Home / View Point / Guest Columns / No civility, much hypocrisy; Raffique Shah points at both sides of the House

No civility, much hypocrisy; Raffique Shah points at both sides of the House

It would be asking too much of our politicians that they show some humility in their public lives. In fact, it will be true to say that, with precious few exceptions, politicians across the world are egotistical and arrogant—character traits that distinguish them from most ordinary human beings.

Photo: Former Sport Minister Anil Roberts.
Photo: Former Sport Minister Anil Roberts.

Lest I be accused of being unduly harsh on the men and women who offer themselves for high political offices, I ask that readers think of politicians you may know personally, contrast the genial soul you knew before he or she was elected or appointed to high office with the person you see (or saw) in office, lording it over lesser mortals.

A totally different animal, consumed by hubris, drunk with power, unmindful of the basic law in politics as in life: the higher you climb, the harder you fall.

So asking politicians to be humble while they hold office is an exercise in futility.

However, we can ask them to exercise civility in their interactions among themselves and with the population, although that too seems beneath them.

As an example, Government’s decision to draw down TT$2.8 billion from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund should have been routine, since both Prime Minister Keith Rowley and Finance Minister Colm Imbert had signalled their intention to withdraw as much as US $1.5 billion over two fiscal years to help bridge the projected budget deficits.

Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert. (Copyright i95.5FM)
Photo: Finance Minister Colm Imbert.
(Copyright i95.5FM)

The issue flared out of proportion when Imbert—showing a serious lack of “couth”—refused to elaborate on the draw-down. He seems not to understand that the population has grown very distrustful of politicians, and in this “guava season” people want to know why Government withdrew TT$2.8 billion from their savings, and what they propose to do with it.

All it would have taken from him is a little civility, showing some respect for the people who put him in ministerial office—not the core PNM supporters, but the floating voters who make and break governments.

Imbert’s refusal to climb down from his high horse, in spite of having been booted out of office in two elections seems to have rubbed off on neophyte Shamfa Cudjoe. Cudjoe, the loquacious Minister of Tourism, could end up planting both feet in her mouth if she does not humble herself.

Interviewed by the media in the aftermath of Denise Demming’s dismissal as chairperson of the Tourism Development Company, Cudjoe boasted: I cannot be upstaged!

Well, excuse me!

Photo: Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe. (Courtesy Newsgov.tt)
Photo: Minister of Tourism Shamfa Cudjoe.
(Courtesy Newsgov.tt)

Child, you have some harsh lessons to learn, and it’s a pity you did not keep the experienced Demming around to help teach you. Because I doubt Denise would have allowed you to be suckered into spending TT$400,000-plus on the “Soca on the Seas” misadventure that will do nothing for the country’s tourism industry.

Only last week, officials from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) admitted that the multi-million-dollar annual Tobago Jazz Festival has failed to positively impact the island’s tourism. I imagine the same holds true for the Heritage Festival, the Easter goat races and other similar initiatives.

Copycatting music festivals or cruises that may have worked for some Caribbean countries won’t necessarily help boost tourism in Tobago or Trinidad.

Tobago’s many problems start with visitors’ first encounter, which is a woefully inadequate airport. And the nation’s failure to cash in on the huge tourism spend in the region starts with its peoples’ negative attitude towards tourists. They do not understand that service does not necessarily mean servitude.

But I digress.

Photo: The Orient Queen Cruise Ship. (Courtesy Hulubei.net)
Photo: The Orient Queen Cruise Ship.
(Courtesy Hulubei.net)

Our politicians, especially whoever happen to be in power, must be civil to others, especially to the citizens they serve. That uncalled-for display of hubris by Imbert and Cudjoe can cost the PNM some goodwill, and maybe votes.

Meanwhile, the sanctimonious opposition UNC is picking at motes in PNM eyes even as the beams in theirs are shown to be rusted and rotten. Their “scorched earth” policy during their last few months in government—destroying everything as they retreated in defeat—showed unparalleled shamelessness, not to add hypocrisy.

It was they who increased budgetary expenditure every year to unsustainable levels, even as, for four of their five years in office, they enjoyed buoyant oil, gas and petrochemicals prices.

They increased the national debt, left behind incomplete billion-dollar projects—such as the Point Fortin Highway and Beetham Wastewater—more billions owed to other contractors, billions owed to public sector workers, and sundry other debts that we are now learning about, thanks to the vigilance of the media.

