by Vernon Khelawan
Weeks ago, I had decided to stay far away from the various political situations in our beloved country, but with each passing week the situation seems to get worse and worse and try as I might, the conditions bring me right back to politics and our leadership.
Most of the government institutions, state-owned companies and even government ministries are showing signs of failure—the Central Bank with its control of foreign exchange; the National Insurance Board and its declaration it is running out of money; Petrotrin, Caribbean Airlines and several others operating at a loss; the Port Authority, which cannot get procurement right after six tries, now leaves it to the politicians who have no knowledge of the maritime industry. Poor Tobagonians. Is this whole thing a ruse to get the Ocean Flower II on the route? We wait to see what happens.
We are so grossly lacking in leadership and governance that even many ministries are floundering and not only that, they are failing to keep many of their pre-election promises. That is why we are out of drugs and hospital beds. That is why the Water and Sewerage Authority is now taking draconian measures against debtors. That is why the Housing Development Company is now looking at third-party rentals––but still allowing squatters to mushroom everywhere. That is why vendors are on the streets and pavements.
The government, after more than two years, is still blaming the opposition for many of its failures, and the opposition in its turn blames the government for a poor performance. This schoolchild’s behaviour just does not move the country forward, especially in tough economic times as these.
Now let’s look at some other situations. Take the issue of the great escape of Vicky Boodram – almost perfectly executed. Two lower order police officers are arrested immediately. But who gave the order to release Vicky? We do not know. How did she reach Penal and who took her there? We don’t know. So obviously there is a missing link. We wait.
Then there is the senior senator who was caught DUI in quick succession and convicted both times. And although he was fined for the first infringement the second was taken under advisement and sentencing postponed. Every guilty DUI accused is dealt with immediately. Why not the senator? I have a problem with that.
And talking about senators, Allyson Baksh, a company director of AV Oil and Gas, resigned her Senate seat because of “personal reasons”. If this has anything to do with the ‘fake oil’ issue involving the company we are yet to know.
Further, the boss of Petrotrin submitted his resignation at the end of November. The oil company is this country’s greatest foreign exchange earner but was recently rocked by an audit report which showed some discrepancies in its accounts. But with all this swirling around him, the Prime Minister is totally silent on these issues and this is disheartening. In these tough times, the secrecy in governance is deafening.
Coupled with this, the minister of finance received a report recently from the Central Bank Governor and has refused to say anything about it, keeping the public in the dark but spinning to his advantage another report from the International Monetary Fund. In the interim people are speculating on the Central Bank Report which supposedly deals with some sort of devaluation, something the government doesn’t want to entertain in spite of suggestions of many of the island’s top economic voices.
The Judiciary—well that’s another story.
These are just some of the occurrences where our leadership and governance are called into question. But God is still love.