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Corruption our major challenge
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has admitted that the major challenge facing his Government is the extent of corruption in Trinidad and Tobago.
Rowley made the comment on the Barber Shop programme on i955 FM yesterday, as he was asked by host John Benoit to reflect on how the People’s National Movement, which will celebrates its second year in office in two weeks’ time, had performed so far.
Rowley said if he were to leave the job today, he would list the extent of corruption in this country as his major challenge.
“If I leave this job today and I have to write a script as to what was my major challenge as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago during my tenure I will write simply the extent of corruption in Trinidad and Tobago,” Rowley said.
“That is the biggest challenge that the Government faces because from the top to the bottom there are people and instances of corrupt practice which makes public service, service in the country more expensive and it makes it less efficient.
“Everybody wants a bit more than they are entitled to and some people are so entrenched in it that they demand it as a right and if you interfere with the arrangements that are in place they have some significant push back and this Government is prepared to face that down.”
Overall, Rowley said he believes his Cabinet has “done reasonably well” so far.
“Given where we started, given where we are, I would not want to say mired, but given where we are I think by and large we have done reasonably well because it has been a very, very difficult situation.
“I don’t know that any other situation like this ever existed, where a new Government comes into office meeting the circumstances that we met and having to treat with it and not to mention the expectations.”
Rowley said the most significant thing to note was that the PNM came into office “without the resources to address much of the expectations.”
Unlike the previous People’s Partnership administration that made a career of giving, he said his Government has had “to manage and do more with less”
“We are not a Government that can give because there is not much there to give, it is a Government that has to manage and do more with less, so that does not give you the opportunity to be popular by giving,” Rowley said.
“The last government made a career of saying ‘look I give you this, I give you that, I give you this, I give you that’ even if we wanted to govern like that we can’t, we are the opposite, in fact in many instances we are forced to take things downwards because when you lose $20 billion in the budget, in your pocket, that $20 billion is not just a number, it’s not just money, it is opportunities that people would have had if that money was available,” he said.
The PM said he believes the Cabinet has been doing “pretty well” with the “very delicate balancing act” that is needed to manage the country.
“We have been doing a very delicate balancing act and I think the Cabinet by and large has done pretty well even though some people might have been affected negatively at the personal level, but overall the majority of people have maintained some opportunity, we have not engaged in any mass lay-offs in the public sector, we still manage the public sector and the private sector where there is still considerable waste and significant corruption,” Rowley said.
UNC: Happening under his watch
In an immediate response to Rowley’s statement yesterday, United National Congress (UNC) chairman David Lee said the PM’s words were “ironic” given the current situation with respect to the ferry fiasco and inter-island sea bridge.
Saying there is alleged wrongdoing taking place within Rowley’s own Cabinet, Lee said: “It is ironic that Dr Rowley, the honourable prime minister, is talking about corruption because right under his eyes and within his present Government there is alleged wrongdoing. And to quote the prime minister’s words ‘it appears to have something crooked’ in the sea bridge fiasco with the ferries.”
Lee added: “I am very surprised that Dr Rowley, when the Galicia was taken out of service by his Government, he did not really manage from a personal level as the prime minister to ensure that the sea bridge really came about to ease the people of Trinidad and Tobago and especially Tobagonians in his place of birth,” Lee said.
“I really would have thought that Dr Rowley, as Prime Minister, would have managed and ensured that the sea bridge issue would have been dealt with in a very timely and very transparent way, which did not happen under his watch, so I am very surprised that he is talking about corruption.”