Imagine signing some 300 CEPEP contracts, terms extended from one to three years, on the eve of their departure, including Election Day!

Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star and Central coach Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia in 2015.  (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Former Sport Minister and Central FC chairman Brent Sancho (second from right) is flanked by ex-Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (right) and former World Cup 2006 star and Central coach Stern John during the opening of the Irwin Park Sporting Complex in Siparia in 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

Before that, they quietly withdrew the Lotto-drawing contract from State-owned CNMG and awarded it to a small private company. They also employed hundreds of persons on short-term contracts, and now cry foul when these make-work contracts are not renewed.

Talk about the heights of hypocrisy!

AboutRaffique Shah

Raffique Shah
Raffique Shah is a columnist for over three decades, founder of the T&T International Marathon, co-founder of the ULF with Basdeo Panday and George Weekes, a former sugar cane farmers union leader and an ex-Siparia MP. He trained at the UK’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was arrested, court-martialled, sentenced and eventually freed on appeal after leading 300 troops in a mutiny at Teteron Barracks during the Black Power revolution of 1970.

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104 comments

  1. Raffique Shah the accepted terrorist lol

  2. So Ppl was expecting,,,,,,What,,,,,,,from Ppl who don’t know what real struggle is .

  3. A very insightful piece by Mr. Shah. Pride goes before a fall and it is hoped that this the members of this administration learn from the errors of the previous PNM dispensation.

  4. This government is a big joke on the citizens

  5. The leaves of the tallest tree in the world must fall down one day…this life is ephemeral… Be humble..

  6. Surprised that Raffique Shah actually spoke out against this govt. But in typical fashion he found a way to drag the opposition into it by bringing up the past.

  7. Don’t they understand that they will only hold office for a time, and will therefor have to come back and mix it up with the man in the street and generally get real again – if they can – at some future time?

  8. What is new? For so many years parliamentarians have been kicksing.Why would they want to stop now?

  9. Isn’t it a narrow issue as to whether, notwithstanding having stated the intention to do so, the public ought to have been notified of the actual drawdown? That’s a yes or no. On the politics side of it though, I agree with Sara Shah-Monroe- this was never a choice between graceful good governance and corruption- it was a choice between a proven bunch of thrives and the PNM. The PNM is making missteps but by and large it’s a huge improvement.

    • This is an interesting point, but not one that is too settling.

    • I am actually not seeing any missteps but I like this comment for the huge improvement part. I think for those in public office having to continually repeat the same thing to people over and over again who choose not to read, listen or remember is energy draining. Its a distraction also from dealing with other time consuming issues. Equate it to a classroom. The teacher would not repeat the lesson if you were asleep – you would get put out or ignored.

    • I find your analogy about a classroom setting most ironic Michele.
      Do you think that after a budget is read, ministers just show up at the treasury with a copy of the budget and ask for the money promised?
      That’s not how it works.
      Funny how much energy is being spent in defence of an arguably minor misstep. Now I’m curious to see what it will look like when Colm brings out the big guns.
      Tell me though. If everyone who asked questions are a bunch of dozy school children, then why did Colm dignify them with a response at all?
      And since he did do so, why didn’t he just answer question when he was asked in the first place?
      And should journalists not harass ministers with questions for specifics about $2.5 billion withdrawals?
      Pesky journalists. Why don’t they just let our elected leaders get on with it eh.

    • Michele Celestine perhaps there are other aspects that reporters and journalists want revealed that we’re not being told. Perhaps, the information we do receive is not fulsome and totally unsanitised? Isn’t that the role of the media and civil society to get at hidden truths and information? The analogy of teacher / student is interesting – it speaks volumes about how we see ourselves in comparison to people we hire to govern.

    • Thanks Keston. Even so, I sure like the sound of students who don’t grasp what the teacher is saying being put out of class.
      What could go wrong?
      Master Imbert indeed.

    • Keston K. Perry if more information is being sought by the media then the questions are not reflecting it nor the headlines. For example “Money quietly withdrawn from HSF fund”. Oh please, are journalists expecting an announcement? It seems to me we have become so stupefied by the blatant dishonesty of the last regime with its obscene veneer of wholesomeness that we are refusing to hear what we are being told even when its been repeated over and over again…How can people not see that the payment of back pay and outstanding bills will inject money into the economy that will both stimulate it and ensure job security?

