Friday, October 29, 2010


It is difficult to understand what is going on between the Government and the Public Service Association with regard to the salary negotiations for public servants. Oh! It is fairly easy to understand the P.S.A.'s President, Mr. Watson Duke. His is the classic trade unionist's position: "We want more money". And there is nothing basically wrong with this approach ... at least as an opening gambit. But unfortunately things don't always work like that and a big problem right now for the Government is finding the necessary funds to meet all of its obligations including, but not limited to increased salaries for the public servants.

The present dispute is not, and should not be about whether or not the public servants deserve an increase. By and large they do. There are a few who don't deserve even the salary that they are getting at present ... but they are (thankfully) not anywhere near a majority, and it is unfair to effectively punish the majority of hardworking and deserving public servants because of an inefficient minority.

No. The real issue is whether we (the country) can afford any increase at all ... and if so, what is the size of the increase that we can afford. Now, it ought to be of great benefit to both sides of this issue to have as the present Minister of Labour a man whose trade union credentials are impeccable and therefore whose word ought to be trusted by Mr. Duke et al. But the Minister has been conspicuous in his silence on the issue and the question has to be asked: Why?

I can only think of two reasons why the Minister might want to keep quiet and not intervene now:
1) He is completely incompepent and does not understand his proper role and his duty to
the country; or
2) He simply does not trust his Ministerial colleague, the Finance Minister, and is not
personally convinced that the figures that are being presented by the Government (his
Government) are true and correct.

I am ready, willing and able to accept that there may be another reason (or even 10 more reasons) but I really can't think of any.

Now, speaking for myself and myself alone, I find it hard to believe that Mr. McLeod is an incompetent person. So, if he is not incompetent then his unwillingness to intervene must be (unless there is some other reason which I can't think of) because he doesn't trust his Government's figures and is unwilling to put his credibility on the line for his Ministerial colleague. Because, if he did trust his colleague and his Government he could and should call Mr. Duke and say something like "Hear what Watson. We just don't have the money to pay all yuh." And he could and should then lend his name and his prestige to finding a solution to the present imbroglio instead of leaving the Chief Personnel Officer to twist and turn in the wind. He has the pretige and the clout and the credibility to bring both the P.S.A. and the Government into line.

But he is not doing that at all! The closest he has come to commenting on this most serious dispute is to support David Abdullah marching with the P.S.A. ! What does that tell you?

The only test of leadership is to lead, and to lead vigourously. The Minister of labour has to "get off the pot" and lead the parties out of a dispute that could have serious adverse consquences for this country. And he has to do it now!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Probably the biggest problem that exists for the general public (both the taxpayers as well as the CLICO depositers) is the absolute dearth of information about the true state of affairs in the felled behemoth. Let's face it: We just don't have any real information. For example, does anybody (besides the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank) know the answers to any or all of the following questions?

- What exactly caused the collapse? Is it true that the collapse was caused by the
Manning Administration pulling $200 million out of the CLICO bank?
- If so, who made that decision and why? If not, what caused the collapse?
- Was CLICO insolvent for a long time? When did CLICO become insolvent? Was it 10
years ago as alleged by then Attorney General Ramesh Maharajh? If so, what
responsibility does then Governor of the Central Bank Winston Dookeran (now Finance
Minister) and then Finance Minister Gerald Yet Ming (now placed in charge of CLICO
by Dookeran) have for the present debacle? Could /should they have done something
then? If so, what?
- What responsibility does the present Central Bank Governor have for the mess?
- What responsibility does the former Finance Minister, Karen Teishera, have?
- Did the last Finance Minister have inside information about CLICO's imminent demise
which caused her to take her money out mere weeeks before the collapse?
- What did Patrick Manning, who was not only Prime Minister but Finance Minister for
five long years, know?
- CLICO's reach extended deep into both the PNM as well as the UNC. We know, for
example, that CLICO gave the PNM $5 million in 2007 for its election campaign. Did
these political contributions efffectively prevent the regulatory authorities from doing
what they were supposed to do in the first place?
- If the answer to the above is 'yes', is this not a form of corruption?
- If the answer to this is also 'yes', what politicians are likely to be charged?
- Why does the present Minister of Finance who campaigned for two years on the
promise of more open government and transparency not tell the public exactly what
has happened and give the public all the information concerning this disaster?
- Why after almost two years do we have little more information than we had at the
- Is there a cover-up? If so, why? Who is being protected? Why are they being
- Why have the assets of the principal "players" in CLICO not been frozen? When the
Madoff and Stanford scandals hit the first thing that the American Government did
was to freeze the assets of the leading players before any criminal charges were ever
- Has there been fraud? Is there evidence that suggests fraud? If so, why has nothing
been done for almost two years? Is this part of a cover-up? How long does it take to
figure out if fraud has taken place?
- According to the newspaper reports some $7 billion of public money was poured into
CLICO. What happened to it?
- Why has there been absolutely no accounting to the public by the Minister of Finance
concerning the public money already spent and planned to be spent in this company?

I could go on, but you get the point. We have no information concerning CLICO. It was unfair (and not a little insulting) for the Finance Minister to make that infamous $75,000 offer and say in essence 'take it or leave it'. You ought not to treat people that way. And if he really believes in his own rhetoric and is not a hypocrite he will agree without equivocation. We need information.

