The State of Trinidad and Tobago

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Political Leader of the United National Congress (UNC), Kamla Persad Bissessar, MP, SC

By Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP

Our nation is experiencing one of the darkest periods in our history under this uncaring, incompetent Dr Keith Rowley-led government.

Today, thousands of families across our twin-island nation are worrying about how they will make ends meet. Over 63,000 people have lost their jobs. Many more have had their disposable income reduced. You see the effects of this every day as you drive along the roads and see people who have retrenched hustling sales on the roadside. Many of these people had better-paying jobs but now struggle to make ends meet.

They worry about where their next paycheck will come from. Or what they must do without so that their children may eat. There is currently a generation of young people who have no idea where to apply for a job once they leave school. A generation of University of the West Indies (UWI) graduates are wondering how they will start their careers.

These young children grew up believing once they went to school and made the sacrifice of getting an education they would be better off than their parents. Look at today. Only those with certain connections getting all the jobs while the rest must hustle low paying jobs.

Through over taxation, increased bureaucracy to start a business, high crime and a stagnant economy many young graduates can’t start a business and those that did are having to shut down.

The only business making money is building rentals.The big boys in the Rowley government want to continue their stranglehold of the economy so they push policies that suppress small entrepreneurs to the detriment of their own members.

Their philosophy is to create one of economic dependency and suffering in order to maintain control, They operate on the belief that if you give a man a fish you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and he will prefer to vote for the man who gives him the free fish.

They are a big people party where incompetent amateurs become ministers with tremendous power because their fathers and fathers in law have money. No matter how pathetic and incompetent some of these young men are, no matter how many people are murdered, no matter how many cases they lose, no matter how many tasks they fail, they remain ministers because of their parents’ name and wealth.

This is why I believe in giving fair opportunities to anyone in our party no matter who you are and whatever your circumstance. If you work hard I will honour your effort.

Thanks to all who have put their names forward as nominees to represent our great party.

Today, Sunday, February 2, 2020,  I declare that nominations are open for all general election seats … all, all, all.

The deadline for filing of nominations is Friday 28, February 2020.

I told you at the beginning of 2019 that the decisions of today will have the greatest effect on the younger generations the 20, 30, 40-year old. I believe that it is imperative that the United National Congress (UNC) gives them the opportunity to be in government and make decisions to chart their own future.

They have competence, intelligence, and ability and we must give them the support. We must present new faces, new names, diverse backgrounds, new ideas and move our party and country forward, never backward.

I also said reconstituting the UNC as it was pre-2015 will not be the way forward, neither will shortcuts and coalitions.

For the past years, we have been quietly rebuilding the party with a focus on diversity, youth, meritocracy, and competent experience. We will continue to rebuild rather than seek out unsustainable short-term shortcuts and quick fixes.

Hard work, proper planning, efficient execution, promotion of new talent and merit-based recognition is the new order. Days of sleeping with the devil to win are over; we will put God in front and walk behind. God helps those who help themselves. We will go forward with competence, merit, good attitudes and not on big names and who you know politics. That big name who you know the policy is what causes our country to be in a mess. That is what currently has the Rowley regime in a mess.

Today because of that big name, who you know policy in local politics, Trinidad and Tobago is a place where brutal murders and crime in broad daylight are a daily occurrence, and citizens are living in fear.

Citizens have become prisoners in their own homes. Instead of offering solutions or hope to the people, the incompetent minister of national security has been going around blaming the victims and fabricating wild conspiracies in a pathetic attempt to cover up his failure at protecting our law-abiding citizens from the crime scourge.

Minister Stuart Young is immature and amateur. He behaves like a spoilt brat. He is so far behind in the race he thinks he’s in front.

Imagine, after holding a national discussion with various stakeholders to discuss strategies to fight crime – and this is in their fifth and final year, remember that – the minister of national security, Young, had no new insights on fighting crime.

To be fair, he didn’t have a clue before, it is not surprising that he still has no idea what to do. Except to call names apparently.  When all else fails, throw out baseless accusations, rile up the population and watch the ensuing chaos.

