As the election campaign begins to take centre stage, the odds are against the People’s Partnership government being returned to office whenever the elections are called sometime between the presen
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‘PNM propaganda undermining PP works’
Businessman Gerald Hadeed who readily admits to financially assisting all the major political parties in the country, is definitely in favour of campaign finance reform for political parties. The former chairman of Beacon Insurance and other companies, who some months ago took over the Communications portfolio in the PP Government, said everybody should be made to disclose their payments to parties.
The then prime minister Patrick Manning, Hadeed argued, knew he was going to lose the 2013 general election which was called before it was constitutionally due. He explains why Manning did so.
Q: Mr Hadeed, the Government has been plagued with the perception that it has not done anything since its inception. Is this a question of a lack of communication between the regime and the people?
A: (In his Rapsey Street, St Clair, office on Friday morning) Basically the Government has been sidetracked early in its tenure with a lot of negativity by commentators…
Are you blaming commentators for this perception and not the Government itself?
The Government made a few mistakes, I think not much to rant and rave about, but basically a government should be judged by its performance. If you look at the performance of the People’s Partnership administration under Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, there is no government in the history of T&T that has accomplished and done more in the period of time that they have been in office.
What’s your justification for saying that?
Well (hands resting on his legs)...well, since I became the Minister of Communications four months ago, I have had the opportunity to work with the Planning Minister Dr Tewarie and...
Stick a pin there, do you have a history of working in communications?
Really? Life is about communicating, not being a professional person working in a media house. I never had that experience, my experience communicating has been when I was in business. I built my business on communicating with the people, and the most important thing people want is the truth. As I said, when I was offered this job by the Prime Minister I said I will be communicating with the people 24/7. I will speak the truth, and let people know the truth about what their Government is doing for them.
That is a sore point with the detractors of the regime, who charge the Government with not speaking the truth on a number of issues. Do you believe they have a leg to stand on?
I would say no. All I can say since I have been in government is that the way the PM has been able to manage her Cabinet tells me everything is on board, well in hand, and over the next 15 months we have a plan to carry the country further forward. One must remember...and no one has ever asked Patrick Manning the question, why did he call early election?
Since I assume you have the answer, what is that reason?
And as a businessman I have analysed it, and I will tell you why, which he has not done correctly. And I would also give you the start of where our problems arose. (Adjusting his jacket).
PM Manning called early elections, and it is not that the country doesn’t...we have a lot assets, we have a lot of assets, what the country did not have was cash flow, and as a businessman if you do not have cash flow you are in trouble. You have to start selling down your assets to pay debts.
So this was part of the PP’s problems in delivering on the promises during the 2010 election campaign?
That was the start of their problems. In our manifesto, our first problem that we encountered was basically in the manifesto; we promised that we would give to 65-year-old people, and we were not able to do it immediately, simply because the country did not have the cash. Mr Manning had a catastrophe on his hands...a number of them.
He had all the unions on his back for pay increases for their members, he had all the debts to depositors of the Hindu Credit Union and the Clico...billions in both instances, millions to pay to government contractors. All of these people and more were just crowding on top of his shoulders. With no cash in hand, the easiest way for him was to call an election which he knew he would lose!
This Government came in and was saddled with a cash flow problem; we never imagined the magnitude of the debt the then government was owing to Tom, Dick, and Harrylal. We never had an iota of the situation until we got into office, and we do have to give the incoming PP Finance Minister Winston Dookeran credit for resuscitating our economy. How he managed to do that was a miracle, but we could not have implemented our programmes early in the administration because of this financial position.
So we were simply cleaning debts off the books; billions of outstanding money. And here it was so ironic. It took Minister Errol McLeod millions of dollars to settle 73 wage negotiations that were left hanging since 2004 to now. So the Government is now only getting into gear, besides all that they have done so far.
When you look at our PP manifesto that we produced for the 2013 local government elections (taking up a copy from his desk), you will see 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and when you go through this document it is unbelievable when you see what has been accomplished in such a short space of time.
If this Government is performing so creditably, what’s responsible still for this perceived underperformance?
Simple, Clevon, The Opposition PNM has a very powerful propaganda machinery...all they do is to run propaganda; they just let go one small piece of information, an outright untruth or a half-truth, and that goes through T&T like a dose of epsom salts. Can you remember, Mr Raphael, the 1981 Baptist letter which was unleashed on the public, where it was alleged that Karl Hudson-Phillips was going to poison people in their water supply in Maraval to gain ascendancy?
What happened in 2010 was similar to what occurred under Prime Minister ANR Robinson, who met a treasury which resembled the Sahara desert; not a drop of water in the treasury, and he had to take tough measures to bring back the country from the brink of disaster.
Mr Hadeed, aren’t you going overboard with these allegations against the PNM? I don’t want to sound as though I am giving you a forum to bash the PNM...
Mr Raphael (pushing back in his black leather swivel chair), these things can be substantiated, and if you want to, I can give you more. The same unions who were against the NAR are the same ones that you see railing up, going all over the place today…
Let me get personal with you, and if I remember correctly, didn’t you once describe yourself as the first acknowledged political financier?
Well, I wouldn’t quite say that. I put my money where my mouth is; If I am against the PNM I am against the PNM. If I think they are doing wrong, I will try to get a party to replace them. I was one of the architects of the NAR, surely I was, I was also with the ONR, but when a party and a government are going badly for the people, who include me and my grandchildren, we are part of the people.
Are you against proposals for party finance reform?
No. No. I agree with party finance reform. I believe everybody should declare how much money they put into parties one way or the other, that is good reform. I have put money into the ONR, the NAR and PNM at one stage.
Yes. As a matter of fact, I helped support Keith Rowley when Mr Manning was taking a turn in his tail. I helped him because I thought the PNM was going wrong. It was definitely going wrong under Patrick Manning. But, basically I was approached to assist in helping in one way or the other, which I helped. It was nothing too much, but I helped because I wanted to see a better T&T.
Mr Hadeed, you have a little less than 18 months to go before the next general election, do you think you have time to…?
(Anticipating the question, interrupting)
Oh yes, without a doubt...
That you would have the time to...
(Again interrupting, another adjustment of his tie) Don’t even ask that question. I told you don’t task that question. I could tell you right now, the People’s Partnership Government would win the 2015 election. I am sure about that. Positive. Basically we have coming on stream many programmes, and those would be articulated to the population over the next 15 months or so, which we have put in place.
Finally, Mr Hadeed, have you or any of your companies benefitted from the PP administration?
Absolutely not, in no form or fashion! Absolutely not! I can say as a matter of fact, the salary that I used to get that…I could hardly say that it is...I mean...I do believe that you ought to pay ministers better. If you do you would get a better quality of people coming into the politics.