The Colm after the storm; and Imbert’s about-turn on the gas subsidy

Minister of Finance Colm Imbert was interviewed by Khamal Georges on CNC3 last week and it was difficult not to be genuinely impressed by his calm demeanour.

Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert. (Courtesy Ministry of Finance)
Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
(Courtesy Ministry of Finance)

It contrasted sharply with the agitation and irritation he displayed during his mid-year review in Parliament a week prior, when he announced to the country, inter alia, that his government had decided the fuel subsidy is a luxury the country cannot at this time afford.

That situation meant, he made clear, that citizens would have to pay, with immediate effect, an additional 15 percent for super gasoline and diesel.

The good news, a la Imbert, was that there will now be, albeit ex-post facto, consultations between the government and the citizenry as to the way forward where the fuel subsidy is concerned.

Of course, taking in front before in front could take him, the Minister indicated that his government’s preferred position is that consumers of petroleum and petroleum-related products must one day in the not-too-distant future pay at the pump the economic price determined by the world market.

But “calm” may not be the only adjective applicable to the new Colm. I am certain the relevant footage is available somewhere in the archives for the curious and/or the sceptical.

Photo: Falling oil prices have damaged the Trinidad and Tobago economy. (Copyright CommodityOnline)
Photo: Falling oil prices have damaged the Trinidad and Tobago economy.
(Copyright CommodityOnline)

But here, easily accessible, are three slightly edited, non-consecutive paragraphs from a 2012 Newsday article written by Suzanne Mills.

It was headlined “Simple Simon.”

During his budget debate presentation on Monday morning, (a ) PNM MP (…) sought to give the impression that the PP’s plan to gradually remove subsidies on gasoline and diesel was a sign it was being wicked to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 

He added that it was violating the Petroleum Production Levy and Subsidy Act, passed by Dr Eric Williams to protect us from high prices at the pump. 

His arguments were completely simplistic. That Act was drafted in an era long gone by before the world scientists had figured out that burning fossil fuels was detrimental to Earth’s future. Nowadays we know better and what we know is frightening. 

The fact is that we are no longer living in the 1970’s (…) and we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels willy-nilly. We cannot afford cheap gas. The warning signs are all around us: stick your heads out your car window and you realise that we are damaging our planet and endangering our present and our future.

Photo: Hand it over!
Photo: Hand it over!

Only the silliest of global warming skeptics are willing to bury their heads in the hot sand and argue for fuel subsidies to remain in place. Moving this country toward cleaner fuel and away from gasoline and diesel is the responsible thing to do.

We must join the global effort to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels and to lower carbon dioxide emissions. The choice is simple: cheap gas or no food.

High gas prices should not be seen as an attack on poor people. Keeping them low is an assault on all mankind.

The piece might have been entitled “Simple Colm” because the PNM MP who “sought to give the impression that the PP (…) was being wicked to the people of Trinidad and Tobago” was none other than the “PNM MP for Diego Martin North East Colm Imbert,” the current Finance Minister.

It is clear that the Minister has changed his tune to suit the times!

It’s a judgement call but I expect that the cynics will deem it expediency while those opposed to the ruling party will see it as sheer hypocrisy.

Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.

For many, including, presumably, the PNM apologists, I expect, it will be seen as “mere pragmatism.”

And there will always be those who see a connection between this apparent about-turn and the Panday affirmation about the peculiar nature of political morality.

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  1. funny, suddenly we are environmentally conscious, we the garbage capital (per capita) of the world. Reminds me of taxing alcohol to supposedly reduce consumption, really. No funnier than raising the tax on food to improve nutrition. Meanwhile no one tells us that there is really no subsidy at $30 a barrel and that we are now paying more for gas than countries who don’t produce it. Next they will devalue the dollar but when oil price jumped over $100 no one wanted to revalue. All govt’s take all the people for fools all the time including 3rd forces.

  2. Trinidad is a much more hateful place than I thought. One person is comparing a finance minister who increased taxes to a man who killed millions of men, women and children and did terrible experiments on them for no other reason than their ethnicity. And other person thinks I should be void of all sympathy because I’m a woman and the Jewish faith isn’t known for gender equality (like there are many religions out there that are).

    At the end of the day it is an insult in the highest degree to compare anything that is happening in Trinidad to anything that Hitler has done. The pain that man cause, not only to Jews but throughout Europe and the rest of the world , is inconceivable to us and to just drop that name everytime you don’t like a economic or political decision is stupid and hurtful to many people.

    If you want to complain about economic policy compare it to ANR Robinson or something more fitting. But don’t compare you not being able to buy bacon vat free and having to pay the actual price of the gas at the pump to 61 million lives lost.

  3. A woman defending jews? Clearly she knows nothing of Jewish culture.

  4. i have done my research , but you lack the ability to understand the context inwhich the comment is aplicable

  5. Research what Hitler did, then write a post apologizing to all Jewish people.

  6. He want to increase everything but expect no else to

  7. Its easy to be calm when you remain immune to the implemented austerity measures.

  8. Mr. Earl Best still has it! Nariba Robinson article fuh yuh money.

  9. There were several cricket matches in Central this weekend…just saying.

    • If my memory serves me correctly, Imbert’s comments on the decreased subsidy on Premium came in the face of the PM stating that only luxury vehicles “like Audis and BMWs” would need to use premium gas, when in contrast, most of the vehicles purchased on the lower end (particularly Nissan B-platform vehicles, primarily the Tiida, Note, Wingroad, Sylphy and March) had engines which required a minimum 95 RON (AKA Premium) fuel – especially when the subsidy was knocked out completely at $4.25/l.

  10. No vision, no plan, no idea what they have to do. Any body notice when the PNM ministers says one thing it is exactly the opposite that happens.

  11. Fact is matter what..all the Ministers have NOTHING to worry about..they have police protection and a hefty paycheque to ease any fears that may arise!!!

  12. Again I really enjoyed your writing style and pragmatic views keep it going. We must always make politicans account for their stances and words. No more free pass

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