PM’s ‘It’s Your Business’ Address (Part One)

Lay­ing his man­age­ment plan in the first part of his two-part ad­dress to the na­tion yesterday evening, Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley said his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan for the coun­try would cost tax­pay­ers $12.5 bil­lion—less than half of what his pre­de­ces­sors wast­ed. The $29 bil­lion in wast­ed funds, he in­di­cat­ed, was cold hard cash which was on hand and this fig­ure ex­clud­ed oth­er forms of ex­pen­di­tures.

With­in his plan in­clud­ed ex­pen­di­ture on projects such as $2 bil­lion on re­pairs at the Port-of- Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal, cre­at­ing a La Brea dry dock, and on hous­ing pro­grammes re­spec­tive­ly.

He al­so planned a $1 bil­lion ex­pen­di­ture on the Drag­on gas pipeline, re­sort tourism project, the To­ba­go air­port ter­mi­nal, pur­chase of two new fer­ries for To­ba­go, and the San Fer­nan­do wa­ter­front project re­spec­tive­ly.

Row­ley al­so put forth ex­pen­di­tures of $850 mil­lion for the con­struc­tion of the San­gre Grande Hos­pi­tal and $600 mil­lion for the pur­chase of two Coast Guard ves­sels.

“Look at the things that have not been done in Trinidad and To­ba­go and which now fall for this gov­ern­ment to do,” he said “and if we had ac­cess to this kind of cash, or to bor­row against it look what we could have done (point­ing at his list­ed projects and plans).”

Port-of-Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal

In 2009, the main tow­er in the Port-of-Spain Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal was as­sessed by en­gi­neers to be struc­tural­ly un­sound and fol­low­ing last Au­gust’s 6.9 mag­ni­tude earth­quake which shook the coun­try. The Gov­ern­ment was forced to evac­u­ate the tow­er in or­der to tear it down and re­build it. “If we had built that, and that was deemed a pri­or­i­ty of the Gov­ern­ment of Trinidad and To­ba­go in 2009—it is now be­ing ad­dressed,” he said.

La Brea Dry Dock

Row­ley said this project is be­ing done to cap­i­talise on the coun­try’s ge­o­graph­ic prox­im­i­ty to the Pana­ma Canal so that ships that are tra­vers­ing the At­lantic to the Pa­cif­ic through Pana­ma could get ser­viced in T&T, cre­at­ing jobs and gen­er­at­ing for­eign ex­change in­come. “The Chi­nese are of­fer­ing to come in with us. They will take up 30 per cent, we would have to be good for 70 per cent,” he said.


“For the last 36 months in this coun­try, the con­ver­sa­tion, the biggest scan­dal in my Gov­ern­ment ac­cord­ing to some peo­ple is the fer­ry, the fer­ry, the fer­ry, the fer­ry,” Row­ley said.

He said the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion mis­man­aged the two used fer­ries which pre­vi­ous­ly ser­viced the in­ter-is­land sea bridge, “run­ning them in­to the ground.” He blamed the Peo­ple’s Part­ner­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion for now forc­ing them to have to pur­chase two new fer­ries to help ser­vice the sea bridge. Row­ley al­so blamed the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion and naysay­ers for deny­ing To­ba­go a San­dals re­sort which they would have con­struct­ed to help di­ver­si­fy the econ­o­my and bring in much-need­ed tourists.

The To­ba­go air­port ter­mi­nal, Row­ley said, was nec­es­sary to bring the is­land’s tourism in­to mod­ern times. “As it stands now if a jum­bo jet lands in To­ba­go and starts to of­fload or is load­ing, peo­ple are out in the carpark wait­ing to get on the plane and if it’s rain­ing, you can’t get off the plane in­to the air­port—that is not how you do tourism in 2019. We need a prop­er air­port ter­mi­nal and we do­ing that now,” he said.

San Fer­nan­do Wa­ter­front project

The Prime Min­is­ter said this project is nec­es­sary to boost the city’s econ­o­my as, “San Fer­nan­do is the on­ly wa­ter­front city in the Caribbean and pos­si­bly the world where the wa­ter­front is a dump.”

