Wednesday, February 2, 2011


William Lucie Smith writing in today’s Express puts forward a defence of sorts for Mr. Dookeran’s handling of the economy. In essence Mr. Lucie Smith says that we ought not to be worried that our dollar’s purchasing value is in steady decline against the US dollar and other major currencies as this is all part of a grand plan to keep the economy on track. And it is on track, he argues citing, for example, the good credit rating that Standard & Poors recently gave us.

With respect, I really cannot agree with Mr. Lucie Smith. From where I sit the economy appears to be completely stagnant. Nothing is happening … and if it is, it appears to be a well kept secret. Nothing has been settled … CLICO, the PSA dispute, Petrotrin, and other major problems … are all still up in the air. The average person is no better informed today that he was on 23rd May, 2010 (the day before the last general election) about the state of our finances or even the truth about the state of our finances. And it certainly is not good enough to try and pass off this serious lack of information by saying that Mr.Dookeran is not the most articulate person in the world. We know that, but surely he (or his minions) could write a speech which he could read! (He can read, can’t he?)

What defenders of the Finance Minister have to understand is that many people are concerned over the apparent drift that is taking place in the economy. If what is taking place now is deliberate then at the very least we have a right to know why you (“you” being the Government and in particular the Finance Ministry) are doing what you are doing. We have a right to information which will assure us that you really do know what you are doing. But you aren’t giving us any information at all! And the insult is that you were the person who since 2007 campaigned up and down the country preaching transparency and open government. It is insulting to treat those of us who have the temerity to ask “what are you doing?” with contempt and to ignore us. Where is the “new politics” in this?

Of course, if Mr. Lucie Smith is one of the privileged few who actually do know what is happening and why the Finance Minister is allowing the dollar to slide, why he is not paying the contractors (although he once said that they had been paid), why he is not keeping the original promise to pay the CLICO policy holders, why he is allowing the PSA dispute to drag on, why he is not bringing Mr. Errol McLeod into the settlement talks, why there is this big silence over Petrotrin, why (if all is indeed well) the private sector is shipping money out by the plane load and why the plan is to allow the dollar to devalue, then perhaps he would like to share this information with the rest of us uninformed ones.

One of the reasons that the country got into the admitted mess that it is in today is because although there were persons outside of the then ruling PNM who were critical of what was going on, there was nobody inside raising a whisper against Mr. Manning and his policies and plans. And anybody who tried to do so (Keith Rowley comes to mind) was quickly isolated, received no support whatsoever from his colleagues and was “killed” (politically, of course).

In early 1986 I was then a member and supporter of the PNM. At a cottage meeting in or about April, 1986 I criticized certain things that certain Ministers of the then PNM Government was doing and warned that if they did not correct their course the PNM would face defeat at the coming polls. To my great surprise not little annoyance, Tony Jacelon who was then a Minister in the Ministry of Finance stood up and said that he had not come to the meeting to listen to criticisms of his ministerial colleagues. I replied that all I was saying was what was being said “on the street” and if we were not allowed to discuss it “in house” we were certain to lose the elections. Unfortunately, they did not listen, and the rest is history!

It is stupid, myopic and foolish just because you voted for and support a particular political party not to criticize it when you see it going off course. It is just as stupid, myopic and foolish for the leaders of that particular political party not to pay attention to what their supporters are really thinking. I am not today a member of any party, but I say quite openly and frankly that I voted for the Partnership Government. I want them to succeed. But they will not succeed if they continue as they are going, and if they do not want to listen to this message from their friends, believe me, they will certainly be given the message later on from their enemies. No. It’s all about the economy, and the Finance Minister has to deal with us squarely and up front . If he fails to do that (and so far he is failing), then he will fail. And if he fails, the country fails. The only test of leadership is to lead, and to lead vigorously. So, once again I would appeal to Mr. Dookeran: Lead, follow, or get out of the way!