    • Of course we should not expect an announcement of an unprecedented billion dollar withdrawal. And naturally we should figure out its use ourselves. Duh.
      Why should the finance of minister have to say everytime he withdraws $2.5 billion from the heritage and stabilization fund?
      We trust that he knows what he is doing and don’t want to burden him into giving us explanations.
      Why? Because everybody knows PNM ministers are God’s gift to us. Or something like that.

    • Just to be clear. Saying you plan to take something and telling someone you’re taking it now are two vastly different things in the real world.
      But certainly people never like to admit that they erred.
      Maybe they are afraid their supporters will think they are infallible.
      So even after they made a public explanation, their supporters still bizarrely argue that no explanation was necessary and people are stupid for thinking otherwise.

    • Michele Celestine I think there’s a flip-side to your last point which is that precisely because of the dishonesty to which we were subjected under the PP regime we need to make assurance doubly sure with transparency issues. I feel your frustration though-that the standard imposed on the PNM is higher, but it is right. I’m for disclosure at the time of the actual withdrawal, and I’m for the PNM. Not inconsistent.

    • Remind me when Kmler and company told us they weren’t putting money IN the H&S Fund or taking out all those loans or running down the credit and putting us in the red? I remember when we were told a drawdown would take place and for what purpose. If reporters [not actual real journalists that report with integrity and honesty and take actual time to do proper research] want more info, then ask the right questions. Do the requisite due diligence. Where were all these questions 5.25 years ago?

    • I just shared this with a friend, and I think it is relevant. The PNM gives the veneer of discipline but actually when we have a UNC government it tells us a lot more about what goes on behind the scenes, of even in the PNM, and our political system in general than one might readily think.

    • Every new government says the same thing: where were those questions when the last side were in power?
      And then they get voted out. New side comes in. Repeat.
      No government has held power for two terms since 1986.
      But say what. Rinse. Repeat. Everyone bizarrely holding the last office holder as the standard bearer and aspiring to be just a little better. And then wondering why that doesn’t seem to satisfy the public…

    • Lasana Liburd circa 1986 was a very important period in our history and it explains a great deal of what happened since. It’s an important discussion we need to have: why did the PNM lose a monopoly on power after 1981? Some ppl will say because Williams passed on, or that East Indians became more politically conscious… That’s just part of the story but it’s a really critical time to understand our present state of affairs.

    • Up to now we eh know who pay for the last PNM campaign and what was the quid pro quo in these tough times when money supposedly scarce that we have to dip in HSF? But then again oil prices went up to about $50 last week so hmmmm…

    • Justin Phelps I take your point. Communication from the PNM must be a step by step approach, constantly explaining which I actually find it to be. However I see now that they need to intensify it to a point of constant repetition of the steps until everyone (well almost) get it. I maintain though that no matter how much they do there are mischief makers and those conveniently playing deaf and dumb who will refust to accept that they are making the necessary and sound decisions in the best interests of the Country.

  10. Fact is that the choice is simple Anand Ramlogan’s arrogance or Colm Imbert’s. You choose. I already did. #muchhypocrisy4true

  11. While Im willing to agree that Imbert’s tone can be dismissive and abrasive, I have to say I fully understand his exasperation over media reporting and “intellectual” weighing in on the HSF issue.
    He told the country on 3 occasions at least that he was drawing down on the Fund and why. And he actually drew down less than he stated he was going to draw down on.
    Further, we have ample examples of the fiscal strait jacket the country is in. So the entire brouhaha about the HSF left me baffled.
    As per the #TreasureQueen…sigh.

    • If he’s exasperated about having to answer questions about the peoples’ business, he needs to find another job. Your comment about “intellectual” weighing in on the HSF issues is emblematic of PNM arrogance..

    • Uhmmmmmm eeeeeeeeeeh !!! WTF nah man !!!

    • Gerard Johnson…there is nothing in the Minister’s address to Parliament last week that he hadnt already said on multiple occasions aince September 2015. In fact much of thenspeech was him reminding folks that he had already explained he was going to draw down on the fund and by how much and for what reasons.
      In short…he was being asked to account for something he had already accounted for.
      But yes…I am the problem.
      Im ok with being accused of PNM arrogance once it means Im not exhibiting garden variety apathy and ignorance of my own political situation.

