Commentary by Capil Bissoon
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Next Monday (Sept. 7th) the people of Trinidad and Tobago would choose either the People’s Partnership (PP) or the People’s National Movement (PNM) to govern the country for the next five years.
The other parties, including the Independent Liberal Party (ILP) and a few independents presents no real challenge to the main parties. So when the ballots are counted, either Dr Keith Rowley or Kamla Persad-Bissessar would be Prime Minister-designate.
The main argument from the PP is it deserves a second term because of its unprecedented development of the country, sound fiscal management in the face of declining energy revenues, a people centred vision and the argument that Keith Rowley and the PNM have no plan to take the country forward.
The Rowley PNM has been pointing to what is calls rampant corruption within the governing coalition and boasted that it has a plan that would transform the country and move it forward.
Its flagship development project is a controversial rail project that would consume $60 billion and take ten years to complete. The cost is based on 2009 estimates and does not take into account inflationary trends during the 10-year construction timeline during which there won’t be any significant relief for commuters.
Such a costly project would also mean that other transportation solutions might have to be mothballed or cancelled. The party is also promising a 2.5% cut on VAT and a $12,000 increase in the personal exemption from income tax.
The PP has raised the question of whether the voters can trust the PNM to deliver on any of their promises, noting the PNM has a track record of making promises and not keeping them. These include promises to build a highway to Point Fortin since the 1960’s and cuts to VAT that anyone can find in previous PNM manifestos.
By contrast, the PP boasts of delivering on more than 95% of its promises. Its pledge for 2015 and beyond is therefore more credible if only because it does have a track record of delivery whereas the PNM is notorious for not honouring its promises.
Judging by a statement made by Keith Rowley the day he launched his party’s manifesto, you should not expect to see promises fulfilled. “A manifesto is really a work programme against a background of all things being equal. If we have all the resources that are required and available to us, these are the things we will do,” Dr Rowley told reporters.
You don’t have to read between the lines. That’s a clear statement you should not expect much, especially since the PNM admitted their manifesto was put together before the oil prices crash. That alone is reason to understand why the railway is not economically feasible at this time and why the other promises remain in doubt.
The head of NIDCO made that point on Saturday. Carson Charles said any attempt to build a $60 billion railway with oil prices hovering around US$40 a barrel “will run the country into bankruptcy.”
There is something else about this campaign that voters should note. Dr Rowley and the PNM have been having a field day telling outright lies and more lies. They believe the well-known axiom that if one tells a lie often enough, it becomes a fact – at least for a while.
For example, on all their platforms, they have been saying the PP spent $400 billion during their five years in office “with nothing to show for it.” In the first place, that figure is an outright lie. The budgetary records are public document which show the state expenditure over the PP’s five-year tenure has been $288.1 billion, not $400 billion.
In addition, Dr Rowley’s colleague, Colm Imbert, called a news conference recently to charge that the government had failed in its constitutional responsibility to inform the office of the President of the election date. It was another PNM lie. The Prime Minister immediately produced official correspondence to show the PNM fabricated its story.
Just a few days ago the Prime Minister again had to put the PNM in its place for the lie that the headquarters of the Motor Vehicle Authority cost more than one billion dollars. The cost was actually $230 million.
Surely a party that wants to be in government could at least tell the truth. I am not even talking about all the baseless allegations of corruption and the greatest lie of Dr Rowley’s career – the bogus emails.
This blatant disregard for facts and the truth has become the Rowley PNM’s modus operandi and if voters do a reality check – as they should – they would have to conclude that a man with such a track record cannot be trusted to handle the affairs of state as this country’s leader.
I choose Kamla, what about you?