Friday, September 17, 2010


Now that the Budget debate is over I must confess to a certain disappointment with both the quality as well as the content of the contributions from M.P.'s on both sides of the House. Starting with the Government side first, I am a little concerned over the apparent death of information that has emerged over the Government's plans, hopes and aspirations. Let me give you an example of what I mean: Let's take the deficit of approximately $7 billion. Is it unreasonable to presume that this is going to be used for the CLICO/Hindu Credit Union bailout? If so, how much of this is going to be used for the bailout? What exactly is that bailout going to cost and how exactly does the Government intend to make good on that debt (i.e., the cost of the bailout)?

The question assumes great importance as there are some very "heavy" rumours circulating around the City that the Government intends to put many of the CLICO assets up for sale. The rumours also say that the sale of the various assets have all but been concluded already and thatthe deals have been struck with certain "big players" who have been literally salivating at the thought of gaining control of various plum assets like the Republic Bank shares and the shares in the Express newspaper's holding company (to name but two). Is there any truth to any of these rumours? If so, what is the truth? All of them? Some of them? If only some of them, which "some" are true? Are these "done deals" of the sort being rumoured, in the national interest? If so, why? If not, and assuming (though not accepting) that there is truth in the rumours (either whole or in part) then why are the deals going ahead?

You get the picture. The budget debate was an ideal place to deal with these rather serious rumours and put them to bed one way or the other, either, for example, by denying them outright or by confirming the truth (whatever that might be) and explaining it to our (the citizenry's) satisfaction.

There are other questions for the Government. For example, in the PNM budgets they used to have a line item showing what particular energy projects were slated for the ensuing budgetary year. For example, so many billions for an aluminium smelter. There are no such line items in this year's budget. Does this mean that there will be no big energy projects in the next 12 months?

I also felt that the Finance Minister missed an opportunity in his presentation in that as this was his Government's first budget that he might have set out not just his plans for the next year, but his Government's vision for the next 5 years. Maybe he did do this, but if he did it wasn't clear to me. Was it to you?

But my biggest disappointment in the debate was in the quality of the PNM's response. Dr. Rowley did not come across as a man who really understood what was needed, nor even that he was aware of the history of the recent past. He sounded like a pot hound barking at another pot hound that is a mile away at 3 o'clock in the morning. He also came with downright peurile vague accusations of corruption for which he clearly had no real or any evidence. The country and his Party are ill-served by this sort of leadership. as for members of his team like Donna Cox and Marlene Macdonald ... well, perhaps somebody should tell them that the strength of their arguments is not increased by the strength of their voices. The PNM for the first time in its long history was unable to present itself to the nation in this debate as a real alternative government that can be taken seriously.

On balance the budget gets a passing grade from me. I will be the first to admit that it is always easier to snipe from the sidelines than to be the actual decision maker and there will always be things that will require further explanation. My hope is that the matters that are raised in this post will be expained ... and soon ... together with other matters that haven't been raised as yet. That is what I meant when I said that I was disappointed. I had hoped for more details and better explanations. Will we get them? Stay tuned.

No comments:

Post a Comment