Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Let me declare my bias from the start: I voted for this Government; I want them to succeed; I do not want them to fail. Unfortunately, they are failing. There are too many unforced errors taking place and only the most biased or dishonest observers will not admit that we are in trouble. And by "we" I mean the country.

Let's look at the latest problem to hit the headlines: the imbroglio with the unions. The first question that I have is one that reflects my utter disbelief at the total incompetence of the Cabinet. How in the name of heaven could the Ministers responsible for the clash with the unions allow the Prime Minister to go into a meeting with the unions when it was clear from the start that the PrimeMinister's chances of getting them to agree to back down were slim to none?!? Ministers are supposed to defend the Prime Minister, and if anything "fall on their swords" for her (or him as the case may be). They aren't supposed to let the Prime Minister put her credibility on the line the way that they did! The best way that I can probably explain this is to borrow a sentence that I got from The Economist about a week ago in an article that it published concerning the phone hacking scandal in Britain: "Prime Ministers tend not to lose all their credibility in one go ... Rather it erodes in fits and starts amid accumulations of misstep and scandal".

And who are the Ministers responsible? Answer: The Ministers of Finance and Labour! Let us call a spade a spade and stop this neo-colonial type of nonsense where we continuously pretend that we can see the naked Emperor's clothes. Hello! The Emperor is naked! It is the responsibility of the Finance Minister to put the case for money squarely and fairly on the table. If the country cannot afford the wage increases that are being demanded it is his responsibility to explain to all of us exactly what our financial situation is and why we cannot afford to pay what the unions are asking for. It is the responsibility of the Labour Minister to help calm the stormy waters that his ministerial colleague finds himself in, to familiarise himself with the truth of what the Finance Minister is saying, and to convince the unions that the Finance Minister is indeed telling the truth. And if the Finance Minister is not telling the truth then it is the responsibility of teh Labour Minister to make it clear to the Prime Minister that her Finance Minister's position is untenable. But these guys cannot keep quiet and effectively throw the Prime Minister and her Government under the proverbial bus ... which is exactly what they have done!

I don't know about you, but I am totally fed-up. Like most people I believe that the country simply cannot afford the demands that the unions are making. I also believe that these demands are unreasonable given the existing economic situation prevailing not only here, but worldwide. However, the operative word in that last sentence is "believe". I don't know that we can't afford to pay and/or meet the unions' demands. I also believe that the workers that the unions represent are hurting ... and hurting badly! I also believe that they deserve much more than a measly five percent pay rise. And, yes, it is measly given the inflation that has ravaged the country over the last few years.

In other words, for me at least, the argument is not whether the workers deserve a pay rise in excess of five per cent, but whether or not we can afford to pay it? So, Mr. Dookeran, as always it is over to you. Show us! Tell us! Explain to us! We are not dummies. The threatened general strike will fail if you convince the country that we really can't afford it. It is also quite possible that even if you don't, most people are like me and believe that we can't afford it, which would mean that the strike will fail. But belief can only go so far. Sooner or later the population will start to demand proof. Take some good advice: Don't wait until then!

And Mr. McLeod, the only reason that you are in the Cabinet and hold the post of Minister of Labour is because of your long experience and your connections with the Labour Movement. Every single administration in every single democracy sooner or later locks horns with organised labour. What every single administration needs is a Labour Minister who can and will interface with the Labour Movement in a way that successfully diffuses the inevitable tensions that are bound to arise. If you can't or won't do that then leave. I don't care which ('can't' or 'won't') it is. It doesn't matter. What matters is that this job (Minister of Labour) requires leadership; and the only test for leadership is to lead vigorously. If you can't or won't, then get out of the way. The country does not need you if you are just going to sit on your hands and bleat about "process". And right now, you simply ain't leading!

And to Mesrrs. Roget and company, I say, look, most people are sympathetic to your cause. Don't hold the country to ransom over unrealistic demands. Show us that we really can afford to pay you and you will get our support without your having to threaten the society in the way that you are doing now. But you won't get it simply by demanding that we pay regardless of the consequences. No thinking or responsible citizen could ever agree to that. And remember, "jaw-jaw" is always better than "war-war"!

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