  12. Once Colm fully appreciates how he has come by his position and his responsibilities, he should have no problem in humouring us from time to time.
    Trinidad and Tobago is by no means a country where politicians or anyone else in power gets a tough time. Trust me on that.
    If Colm can’t stand the gentle occasional probing of the local media, what can he tolerate?

    • Im not sure the HSF story qualified as a probe. It asked for the minister to be transparent. Go through Colm’s speech and see if he actually said anything new last Friday that he didnt say on about 3 prior occasions.
      To me investigative stories are meant to probe new angles and ask new questions. Certainly to add to what is currently there. Even I wonder what exactly the story was driving at.

    • Rhoda Bharath Ivan answer that for you, certain people in media along with the opposition is willing to do anything to destabilize this country!!!

    • When I say “probe” I meant only in regards to a question. Sometimes a different reporter repeats a question someone asked before. Or a different news house.
      I’m not sure what the problem was for Imbert. Can you say Rhoda?
      If it is the repetitive questions, I’m sure it isn’t that they are calling him every hour on the hour as would be the case in other countries.

    • Ted Browne: your statement has been said by supporters of every ruling party since the beginning of time.
      It was said by UNC supporters last term. And PNM supporters before them. And unc supporters before. And PNM. And NAR.
      It really isn’t saying much.

    • Lasana Liburd I agree with you somewhat, although its been said for years it still remains true and we as a nation have to deal with these issues see the truth in it and dobwhat is right and then and only then the people we elected to serve will have respect for the things that really affect us!!

    • Lasana Liburd…there was at least 1 major story alleging that Imbert took out US$2.5b from the fund. I saw no retraction. That is a big mistake to make. Further, there was another story that alleged that the minister refused to respond on the matter. If a story has a Saturday deadline and the reporter makes a request for a comment the same day as the deadline, I’d not be surprised if a comment is denied.
      And perhaps this is my personal failing…but if I have already explained something without being prompted…and months later I am accused of not giving said explanation…Id be hardpressed to respond…because really, what would be the point?
      BTW…tv6 again this week in a news report said US$ 2.5b was drawn down eh.

    • Rhoda, I heard him give a very lucid response this week that was wonderful.
      I’m struggling to understand why the media would assume it is US. Since when are our budgets in US?
      But politicians must remember to look past the person answering the question and consider the people waiting to hear the answer.
      Colm the person has all right to dismiss irritants. Colm the politician can’t. Cause irritants have rights too.

    • My point remains simple….it isnt that he didnt explain. He did. Them we accused him of not having done it…and cited incorrect info. How come journalists get to do wrong and not apologise and Colm’s silence gets described as arrogance?
      Bull. Fuckeries.
      Daiz all I saying.
      Had he never explained Id be cussing him too.

    • The only story I read on it he declined comment.

    • I agree that newspapers that print incorrect info should either apologize or at least acknowledge their error.
      But there have been several areas where the media has been found wanting morally.
      Although those are broad strokes that may not apply to some individual journalists.

    • When Budget for fiscal 2016 was read, the HSF was addressed.
      When the debate for raising the debt ceiling was on, drawing down on the HSF was addressed.
      When the mid term review was done the announcement to draw down from the HSF was made. In April. He indicated he was going to drawn down US$1.5b for the purpose of paying bills and securing jobs. The speech is still on the Min of Fin’s website. Since April 2016.
      Articles come out end of May/early June indicating that the HSF was drawn down on, we were not informed, and further to that more was withdrawn than was first announced.
      1. Those are 3 public speeches on public record…on Youtube.
      2. To say we were not informed is downright disingenuous if not a lie.
      3. To say we were not told what the money was to be used for is also disingenuous. But even worse in his speecg last week where everyone hailed him for responding finally, all Imbert did was repeat himself and say in simpler terms, he drew down money to pay our Bills. Nothing more elaborate than that was said. So how was last week’s speech more accountable and transparent than any other of the prior speeches?
      4. He drew down TT$2.5, not US$2.5b as so many have claimed. So the real story as far as I am concerned is why did we not need the full draw down?
      5. When as journalists we get it wrong, why do we not shoulder responsibility, man and woman up, and admit that there was a shortcoming.
      6. If Imbert gave the same info in April that he came and repeated 6 weeks later in June…was he really arrogant or exasperated?
      7. Are we saying we wanted to know the exact date $$$$ from the fund was drawn down? Because we never ask for those specifics from any other part of our Budget. So why the HSF? A fund managed by CBTT with quarterly reports that would keep us abreast anyway?