Row­ley stat­ed that the ex­ter­nal fac­tors in the world­wide oil and gas in­dus­try were ex­ac­er­bat­ed tax breaks of­fered to en­er­gy com­pa­nies by the for­mer gov­ern­ment, with rev­enues falling from $17 bil­lion in 2014 to $1 bil­lion in 2016.

“What this did was what­ev­er tax­es we were li­able to get go­ing for­ward, even in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion, we gave that up in those con­ces­sions,” he said as he not­ed that his gov­ern­ment was work­ing on rene­go­ti­at­ing the deals.

“Those dis­cus­sions are open, we have had some agree­ments so far and they con­tin­ue in some ar­eas,” he said.

Row­ley al­so stat­ed that in 2015, T&T’s month­ly gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­ture was ap­prox­i­mate­ly $5 bil­lion with $4.75 bil­lion in rev­enue and $250 mil­lion in loans. Ac­cord­ing to Row­ley, the cur­rent fig­ure stands at $4.3 bil­lion in ex­pen­di­ture, $4 bil­lion in rev­enue and $300 mil­lion in loans.

“It does not mat­ter who you vot­ed for or where you live, the coun­try could not con­tin­ue like that oth­er­wise the coun­try would end up in bank­rupt­cy,” Row­ley said.

He al­so not­ed that his Gov­ern­ment was able to im­me­di­ate­ly save $50 mil­lion a year by re­duc­ing the size of his Gov­ern­ment from 33 min­istries to 23.

“We had to cut the waste and cor­rup­tion and we made de­ci­sions to in­crease rev­enue,” Row­ley claimed.

He went on: “Some jobs would be lost, some busi­ness­es would have to strug­gle, but we must do what the rev­enue al­lows us to do and to do it on a sus­tain­able ba­sis.”

While Row­ley stat­ed that his Gov­ern­ment was able to re­duce the month­ly ex­pen­di­ture through aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures, it still had to bor­row in an ef­fort to pay pub­lic ser­vants, to pro­vide so­cial ser­vices for cit­i­zens and stim­u­late long-term eco­nom­ic growth.

How­ev­er, Row­ley was care­ful to note that his Gov­ern­ment was en­gaged in re­spon­si­ble bor­row­ing un­like the short-term arrange­ments utilised by the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment in the run-up to the 2015 gen­er­al elec­tions.

“We are re­duc­ing the amount we are bor­row­ing, not be­cause we don’t want to spend, but we want to bring the econ­o­my to a po­si­tion of sta­bil­i­ty where we can, year af­ter year, seek eco­nom­ic growth,” he said.

He re­vealed that dur­ing that pe­ri­od, the Gov­ern­ment bor­rowed $ 4 bil­lion for sev­er­al State en­ter­pris­es in­clud­ing the Es­tate Man­age­ment and De­vel­op­ment Com­pa­ny (EM­BD), Caribbean Air­lines, the T&T Elec­tric­i­ty Com­mis­sion (T&TEC) and the Na­tion­al Car­ni­val Com­mis­sion (NCC). He said that the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment al­so sad­dled his with $5 bil­lion in debt by com­plet­ing salary ne­go­ti­a­tions with pub­lic ser­vants on the eve of the elec­tion.

“They were giv­en a pay in­crease and the mon­ey was not there,” he said.

Row­ley al­so al­leged that be­tween 2010 and 2015, the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment wast­ed $29 bil­lion in cash-$16 bil­lion from the Na­tion­al Gas Com­pa­ny (NGC), $6 bil­lion from the Cen­tral Bank and $9 bil­lion in over­draft fa­cil­i­ties.

“In fact, be­fore the elec­tions, they went in­to the NGC four times,” he said as he not­ed that the Gov­ern­ment usu­al­ly re­ceives an an­nu­al pay­ment as the ma­jor­i­ty share­hold­er.

As he ques­tioned what the funds were used for, Row­ley claimed that they could have been bet­ter utilised on projects that would stim­u­late and di­ver­si­fy the econ­o­my.

“They have the un­mit­i­gat­ed gall to tell this gov­ern­ment and you the peo­ple to put them back to con­tin­ue do­ing this,” Row­ley said.

Tonight at 8pm, the PM will address Part 2 of the National Report explaining plans to move Trinidad and Tobago towards a brighter future.

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