimony to the biggest problem to date—the abysmal Tobago sea/air link—can be seen in the number of probes on the ferry situation.

By the Port Authority. Via Government—appointed investigator Christian Mouttet. Among Parliament’s Land and Infrastructure Committee. And following request by UNC’s Devant Maharaj to the Integrity Commission.

Rowley’s conceded concern that something was “wrong” with the current ferry arrangement—well beyond the bungled status of the Robert Le Hunte appointment—will particularly reinforce other negative public views on the matter. As Rowley would have known when he expressed his, even though he “jumped the gun” on his investigator’s findings. The crown jewel in Government’s lagging tourism thrust—Sandals, which Tobago born Rowley wants—stands to suffer from poor Tobago transport links.

The recent promise to Tobago stakeholders for a fast ferry in two/three months and a new vessel in two/three years confirms PNM’s recognition of looming Tobago House of Assembly and general elections two and three years off, slowing THA stocks, Tobago MPs performance—lacking, say PNMites—and political challengers gathering steam.

On a scale of one to 10—one being lowest—a capsule critique of Government performance from political analysts last Thursday yielded the following:

Dr Winford James: “Not more than five. They’ve tried to hold the economy together by ensuring people keep jobs—but they haven’t renovated the economy.”

Dr Bishnu Ragoonath: “Just above five. T&T continues moving, but not the way it should. They’ve tried to do a lot, but failing to do it properly without due diligence.”

Ex-Public Service head Reginald Dumas: “Six point five. They inherited serious problems—the question is how they handled it and the quality of governance and leadership.”

Dr Hamid Ghany: “Four. They failed to carry through on many manifesto plans and shortfall exists in what was published for the legislative agenda.”

Ex-PNM Minister Conrad Enill: “Eight, from the economic perspective. They kept T&T running in the face of difficult economic circumstances and didn’t allow adjustment burdens to fall on ordinary people.”

Ex PNM Minister Ralph Maraj: “One. They haven’t tackled T&T’s fundamental issues—the economy, social decay, institutional dysfunctionality. At a time T&T faces its most serious challenges we have a government lacking courage, commitment and conviction for the job.” By next year PNMites will also weigh in on party leadership with internal polls—an exercise ahead for the Opposition next year as well.

Apart from scrutiny from the Ramlogan matter, the Opposition, is also up for examination over the two-year period by virtue of proffered stance as alternative Government, and regarding its diligence in monitoring Government.

The Opposition, however, wasn’t elected to run T&T. A job so far, on which Government must be prepared to take its criticism as well as commendation without pouting.


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