      Sorry, Lasana Liburd, in this particular instant with the finance ministry, I think WE are in the wrong.
      There are a lot of other Ministers right now who are entirely silent on a number of issues and they don’t get the same arrogant label or pressure to account.

      When last Nicole explain what the actual fuck going on with oil production and energy initiatives?

    • ^^ You forgot to mention that even in his end of year speech, Rowley himself said that they were going to draw down US$400M from the HSF this year, and $700M in 2017.

      I still waiting for someone to ask Howai how come he eh put no money in the HSF in 2013-14 when he budgeted oil at US $75 and it averaged $110 for the entire year.

    • You mean like a follow up story? GTFOH, Anthony Morgan Beach. Let’s keep repeating that the govt didnt account to us. I thought empty rhetoric was strictly for Parliament. But it has creeped in elsewhere.
      I have no issue with asking questions and demanding accountability…but we must also be honest and hold ourselves to standards. The ball drop here bad.

    • Okay. I will speak in general terms here rather than about any particular story, journalist or minister.
      The local media has very few specialists outside of the sport realm. So it is very easy for questions to be replicated without necessarily having malicious intent.
      And honestly there seemed to be a lot of people who were happy to be told when the draw down on the HSF actually occurred.
      In such a case, why not either take the trouble of repeating yourself or, if you wanna give some attitude, say: check my budget speech and call me back if you need clarification?
      I do get your points Rhoda so I’m not arguing for arguments sake.
      But take something like the Jack Warner issue. I have been asked a couple questions over and over by journalists and people from all over the world in the last decade. And I know i haven’t heard the last of those questions.
      So it is just a matter of if I want to be helpful or not.
      The next time someone asks to interview me, I’m gonna get some of those same questions again too.
      I felt Colm might have made things easier for himself and everyone where possible. And this isn’t commenting on the errors which he obviously can’t be responsible for.

    • Lasana Liburd You buying their foolishness. If he made so many comments about the drawdown, how is it that so many “respectable” and “intellectual” commentators are asking the same questions. Forget the media. Let his defenders produce all his comments. It’s not hard. Just the click of a mouse.

    • Keep informing us Mr Minister. Some of us just like the story to be repeated until we understand. Others want to hear it over and over to ensure the story hasn’t changed. No room for abruptness or arrogance when you’re an MP and/or a Minister, in my opinion, after all “Manners maketh man”…

    • And some of us too lazy to pay attention to what is happening in our own country and then bitch and moan about it incessantly and call that vigilance and civic awareness. Thanks for the document support Anthony Morgan Beach…but I doubt anyone going to actively follow through and read. Or even better, begin to follow debates now. Reliance on apathy is crucial.

      Lasana Liburd…one doesnt have to be a specialist journalist to use google search.
      Further, Parliament has a whatsapp group for members of the media and many of the procedural clerks will happily answer direct questions and pull up Hansard info for us. How is it Beach and I, who arent specialist anything can:
      1. Follow debates;
      2. Use google search?
      Because:will.
      Because: due diligence.
      Sorry, love. The era for excuses done.

    • His defenders…chuckles…the last man accused me of said thing end up with his name in scandal linked to govt funds under the PP. Too funny.

    • I heard the goodly minister before and waste many a day following debates, but I also know there are citizens who work long hours who do not. I also know many ciitizens who unfortunately dont have the internet or can’t read who get their news in a delayed fashion. Defend away though..

    • And that makes it justifiable to say he didnt explain in advance?

      Logic in recession too.

    • Never said he didn’t say it before or justifyiing anything.. Hmmm.. I am speaking specifically about arrogance and impudence and abrubtness.. Please don’t put words in my mouth..

    • Repeat things over and over, for those who can’t be bothered to listen to such crucial things as the budget highlights, or the mid term review. When T&T in a recession. Okay. Gotcha. It’s not accountability if you didn’t have a press conference to announce the exact moment when you did what you said you were going to do……

    • Brutal and intelligent probing is expected. Foolishness from people whose job it is to know better, I don’t support. Journalists don’t have to bother to research their angles anymore??

