Perspective: What did TT get for spending $1.5B?


PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – They may be divided on issues of party politics, but both UNC political leader Basdeo Panday and his one-time Chief Whip, Tabaquite MP Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, were united in their criticism of the recently concluded Fifth Summit of the Americas with both men describing the Summit as a billion dollar “talk shop”.

In separate telephone interviews, both men stated that the cost for the three day international conference may be as high as $1.5 billion which may not produce any significant dividends for the nation.

“It was a talk shop which achieved nothing because the Heads did not sign any lasting agreement to benefit the region or Trinidad and Tobago,” Panday said.

“That money, which we understand is $1.5 billion could have been better spent on developing the nation’s infrastructure and give people work, fix the roads, drains, the health care system and the traffic jams,” he added.

Asked about his expectations now that the Summit had been concluded, Panday stated that the nation’s economic situation would only worsen under the PNM Administration.

“Given the history of the PNM, things would only get worse because you never know what they will do next,” he said.

His views were echoed by Maharaj who questioned Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s assertion that he had been mandated by other regional leaders to sign the final draft Declaration of Commitment of Port-of-Spain on Sunday.

“This Summit did not achieve what Mr Manning thought he would achieve.

“This is the first time that the Prime Minister of one country signs an agreement on behalf of the leaders of other countries,” Maharaj stated. “All the work, energy and money that went into this conference was a total diplomatic failure and Mr Manning will now have to account for what he did with almost two billion dollars of taxpayers’ monies,” Maharaj said.

Questioned about government’s refusal to allow demonstrations during the three-day conference, Panday said workers should have been allowed to march in areas that would not impact on the Summit.

Maharaj, however, was less accommodating saying government had to account for what he termed “undemocratic behaviour”.

He said Government virtually created limited states of emergencies in certain areas in the country during the Summit.

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