As the People’s National Movement (PNM) gets set to celebrate its seventh year in office, three political scientists have rendered a detailed analysis that is harsh and unforgiving, as they assessed what they believe to be non-performance by the Government.
In rating the PNM’s performance in the last year, Dr Shane Mohammed and Dr Bishnu Ragoonath found that the ruling party had failed to deliver to the population, and as a result had no choice but to give them a rating of five and six respectively.
Although Winford James was also critical of the PNM’s performance, he declined to rate the party’s achievements.
Tomorrow (August 10), the PNM will mark the second anniversary of its second term under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
It will also herald the party’s seventh year in office under Rowley’s administration.
The PNM re-assumed office after the party captured 22 of the 41 seats in the 2020 general election, toppling their main rival, the United National Congress, which secured 19 seats.
Re-elected as the COVID-19 pandemic began heightening, the Government in the last 12 months has had to deal with a litany of issues – among them a stagnated economy, over 4,000 COVID deaths, an increase in unemployment, rising crime and murders, closure of businesses, floodings, 9,000 pupils scoring less than 50 per cent in the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam, mounting debts owed to contractors, craters in the $40 billion road networks and citizens not having an adequate supply of pipe borne water.
In battling the effects of a faceless virus, the Government has had to struggle from one crisis to another to hold the country together.
Sharing their views on the Government’s performance, Ragoonath, James and Mohammed drew two conclusions—the PNM has not been communicating with the masses and their delivery of service has left much to be desired.
Ragoonath: Need for clear action on Government’s part
Giving the Government “a six” out of 10, Ragoonath said in the last year, the Government has been faced with economic and psychological challenges.
“So economically, there is a challenge. I know the Government has a financial crunch on its hands. But psychologically, there is the whole challenge of crime. People are literally living in fear. There seems to be a situation that the Government is not managing the society as good as it portrays itself to have been doing, notwithstanding the supposedly high points of the economy,” Ragoonath said.
He said the revenues collected from rising oil prices have not been filtering down to the people.
Since assuming office, Ragoonath noted there has been a big “disconnect between the Government and the citizenry at large.” He said in some of the decision-making processes, people are not being consulted.
One nagging issue the Government has been unable to arrest, he said, was the increase in crime and murders.
In the run-up to the 2015 general election, Ragoonath said, Rowley had boasted of having a comprehensive crime plan.
Fast track seven years later, where Ragoonath said there seems to be no end to the murders, home invasions and robberies by the criminal elements, who have citizens living in unease and fear.
From January to July last year, the country recorded 206 murders.
However, for the same period this year, there have been 300-plus killings.
“We are looking for a record number of murders for this year. That does not give the country any solace with the Prime Minister and National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds simply telling us...is how you parent your children. There needs to be clear action on the part of the Government. In all, when we talk about the perspective and crime and economics, there leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the governance of the country over the last year.”
The announcement by Rowley last month that Government may put a cap on the fuel subsidy at $1 billion, Ragoonath said, will also trigger further financial hardships for low and middle-income earners.
While Ragoonath credited the Government for keeping the country afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, he expressed concerns about proper “accountability and transparency” regarding monies spent and grants provided to citizens who were impacted during the lockdown measures.
He said the Government has to stop blaming the UNC for their shortcomings and start taking responsibility for their actions.
“That, to me, is one of the biggest challenges with the Government today, that they are not taking responsibility but rather seem to be looking for excuses and trying to put blame on someone else.”
James: Tobagonians displeased with PNM’s governance
James also criticised the PNM for failing to do anything significant in the last 12 months.
“You cannot find anything that is memorable, except, of course, the management of COVID. If you ask people what has the PNM done… it is going to be hard to find.”
James said seven years after taking over the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway from the UNC, the project is still incomplete, while the population awaits feedback on the status of the Toco Ferry Port which was announced in their first term in office.
He wondered if it was a wise decision on the Government’s part to shut down Petrortin’s refinery in light of the $8 billion windfall the country recently received as a result of the spike in oil prices and energy products on the global market.
“I think some people have regretted that decision was taken. Some people felt that holding onto Petrotrin might have been a saving grace for us now.”