He has a history of failure:

  • Houston gas price deal – Fail
  • Dragon gas deal – Fail
  • Sandals scandal – Fail
  • La Brea drydock– Fail
  • Petrotrin – Fail
  • Ministry of communications – Fail
  • Ministry of national security – Fail
  • 46 murders in 31 days – Fail

How many more must be murdered while Young remains?

Almost 1,300 people murdered under his watch, others have been fired for far less. The commissioner of police asked for funding for high-tech apparatus to aid the fight against crime, Young give the man 10 horse, we now have 10 horses to bring down the murder rate. Lord put ah hand. We are in 2020, not 1820. Trinidad and Tobago is not a real place sometimes.

The lowest murder rate in this country in the last 15 years was in the year 2011. It was 354 almost 200 lower than last year. Think about that for a minute, my government after one year in office was able to reduce murders to pre-2005 levels.

We were attacked by the political opponents, fly by night civil society groups who only seem to function when the UNC is in office and business elite who accused us of every negative ism under the sun. Now we have almost 550 murders two years running and the same persons are crying for something to be done because it affecting them now. Had they let us continue our job instead of stirring up division through their hateful propaganda we would have been better off today.

Crime is not a racial issue. All races and religions are represented in crime statistics. We must look at the fact. We must focus on preventative methods and on rehabilitative methods and not punitive treatment of this issue. Every day, an average of nine people are released from the nation’s prisons. That’s almost 300 ex-prisoners a month. In the context of Trinidad and Tobago, approximately 98 percent of the prison population is released back into society over time.

Most of these people aren’t violent offenders, however, the majority of convicted inmates in jail are there for drug of­fences–about 37 percent. Jailing and shooting our young men will not solve this, calling one race thief and the other race murderers will not solve this. The vilification of our young men will not solve our problems. We have about 670 thousand men in Trinidad and Tobago with about 3000 in jail, but what about the good the other 667 thousand men do every day to make our lives better.

We have a drug problem, we have a mental illness problem, we have an economic problem, we have an education problem, we have a racial discrimination and trust problem between all the races, we have a crime problem and we have a parenting problem which leads to our crime problem. When we start fixing those we will see crime go down. Those are the issues my government was trying to fix. Those are the issues we will continue to fix.

Today our country is a place where Keith Rowley’s best friend can stand accused of selling fake oil to Petrotrin and nothing has been done about it. More than 100 million dollars gone – and no one has been held to account. Today, Trinidad and Tobago is a place where they can then shut down Petrotrin putting over 10,000 people on the breadline – while one family, the attorney general Faris Al Rental and his family, ‘receives without tendering over 20 million of taxpayers’ dollars in rental per year.’

They fought down the 500 dollar baby grant for poor single mothers but defending this greedy Faris. I had budgeted 20 million dollars for those poor children: 3,400 babies from poor families who couldn’t afford proper nutrition would be able to get it for a year. The first year of their lives needs healthy nutrition to ensure proper brain and body development.

They fought down these poor mothers and their newborns and say Kamla buying vote. I want you all to remember that. All of them now sitting on their mouth when greedy Faris collecting 20 million.

Think about it 3,400 poor newborns would each have food for 12 months with the same money Faris and family grabbing.

So when a hardworking honest man, loses his job, can’t find another job, savings run out, nowhere to turn, no money to buy milk for the baby. You think he’s going to watch his baby starve and die. When your belly full it easy to wash your mouth on people, but I tell you those in this country who grinding the poor into the ground will pay a price, and I will make you pay it after this general election.

Everything my government gave to uplift the people you took it away or tried to destroy it:

  • Baby milk – gone;
  • Free pre-school – gone;
  • Disability grants – thousands have gone;
  • Gate cut;
  • School feeding – cut;
  • Textbooks – cut;
  • Laptops – gone;
  • Food cards – cut out 18,000 people;
  • 63,000 jobs – gone;
  • Land for the landless gone.

