Is the PNM Government bankrupt of ideas, money and leadership?
With the number of contractors reporting non payment of monies from government and government agencies the question must be asked as to whether the government is cash strapped or bankrupt.
A good example of what I am referring to is the situation at Princes Town Regional Corporation where garbage contractors are on some kind of strike to make the point that non payment is making it difficult for them to function. In the circumstances the place according to local government representatives is approaching a health hazard.
The situation of unhappy service providers comes at a time when the economic prospects are not very promising and where the loss of jobs continue in several Sectors including construction, manufacturing and at state companies. Indeed the Minster of Public Utilities has now confirmed that WASA has terminated several if not the majority of contractors in favor of in house repair crews who did not meet targets in 2018.
This government while it says that there will be no more terminations of jobs at both WASA and the Post Office cannot be trusted. It is the same government that denied that there would have been terminations at TSTT and Petrotrin. Further the government must come clean and say for how long it is going to carry a loss making entity like the Post Office. Where is the strategic transformation plan for the Post Office.
Where is the plan for efficiency savings st WASA and what are the implications of such a plan for security of employment given an admission by the Minister that WASA has 2000 more employees than it needs. The question is this. Of the 2000 deemed in the category of overstaffing how many have the skills needed by WASA or can be developed. The reality of political staffing is generally incompetence. Incidentally WASA is subsidized to the tune of approximately two billion dollars a year. It is the same overstaffing that was cited by the government as one of its clear reasons for shutting down Petrotrin.
Given the dire nature of WASA and its inefficient management as well as inconsistent service can WASA continue to be subsidized in these amounts. They will go forward for a rate increase but where is the morality in consumers paying more for inefficiency and inconsistent service.
Taxation is not a subsidy for poor outputs of state companies. Taxation must be equated to value received. The reality of higher prices for utilities is on the horizon given the price of oil on which the budget has been predicated. The government cannot continue to borrow long term to finance recurrent expenditures. It cannot keep pushing the debt to GDP ratio higher and higher. It’s international ratings will suffer. What is the current overdraft position of the government. How much fiscal Space remains for borrowing given the last borrowing limits agreed to in Parliament.
Engaging in mega projects at the expense of job creating projects is poor strategy in a recession. The role of government must be to stimulate the economy and to encourage the private sector. If the feeling is that you can continue to dip into the Heritage and Stabilization fund to tide over the current financial crisis, that again will amount to Very myopic thinking. The savings if not replenished will Dissipate as has been the experience with foreign exchange reserves now down to 8 months import cover from a high of thirteen months .
2018 has been a year of bad news and poor governance. Appeasing the people by increases in transfers to the social Sector is political since these increases must be sustainable. Oil production which the government claimed on closure of Petrotrin was supposed to Increase foreign exchange flows and also revenue has fallen in part due to falling prices and dramatically lower production at Trinmar. There is a net out effect by having to use foreign exchange to buy fuel for the country.
Our food security is under threat due to our under production and international output . With a difficult dry season projected local agricultural output could be further affected. No public announcement has been made as to how the food producing sector is going to be mobilized.
2018 was a very challenging year. Thousands of People have lost their jobs. The horizon for job seekers seems to be further and further away. Mere exhortations are not going to be sufficient.
Leadership that inspires a new culture of patriotism and productivity, of sacrifice to save foreign exchange is required. The “everything gonna be all right “ mentality must give way to a culture of seriousness and focused action.
In three years the government of Dr Rowley has not proven itself to be capable. The people who believed in the PNM in 2015 are now in a state of disbelief!
Surujrattan Rambachan MP