James said one issue that must be still weighing heavy on Rowley’s mind is the crushing 14-1 defeat the PNM faced to the Progressive Democratic Party in last December’s Tobago House of Assembly election.
The results, James said, sent a strong message to the party that people were displeased with their style of governance and wanted change.
“This, for me, was one of the PM’s biggest mistakes. There are things he (Rowley) did that alienated the voters in Tobago. He personally may have helped to ruin the chances of a return or continuation in power of the PNM in Tobago.”
As a leader and Prime Minister, James said Rowley also has to be mindful of choosing his words carefully.
“On the hustings in Tobago, he was quite abrasive. I think that is his personality and it is difficult for some people to change their essence if that is how they are.”
One matter that has left a sour taste in people’s mouths, James said, was Rowley’s confirmation in March that he was the “high-ranking official” who met with then-Police Service Commission chairman Bliss Seepersad at President’s House and provided her with information with respect to then-police commissioner Gary Griffith.
Following the receipt of this information, Seepersad withdrew the Merit List (which had placed Griffith as the lead candidate for the position of CoP) and invited the commission to reopen the vetting process and to agree to the appointment of a probe by Justice Stanley John into the administration of FULs by the TTPS.
“I am sure Rowley angered a few people and lost a little favour in the way he handled the situation. However, there are issues that still have to be cleared up.”
James said Rowley provided no explanation as to why he lost confidence in Griffith, leaving the population hanging.
Asked to outline the PNM’s achievements, James said, “I don’t know if you can call legislation that is passed by a simple majority an achievement. When you look at the level of Parliament, not much has been achieved.”
He also agreed that Government continues to have a communication problem with the population.
“I don’t think the Government communicates well. I don’t think they see their job as communicating. They see their job as leaders of the country…as an outfit that was put in power to make the right decisions but the people are still left outside of that process.”
However, there is no doubt in James’ mind that the PNM has lost some of its supporters over the last few months.
“I think people are not impressed by what is passing for governance and government in the country. I don’t know if the nation is in a comfortable place.”
Expressing concern for the growing unemployment rate, James said too many people have nothing to do.
“We are seeing the effects of idle hands every day,” he said.
James, however, commended the Government for providing COVID grants to people who were hard hit by the health regulations.
Continues on Page 9
“The Government did splendidly despite the fact that there was heavy corruption by you know who… the party hacks that they employed.”
He said there is a political culture in T&T that prevents people from bringing Governments to account.
James opted not to identify which minister performed or not.
“The question is whether they have performed satisfactorily.”
One minister James singled out as an upcoming performer is Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales who has been trying to fix the country’s nagging water woes.
“Marvin stands out. You can see what he is doing and you could see how conscientious he is. However, I don’t think this is a matter only for Marvin. It’s the entire Cabinet. I am particularly concerned about the extent to which people are satisfied with the Government and whether they are satisfied with the progress being made or the lack of progress.”
PNM collapsing on the job
Mohammed gave the PNM a “five” out of ten rating on their overall performance.
“They are barely passing in their performance rating because in terms of accountability and to effectively communicate with the people of T&T, they have been continuously been failing in this regard.”
In many areas, Mohammed said, the PNM has been collapsing on the job.
He identified agriculture as a critical sector the Government continues to neglect, stating that farmers still lacked basic amenities.
“The Government has not put in place a robust agriculture structure. All now we should have been growing our own rice and not relying on Guyana to feed the population. It seems as though we have learned nothing coming out of this pandemic almost 30 months later. When will we become self-sufficient in food?”
Mohammed urged Agriculture Minister Kazim Hosein to become more proactive, visible and vocal in carrying out his job.
Mohammed said while COVID affected the world, nations were able to benefit by simply reinventing the wheel and using technology to their advantage.
He said all the Government has been doing is providing lip service and demonstrating an attitude of “they don’t have to.”
Despite losing popularity in 2020, Mohammed said, Rowley managed to win the election.
“I think Dr Rowley rode the wave of COVID-19 and used this as their main selling point to secure another term in office. But COVID is almost over and what I believe is the biggest flaw in this administration is multitasking and multi-governance approaches.”
