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.
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.
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.
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.
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.