The Government of Trinidad & Tobago made a promise that it would see the depositers paid. The credibility of the Government now hangs on that thread of a promise. As to whether that promise should ever have been made in the first place ... well, that is a different story!

Monday, October 25, 2010


An organisation called The World Gold Council puts out a monthly report that shows the official gold holdings of every country in the world. Unsurprisingly, a check on it's website will show that the United States has more gold than any other country. But readers will find it interesting to note that the Council's report for March 2010 showed that Trinidad & Tobago had 1.9 tonnes of gold ... which works out to be about 50,000 ounces, or a value of about US$650 million in gold at then current prices. The website can be found at

You will find Trinidad & Tobago at no. 90 in the top 100 countries in this list.

But if you check the same list for September, 2010 you will find that the gold holdings of Trinidad & Tobago has seemingly disappeared! Now, US$650 million is more than 4 1/4 billion Trinidad & Tobago dollars. So, what happened? Were the country's gold holdings sold? When? Why? (Gold has been increasing in value this year. It's not exactly the best time to sell.) Who took the decision to sell? Who bought it? Was this done before or after the elections in May? Have we been told that we sold all of our gold holdings? I can't remember any announcement being made.

In these hard times $4 billion is a lot of money ... well, even in good times that is a lot of money! So, what happened? Don't you think that we are owed an explanation?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


A lot of people have been asking this question for a few weeks now. The source of this query can be traced back to a few things. First of all, there was the Prime Minister's apparent slapping down of Jack Warner over the airport lighting fiasco. The newspapers were rife with speculation that there was a rift between the powerful Minister of Works and his boss, the even more powerful Prime Minister.

But what has really got the tongues wagging has been the very public criticisms coming from leading members of the COP that they (members of the COP) had not got their fair share of the "spoils of victory", meaning their fair share of appointments to State boards.

Let's deal with the Jack Warner issue first: Mr. Warner has come to public office with a "can do" and "let's get it done" approach that is both refreshing as well as being desperately needed in a country which has long wallowed in neo-colonialist leadership and thinking. He is one of a few Ministers that are really trying to effect "change" (as opposed to "exchange"). The newspapers (especially the Express) seem to have "get Jack at all costs" attitude, and are ready to crucify him at the drop of a hat. The facts are that this airport lighting business has been on the table for the longest while. Further, there is a real danger to the travelling public and the matter is urgent. It needs to be dealt with. Finally, the relevant law was amended by the then PNM administration which gave the Minister the authority to sign off on such a contract. Mr. warner received professional legal advice that he had the legal authority to sign off and approve the contract. He did just that. But (and it is a long "but") Mr. Warner has his fair share of detractor's who decided that here was a perfect "Ah!Ha!" moment (as in "Ah!Ha! Now we have him!"), and they promptly began to make a huge fuss, the essence of which underlying the fuss was there was the possibility that the old Jack may have had his fingers in the kitty.

The Prime Minister had no choice really but to step in and put the brakes on the award. Not to do so would have given grist to her enemies' mill who would have yelled (without any proof or regard to the facts) that here was a perfect example of Partnership corruption ... which, of course, was simply not true. Mr. Warner has taken the seeming rebuke in a proper and statesmanlike manner saying in essence, "well, pray that nothing goes wrong and don't blame me if it does!" He's right. Next point! But this sorry episode simply cannot be taken to reflect a rift in Partnership leadership.

Unfortunately, the recent COP (mis)behaviour is something else again. The claims for a share of the "spoils" by COP activists is as repugnant as it is hypocritical. Didn't Mr. Dookeran base his campaign from the very beginning on "Country first" and "no more jobs for the boys" politics? So what are these guys like Vernon DeLima, Hulsie Bhaggan, Joseph Toney and others talking about? Would we have been hearing from them if they had got appointments? Forgive me for thinking that the answer is 'no'.

In any case, part of the problem is clearly that the COP boys want to behave as if they are equal partners when in fact they are very junior partners in this Government. There are five COP seats which are held by Winston Dookeran, Prakash Ramadar, Carolyn Seepersad Bachan, Anil Roberts and Errol McLeod. If all five walk out the door the Government will certainly not collapse, nor will it be threatened with collapse. In any case, which of these five do you think is prepared to give up his Ministerial appointment for Messrs. DeLima et al? My guess is none! And the truth is also that the COP has no real support in those constituencies contolled by the UNC. Put another way, apart from some huffing and puffing and helping the newspapers to increase their sales, the COP is in an extremely weak position. And the sooner they realise this the better.

So, in answer to the question that headlines this post, I would say no, nat at all!


The express purpose of this Blog is to discuss matters of importance in Trinidad & Tobago, the wider Caribbean and Latin American region, and the rest of the world (in that order). At 9:04am (Eastern Australia time) on Monday 18th October, 2010 my beautiful granddaughter, Ava Elizabeth Grace, was born in a hospital in Sydney, Australia. She weighed 8lbs 12 oz and is thriving!!

Mother (Natalie) and father (Ryan) are over the moon with happiness. And the Montano bloodline continues!!

Readers will undoubtedly understand and agree with me that this was a most important event and will share my pride and joy over this latest arrival to our planet.