Mohammed said while the PNM wants “to do great things” in their second term “they have not been achieving simple things.”
In assessing Rowley’s performance, Mohammed said the PM is no pushover.
“I think the Prime Minister is a strong man. He has the fortitude and some level of resilience in holding the Government together.”
Mohammed gave Rowley a seven rating.
While some people describe Rowley as abrasive at times, Mohammed said “Yes, people talk about his ability to fly off the rockers. What you see is what you get.... he is not pretentious...there is no orchestration or choreography. He makes no apologies for what he says.”
However, he said, many of Rowley’s ministers have not been delivering and are only heard within the confines of the Senate or Parliament.
“It’s like they have been sworn to silence.”
Focusing on the economy, Mohammed said Finance Minister Colm Imbert has not been able to generate a level of vigorousness and attractiveness to investors and businessmen.
“The Government has turned the ease of doing business into a highly bureaucratic practice. Also, more could be done in managing the economy. The issue of the business sector and citizens not having easy access to foreign currency still persists today. That’s an indictment on Mr Imbert.”
He said in some cases, taxpayers’ monies were being pumped into non-critical projects and the Government seemed at times to have its priorities mixed up.
Mohammed said it was disheartening to hear from Works and Transport Minister Rohan Sinanan last month that his ministry does not have money to fix all the nation’s roads.
“The population deserves better. One of the major facets of good governance is showing people you care and identifying minor issues. If it is a government cannot provide the basic amenities for the people to which they are entitled it shows they are not only disconnected but have no empathy for citizens. In other words, they only see the population only as a voter bank.”
Mohammed said as we ease ourselves out of the pandemic the Government seems not to have no solution in sight.
Lezama-Lee Sing: Performance of Govt more than stellar
Despite a challenging year public relations officer of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing has described the performance of the Government’s seventh anniversary in office as more than stellar.
“The PNM closes its seventh year as the governing administration of T&T at a time when the world—and our country are no exception—continues to experience unprecedented challenges, including two viral pandemics, a war, intensified global warming/climate change, and on a local level, the most unstable, ruthless and unpatriotic Opposition to ever walk the land,” Lezama-Lee Sing said in a WhatsApp message to Guardian Media yesterday.
She stated that none of these conditions makes for ideal performance, but the efforts on the part of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and his Government have been “more than stellar.”
As the country returns to some semblance after battling 30 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and health professionals continue “to provide sterling leadership” for the management of the country and the healthcare system.
Last year, Lezama-Lee Sing gave Rowley “a ten out of ten” rating for his overall performance.
The Government was given “an eight.”
Although Guardian Media asked Lezama-Lee Sing to rate the PM and his Cabinet’s overall performance for their seventh year in office, she opted not to do so.
“The Prime Minister has expressed his and his Government’s concern about crime. This is no secret. It is also no secret that it takes a whole of the country’s approach to treating crime. From legislation, to crime-fighting tools, to education, to parenting and treating with partnerships/relationships. All of these factors and more are critical to the fight and to the outcome.”
Lezama-Lee Sing said the PNM continues to be one of the most patriotic institutions in T&T “that is wholly committed to the development of the country and its people.”
In the party’s 66 years of existence, she said a lot has been achieved for the population and under Rowley’s leadership great strides have been made.
“Dr Rowley, both as political leader and as Prime Minister has proven time and again his dedication to his country and his countrymen, and he is indisputably the right leader at the right time.”
She noted that leadership is never an easy seat to occupy.
“And that obtains for both party and the Government. The challenges have been many but they are not insurmountable once there is purity of intention and dedication to the cause.”
While the PNM will continue to be grateful to the people of T&T, Lezama-Lee Sing said they will also “do what is best and what is possible to provide them (population) with the best chance for the best quality of life.”
Part 2: Constituents weigh on MPs’ performance in tomorrow’s T&T Guardian.
Mohammed’s rating of MPs:
Camille Robinson-Regis- 7
Dr Nyan Gadsby Dolly- 7
Lisa Morris-Julian- 7
Marvin Gonzales- 6.5
Ayanna Webster Roy-2
Stephen Mc Clashie-0