Daly Bread: Tempting promises, moral hazards and Covid-19; how to choose at the polls?

Tomorrow’s General Election takes place at a time when the rate of spread of Covid 19 is at a high risk level, causing more worry than at any other period since the pandemic began. We simply do not know what effect uncertainty about the ominous risk of exposure to the virus will have on attendance at polling stations.

Unlike the last two elections of 2010 and 2015, there does not appear to be as strong a ‘vote them out’ tide running against the incumbent, but there is doubt whether either of the two major political parties can make things better. Such indifference, when combined with the uncertainty of voting at a time of Covid, may increase the likelihood of a lower voter turnout.

Photo: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

The 15 percent or so of undecideds, revealed by the published polling, reflects the doubt about whether either of the two major political parties can cut it. The polling has also revealed a lead for the incumbent PNM nationally, but it is a lead that is within the margin of polling error.

This undecided state is not attributable to the pandemic. We have tried both the red and the yellow; and those who think outside of traditional loyalties, which is a growing number, have found them both wanting.

The heightened uncertainty about voter turnout and how it will affect the result in the five marginals must be a strong cause for concern among the respective party analysts.

That concern was reflected in a direct appeal by Prime Minister Dr Rowley to undecided voters in a speech made in the marginal constituency of Chaguanas East last week.

Outside of the uncertainty, which is peculiar to life in 2020, this election should turn on which of the two major political parties is capable of taking us out of the economic downturn that had began before the onset of the pandemic, which then rapidly made income loss widespread. It is difficult to choose on this basis.

Photo: A taxi driver in San Fernando waits for passengers during the Covid-19 pandemic on 23 April 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)

The Opposition UNC have set the right tone in promising 50,000 jobs in five years and making some general proposals about diversification, but I do not understand what are the sources of the investment to make this happen.

The current government has placed emphasis on its ability to keep things stable by prudent management of our savings in the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, sustainable borrowing and implementation of social safety nets to cushion the economic blows. My concern with this as a continuing strategy is that, without additional non-energy sector economic activity, we will eventually  reach the dead-end of an empty Treasury.

All of the above means that if a voter leaves home tomorrow, not driven exclusively by tribal loyalty or sold on the economic prospects offered by one of the two major parties, choice will be on the basis of instinct—unless the voter perceives a candidate presented by one of the many small parties or one-person bands on offer this time, as a conscience vote option.

In his appeal to undecideds, made in Chaguanas East, Dr Rowley struck the familiar PNM theme of the moral hazard of a UNC government. He dropped hints again of coming trouble with the police for UNC officials.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley (left) and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar SC.
(Copyright Power102fm)

How effective will the threat of a morally hazardous UNC be in a country where it is generally believed that both parties make deals with corrupt elements or at least look the other way—the high level of human trafficking in Latinas being the current vivid example?

There is moral hazard in the contact system facilitated by both major parties, which rakes in very big dollars for those in the contact rings.

It is in this context that I have referred to a vote for a candidate other than red or yellow as a conscience vote; but will a vote, if given that way, be ‘wasted’?

My own instincts are also disturbed by the authoritarian streak in both parties, and more particularly the intemperate attacks on the media. Sure the media gets things wrong, but is it agenda driven as is repeatedly claimed?

There remains 24 hours within which to come out from the undecided group. Good luck to our nation.

Photo: A vendor wears her mask at the Penal Market on 23 April 2020.
(Copyright Ghansham Mohammed/GhanShyam Photography/Wired868)
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About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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  1. Martin, is it not discomforting that you would so comfortably use the “ündecided” label that officialdom seeks to foist on an unsuspecting public? It perhaps suits officialdom’s purposes to have people branded as undecided when there are many citizens whose minds have been firmly made up but who see no reason to share the information with prying pollsters.

    If I decline–or out-and-out refuse–to tell the pollsters whom I intend to vote for, am I “undecided”?

    Maybe an independent thinker like you want to rethink such slavish cleaving to the orthodoxy.

  2. The UNC that cancelled the OPV contract and left TT’s borders nacked to the invasions of drug traffickers, weapons traffickers and traffickers of people must never be allowed to enter Government again. Imagine buying a house and one of your first acts is to remove the door and burglar proofing, I mean ”what could possibly go wrong right?”. There are decisions where a leader needs hindsight to know whether it was right or wrong, the cancellation of the OPV’s was not such a decision, she knew or must have known that that would be very bad for the national security of Trinidad and Tobago, but she did it anyways, supposedly because of a breach of contract, we had them British by the balls, we could have negotiated all kinds of benefits (compensation, cheaper maintainance etc.) but no, she just took the contract tore it up and threw it into the garbage can, and now instead of OPV’s we get the AR15 rifles, the illegal drugs and the illegal Venezuelan migrants, and of course that is all Rowley’s fault too right?!? The UNC administration even argued that you fight guns on the land and not at sea, once a shipment of illegal guns enters T&T it sells quickly, once the guns are in circulation you end up with the predictable robberies, rapes, burglaries, kidnappings, murders and people shooting at the police. We have 5 years of Kamla Persad Bissessar’s UNC vs 5 years of Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley’s PNM to compare too. Just look at Faris al Rawi’s performance with the creation of over 100 new courts, look at all the development going on and soon to be starting.
    Rowley is a good man with a good team, and you know something he and his team were already well off before they entered Government because of their past hard work in Gov and the private sector, they have their houses, their kids went to University etc., Faris al Rawi inherited through his father in law a real estate empire, these are not poor people where you can come with a brown envelope and buy them like some prostitutes, that is why with very few exceptions you have not heard about any significant corruption, yes there were the Marlene Mcdonald allegations (it is alleged she got a HDC house for her lover, and it is alleged funds were misappropriated) but Prime Minister Rowley acted, she is out now, she will be in court dealing with those matters, yes there was Daryl Smith (allegations of sexual impropriety with a personal assistant and subsequent illegal firing of that assistant, it is alleged) and again that man is out, but where is the 500million dollar scandal, you can’t find one, because there is none under the Rowley PNM administration. Look at all the projects that Dr Keith Rowley met when he came to office where he was able to cut the price by hundreds of millions of dollars and still get the exact same things built, now you tell me if you can do that and get the same thing built what does that prove? #1 it prooves that some very strange mathematics were going on before and #2 it prooves that Dr Keith Rowley will not stand for that kind of thing, the fact that he intervened rather than to profit from this is proof that you are dealing with a very different kind of leader.
    MARK MY WORDS my fellow Trinbagonians if you vote UNC you are damaging the future of Trinidad and Tobago for the next 20 years as decisions made now will have far reaching consequences going forward.

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