    • Rhoda Bharath and Anthony Morgan Beach, you two are much more versed than I am on issues of governance. But from what I understand, a budget is a draft of the government’s fiscal intentions, right?
      And, despite the budget speech, ministers still need to pass Cabinet notes to access promised funds. Right?
      Like if Darryl Smith was promised $2 million for the Pro League, he would still need Cabinet approval before he can draw on that money. Right?
      If so, would a Cabinet not have been passed the Heritage and Stabilization Fund withdrawal?

    • The HSF is managed by the CBTT. The Min of Finance and the CBTT governor are the ones who liaise on this. The Min of Fin would have then taken it to the Cabinet. I’m unsure if it required a note. Id have to consult the HSF Act, but the PM announced the exact figures that would be drawn down for fiscal yeat 2015/2016…and drew down less. The money then went from the HSF to the CF. To balance our accounts.
      Does Darryl announce the specific dates he receives and spends funds?
      Because that is the one thing Imbert didnt do.
      He didnt say Im drawing down the money today or next week…but as recently as April he announced the draw down would be occurring.
      How has he NOT been accountable?
      And as per transparency, the quarterly report from CBTT would have shown us the draw down.

    • If there was a Cabinet note, I don’t understand why it didn’t come up in the post Cabinet press conference. Btw, we withdraw $2.5 billion for such and such.
      Or a release from Central Bank.
      The mere fact that they didn’t use all the money they said might suggest that things don’t happen exactly as forecast. All the more reason to keep us informed.
      For the life of me, I can’t understand why Imbert felt it so onerous to make a statement on an withdrawal that doesn’t happen everyday (meaning from the HSF) and of a fairly sizable amount.
      Worse, a reporter got him on the phone and asked and he declined comment.
      Why?
      And then why did Imbert subsequently give an explanation then?
      He should have refused to ever discuss it again on principle. How can it be both?
      How can he be right to refuse comment and then subsequently give an explanation?
      I find it tiresome because it is needless.

    • You being disingenuous. Because:
      1. The media stories claimed he wasn’t accountable. When he was.
      2. As per it being onerous, he made a statement as Minister about the draw down as he had always meant to after the draw down occurred.

      I refuse to accept that neither the Minister nor the govt kept us in the dark about their intention to use the fund, how much they were going to use and why.
      Again…did you want a statement on the actual date of the drawdown?

    • As per refusing comment…he refused to give a comment at short notice to 1 reporter and instead a week later gave a statement on public record. Because the reporter misquoted him the first time around. And I do not blame him for choosing public record over media that gets it wrong and never retracts.

    • I just saw the first comment. Most decisions taken at Cabinet actually do not make it to the press conference/ by now people should realise this.

    • What accountability? We’ve hardly ever operated in the last 50 years on this principle.

    • So we knew nothing about the intended draw down, the figures and its intended use?
      Ok. I have a fridge to clean.

    • We did a splendid job of transparent governance over the last 50 years Keston K. Perry?
      Glad that we are keeping that up then.
      Rhoda Bharath, disingenuous?
      I told you I haven’t read the vast majority of media reports on it.
      So i’d rather stick to the general principle that I outlined.
      I’m not here to defend stories I didn’t read. Nor can I give lectures on governance.
      But I’m talking specifically about if and how a minister should be accountable to the public.
      You’re saying members of public should wait until central bank publishes its financials to find out when an unprecedented (correct me if I’m wrong) $2.5 billion withdrawal was made from the HSF?
      Should that be the new standard for all State spending?
      So Colm handpicks journalists he gives quotes to? Will he start handpicking newspapers next?
      And then he only gave his public statement a week later?
      I started this convo thinking it was a little error in judgment by Colm with a dash of arrogance. But it seems worse.
      Would the Finance Minister be transparent and say the journalists he won’t talk to? And the ones he will?
      That would be nice. So when we so “no comment” we would know that “oh yeah, Colm doesn’t like that accredited member of the media and representative of the public”.
      Which is totally fine I guess.
      Can Colm prove nefarious intent by reporter in question? Under what circumstances is a minister also entitled to refuse to answer any question from me?

