Thursday, August 26, 2010


It is often difficult when you win an election by an overwhelming majority to keep up with all the rhetoric that you splurged out during the campaign as well as to keep your campaign promises. Reality has a way of biting when all of a sudden you find yourself like the dog who was chasing the car and all of a sudden you have caught it! What do you do? What does the dog do? I'm sure you get the point.

The new Kamla Persad-Bissessar Government has not exactly hit the ground running. Oh sure, many Ministers were there for their constituents when the floods hit, and it is clear that this response (to the flooding) was a million times better than the casual, 'don't really care but we'll go through the motions any way' attitude of the PNM Ministers when they held the reins of power. But empathy, blankets and matteresses, and (well deserved) "cussing" of the ODPM only goes so far. It has now been a little over three months since Kamla's historic victory and ... well, if truth be told, nothing of any consequence seems to have happened. The new State boards are not in place, the new ambassadors are not yet appointed and their is a general sense or feeling of drift. The Minister of Finance is not saying anything of any consequence and the whole country is just sitting and waiting. And the question has to be asked: why? What is taking so long? Why are we not at the very least being brought into the picture?

One can't help but compare that other recently elected coalition Government in the United Kingdom with ours. They brought in almost immediately what theyd eclared to be an emergency budget to save the country from disaster. Although the budget contained many very harsh measures (e.g., VAT was raised to 20 per cent) the population accepted that austerity was called for and that the new Government was taking the bull by the horns and working. We have been hearing that things are bad, but how bad? Do we really have to wait for maore than three months to get a report in the budget debate that begins on September 8th? Why? Why can't we be told up front and early? Does the Government not trust the people?

And as if this is not bad enough, Keith Rowley appears to be floundering as Leader of the Opposition. Why is this a bad thing? Because the best governance usually takes place when a Government in power has a competent Opposition snapping at its heels. A classic example of this was the Panday regime. Basdeo Panday's Government is widely regarded as one of the best that we have ever had. But Panday knew at all times that if he made the slightest slip that Manning's PNM would come charging back ... which, of course, is precisely what happened when he did eventually slip!

But Dr. Rowley just hasn't cut it as a leader. One wag told me (rather unkindly) that he never thought that anyone could make Manning look good, but Rowley is managing to do just that! Dr. Rowley has not been able to find his "groove" either inside or outside of the Parliament. His early cricicisms of Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar came across as peurile and downright silly. Nobody took either the criticisms or Dr. Rowley seriously. His Senate appointments have made no impression whatsoever on the public and whatever opposition that exists in the Senate is more on the Independent benches than any where else.

Well, the Budget debate is coming soon and everybody on both sides of the Parliamentary divide will have his/her chance to show the nation how good, bad or indifferent he or she may be. Based on performance to date, I believe that the Government side will do better than the Rowley led Opposition both in the Lower House as well as the Upper one. The PNM Parlaimentarians tend to believe that the length of their speeches is more important than the content. (Actually, that criticism probably applies to more than a few on the Government side as well.) We would be much better off there really was clearly an alternative Government. Unfortunately, there isn't ... at least, not at the moment. And therein lies the rub!

At least we can hope that this three month long hiatus will finally come to an end and things will get moving again. The only test for leadership is to lead, and to lead vigourously. We need leadership now. That Kamla and her team are capable, I truly believe. But they have got to start performing now.

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