Friday, July 9, 2010


"An opportunity missed", my father used to say, "never returns". Over the years I have found this old adage to be so true that sometimes it hurts! Which is why right now I am beginning to become slightly concerned with the opportunities that the new People's Partnership Government seems to be missing. The Government's honeymoon period is going to be over soon ... probably by September/October ... and if they do not take advantage now of the extraordinary goodwill that they have at the moment they will find that despite their huge Parliamentary majority, their ability to carry the country along with them will become more and more difficult.

My father taught me a lot ... much more than just the adage about missed opportunities. One of the things that he taught me was that the real opposition to a government hardly ever came from inside the Parliament but from the country, and that for a government to succeed it had to ensure at all times that it had the majority support of the country. If it did not it risked not only an ignominious end a la the Manning and Robinson regimes but it also risked such unpopulartity that even when it came up with good ideas and/or proposals that the country simply would not want to listen.

To be fair, Prime Minister Bissessar is not displaying any of the arrogance or hubris of her predecessor, and most of her Ministers seem to be making themselves much more accessible than their former PNM counterparts. But (and this is a big "but") in the critical area of the economy and finance we are not being told what is going on nor are we being told what exactly are our problems. And forget about solutions or possible solutions! There is simply no discussion!

I blame Winston Dookeran for this. Mr. Dookeran is widely regarded as being an excellent economist and a man whose grasp of financial matters is better than most. But unfortunately that simply ain't good enough. You see, politics is about bringing the people along with you. Mao Tse Tsung once said "if you want to lead the people, lead from behind". In other words, give the people the necessary information in order for them to come to their own informed decisions on whatever the problems of the country are. But if the plan is to wait until the budget debate in September then that will be a case of too little, too late. And it certainly will not be practising the art of "new politics" that we have been hearing about for the last few years. In fact, it will simply be more of the same old neo-colonialist type of governance that we have had for the last almost fifty years.

We need to know what are the "holes" that have to be filled and what ideas are currently on the table on how to fill them. We know, for example, about the $18 billion Petrotrin hole. I have previously written in this blog that I could only see two ways to fill that particular hole: devaluation or retrenchment. A friend gave me a third option the other day after he read my blog; he said that a third option was a sale of the State-owned oil company. Well, that is a possibilty, but any buyer would probably engage in some serious retrenchment after taking over the reins. So that would not really be a third choice or option. The consequences for the workers and/or the country would be the same. But are there other options? If so, what? This is a serious question that requires serious debate. Retrenchement would have serious economic consequences for the workers who are laid off. Devaluation would have even more serious consequences for the whole country. Talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place!

But we are not debating these problems at all! Why not? The Finance Minister ought to be leading the debate and doing so now. He can't come in September and simply shove his solutions down our throats and say in effect 'well, these are the problems and this is how I propose to solve them'. (Well, actually he can ... but surely that would not be "new politics" but simply more of the same old,same old!)

The debate needs to start now. And it needs to be led by the Finance Minister. If he does not do so he is going to cause a lot of problems for his Prime Minister and his Government that could and should be avoided. he needs to buy into his former rhetoric about "new politics" in such a way that the country really does feel that we all have a clear idea of where we are, where we are heading and where we can go. Somebody once said (I think it was Teddy Roosevelt, but I am not sure) that "the only test of leadership is to lead, and to lead vigorously". It's time for the Finance Minister to lead.

1 comment:

  1. "the only test of leadership is to lead, and to lead vigorously" - JFK, 1960