    • Whenever you’re finished with your fridge 😉

    • Rhoda Bharath All that sounds cute. But saying that you plan to, you intend to, is political speak. They plan to finish the PT. Fortin Highway. They intend to do a study on rapid rail. That’s different from announcing a drawdown, mind you, of a rainy day savings account. In your defense of the minister, you keep forgetting to draw that distinction. That is why there was a national uproar, it’s because of what the funds are for. It deserved a debate on whether it should have been drawn down before the government tried other means to balance the budget. Or like most responsible governments, cut expenditure. On that, even Terrence Farrell agrees. You don’t produce a deficit spending budget, create a crisis with it, so you can draw down on the HSF. What are we going to do next year? Hope for an oil price increase. The government was saddled with expenditures from the big spending.PP. But the answer is not to spend more because wages, subsidies and transfers will only grow. Recurrent expenditure is the government’s biggest problem, and of that, wages account for most of it.

    • There was a national uproar because of a misinformed story.

      The population was alerted. Multiple times. Just so happens they ignored the updates. Real civic awareness.

    • Rhoda Bharath Steups. You are a fraud.

    • I remained focused on very specific goalposts. Im not discussing fiscal policy in a generic way. I am discussing the HSF draw down. So llow me.

    • Well I’m trying to discussing the HSF draw and curious at Imbert’s supposed reason for saying “no comment”. Hope someone humours me too. ?

    • Gerard Johnson, you hit the nail on the head with “You don’t produce a deficit spending budget, create a crisis with it, so you can draw down on the HSF.”

    • Savitri Maharaj That’s exactly what they did. They had every intention of using the funds long before the budget. It is not as though they produced a balanced budget and then oil prices plummeted further, creating sufficient reason to drawdown. This is a waiting game…on oil prices to rebound.

    • ..and chances are they used less from the HSF due to oil prices being higher than budgeted. I just wish we didn’t have to guess about this..

    • Once I read his delayed speech to Parliement, I knew that is what he was about

    • Brian Jordan Maybe they did and we didn’t do our civic duty and hear it

    • Gerard Johnson do behave.. lol

    • Gerard Johnson, are you familiar with the legislation governing the HSF? Or anything?? The HSF cannot be accessed in the same fiscal year as a shortfall. It’s the next year. Also, the current government met the budget already prepared by the time they entered office. They were only able to make some tweaks by October when the budget is LEGALLY due to be read. Which meant more extensive changes would come in the Mid term review. Which did happen. I realise that some folk here are not knowledgeable about how government operates and that it’s operations are largely guided by legislation. Not vaps.

    • And no, you don’t have to guess. Legislation is available online from the ministry of legal affairs and all Parliament sessions are available on YouTube from the Parliament channel to play, on-demand. The Hansard, which is the official transcript of speeches made in Parliament is also available online from the Parliament website. Inform yourself.

    • Savitri not gonna write the queen on the drawdown?

    • So Alana the man on the street should read Hansard and search YouTube. Why have political reporters at all then?
      Do you understand the role the media plays as the conduit between the government and the public?
      If Imbert did, he would just answer the bleeding question, even if he feels he is repeating himself.
      I find it extraordinary to defend the Govt not saying: today we withdrew X amount based on our previous statement on the subject.
      And the defense of that seems to speak to a governance style.

    • Alana Morton “And with specific reference to the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, it must be emphasised that the purpose of this fund is to offset serious shortfalls in revenue in periods of depressed petroleum prices.” Are you familiar with that statement? Where does it say in what year. And if what you say is true, the government is violating the law because it’s the same “fiscal” year…Oct 2015 to September 2016.

    • And there were depressed petroleum prices in 2014/15, not so? Budget was pegged at $80/barrel, prices hit $40-45 – 50% less than projected and above the 10% threshold required for drawdown. Revenues were shorter in 2014-15 by $7.5 Bn, giving the government the ability to draw down $4.5 Bn. They drew down $2.5 Bn.

    • Lasana Liburd, yes. I have to do it and I’z a woman on de street. I have to do it because I have lost almost all faith in our media. I have little confidence in them to be that conduit we are desperately in need off. The 4th estate is barren. If I want to be informed and know what going in in my country where I pay taxes and live. Yes. I will do what I must. Apathy and ignorance are not options.

    • Did you find out about LifeSport from the Gov’t or the media Alana? And there are many more instances of scandal that were uncovered by the media too.
      It is great that you read Hansard. But I’d rather have someone other than the Gov’t give me news on the Gov’t.
      And, with the shape the Opposition is in, the media is all we have.
      You might be satisfied with following Gov’t affairs based on Gov’t sources. I am not.
      It would be nice if Imbert can humor me. If not… Well, we have been down this road before. No two term government in 30 years.

    • Lasana Liburd Not only that. The media they so hate is the same people who have to run the streets, collect information, collate it, and present for deadline so these clowns can sit at home and research Hansard in the morning. Don’t mind them. Without the gathering of information first, they have nothing to write about.

    • Lasana Liburd I got most of the info re LifeSport and the details of the improprieties via the Auditor General’s report – from the Parliament website.
      And Gerard – I can speak for myself – no-one hates the media – we just wish sometimes they not do a slipshod job.

    • Anthony Morgan Beach I hope you have the same criticism when the government does a “slipshod job”..

    • Anthony Morgan Beach, you got your info on life sport from the auditor general’s report? That’s where you heard the name Rajaee Ali? In the auditor general’s report?
      And that would be the same auditor general who complains that 90 percent of the State ignores him and doesn’t provide proper information?
      That is some serious skills.

    • *Sigh* when it comes to reporting on what was said in Parliament, yes. Hansard, Parliament Channel etc. When the media finally does some work, I then compare it to official sources of information. You know, to make sure quotes are accurate, figure in correct currency etc. And the Auditor General’s report, is still a great source of information despite the problems the Auditor General faces. I again will say, I cannot rely on the media for accuracy and responsible reporting so I have to do the extra work. I wish I didn’t. I wish I can just fall into apathy. But I can’t. Who wants to just rely on the media as their source of information, well that’s up to them but I am incapable of actively and willfully remaining ignorant.

    • Did Hansard say when the drawn down happened Alana Morton? Did it give a specific date when it would happened and what money would be used for?
      Anthony Morgan Beach, you used an excerpt where Rowley said they money would be used “for stabilization purposes.”
      Are you seriously saying that’s all the info you need?
      I’m having a hard time believing that if Howai said he was taking $2.5 billion to stabilize things, none of you would have said a peep.
      Worse, you would have castigated a journalist for daring to ask for more info.

    • Oh. But Howai did say he would have to go into the HSF! Which prompted questions from Imbert (found on the Hansard) asking if drawdowns from the HSF can be made in the same year when petroleum prices are lower than projected.
      Indarsingh (as junior Minister) confirmed that it wasn’t legally possible.
      Guess what? Not. One. Media. House. Covered. It.

    • Neither did they question Howai 🙂

    • I’m glad that Imbert asked. So he should accept that it is a topic that ought to merit questions.
      I believe Imbert faced most of his questions AFTER the drawdown and not before. Am I right?
      If so, the fact that Howai never actually went into the HSF might be relevant.
      The media is far from perfect and lacks specialists, especially in areas of finance and oil and gas.
      As a result, I can understand that ministers might be a little exasperated with the level of questioning they receive.
      My belief is that comes with the territory. You have got to people to make yourself available to answer questions.
      If you don’t answer and it causes misinformation–not that I’m accepting this is what happened–how can the Finance Minister himself not be partially culpable?

    • If that did happen, I agree.
      Then again, there is a wide difference between the Finance Minister a reporter can have on tap versus the one who needs structure to any questions posed to him.

    • Note: Howai was not legally able to draw down from the HSF in Fiscal 2015 as oil prices in Fiscal 2014 were 25% higher than what he projected, for which, he breached the Act by not making deposits to the Fund.
      Again, no media house picked that up.

    • It wasn’t that the reporter didn’t reach him though. So he had an opportunity to respond and chose not to.
      And ministers should be available to reporters to some degree. Even if he were to put aside a half hour to an hour a day to do it.

  13. Earl Best

    Raf, I won’t read any more of your columns if you continue to make the UNC look so bad. Yuh throw in a lil Shamfa and a lil Imbert ting to make it look like if yuh even-handed but that eh fool me; you’re just against Kamla’s people who are, most of us are agreed, easily the best guvmint this country has ever had.

    Try a little harder to be fair, nah!

  14. ..As usual. Raf speaks for me..