Anything for the working people and poor gone. Only for the friends, financiers, family (FFF) and wives club.

Proverbs 22:22 reads: Do not rob a poor man because he is poor, and don’t crush the oppressed at the gate. Rowley, Imbert, Faris, Young, Deyalsingh enjoy your time now. Soon the time for celebrating yourselves will come to an end.

Today, while thousands of our small and medium-sized businesses are closing down under the burden of excessive taxation and lack of availability of foreign exchange, billions are being spent to renovate castles, to pay for sexual harassment settlements, to pay for cases lost by the attorney general, to build bridges on land owned by government ministers, and to fete.

Hope on the horizon

My friends, I want to reassure you that all is not lost. Yes, we are facing serious challenges, but our nation has been through difficult times before, and each time we have always risen to the challenge.  The lights may have gone out at the Petrotrin refinery. By the way, where is Roget and Abdullah with that refinery?

These two who mislead their own members into supporting Rowley came out last year to campaign for him and now disappeared. They have no plan to restart that refinery and are only lying in order to help buy time for Rowley until after the general elections.

I ask today Roget and the government, when are you restarting the refinery?

Darkness may have descended to cloak an attack on our Constitutional rights and freedoms, but as our national anthem so boldly states – we are forged from the love of liberty, in the FIRES OF HOPE AND PRAYER. And the fire of hope burns in all of us.

We in the UNC believe in the people of Trinidad and Tobago to weather any storm. We have always believed in you, and this is why we will always work to make your lives better. The road ahead is not an easy one.  It will take a lot of hard work to undo the damage wrought on our country by the Rowley regime. But hope springs eternal… and I am confident that by pooling our efforts, by putting our shoulders to the wheel…we can solve any challenge we face. Whether it’s getting our economy working again, or reducing crime, or giving our young people the future they rightfully deserve. I believe in the potential of our people to transform our beloved country.

My friends, every time the Peoples National Movement (PNM) has taken our nation to the brink of economic disaster, it has been the UNC which the people turned to and trusted to pull us back from the edge of catastrophe. And we will do it again. Because the UNC has a vision and a plan.

Our plan to transform Trinidad and Tobago

Our National Economic Transformation Plan is based on three core themes.

  • Less taxation
  • Diversification
  • Innovation

Less taxation

The UNC believes that taxation, though necessary, should not be a burden or act as a punishment for success. We will alleviate the tax burden for citizens as well as small and medium-sized businesses.

  • We will abolish the dreadful property tax. We will also lower corporation tax and reform the tax regime in our oil and gas industry once again making it attractive to foreign investment
  • By letting hard-working people and businesses keep more of the money they earn, it will mean more money that is saved as well as reinvested.
  • We will not proceed with the PNM’s poorly thought out Revenue Authority. It is more sensible and feasible to increase the efficiency of the board of inland revenue and customs and excise division, rather than creating a new entity.
  • We will also reduce the red tape and bureaucracy involved in starting a business – thereby unleashing the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of our citizens.

Diversification

The UNC understands that while the energy sector is critical to our economy, we need to diversify. To drive our diversification effort, we will create 12 prosperity engines throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

These prosperity engines are:

  • Brechin Castle Agro-Processing Complex
  • Madeleine Sugar Manufacturing Facility
  • East-West Biotechnology Manufacturing Corridor
  • Sevilla Digital Innovation Park
  • Tamana ‘SolarTech’ Renewable Energy Park
  • West Port of Spain ‘Trinidad Creative Arts Street/Area’
  • East Port of Spain Steelpan Manufacturing Facility
  • Piarco Aircraft Maintenance, Repair & Operations Hub
  • Cedros Special Economic Zone
  • Point Galeota Energy Logistics Hub
  • Plymouth International Cruise Ship/Marina Complex
  • Tobago’s first locally-branded hotel

My friends the UNC will help boost the next generation of entrepreneurs and enable our economy to thrive.

Innovation

The UNC family, our nation is at the dawn of a new century of technological advancement. This is the fourth industrial revolution. We must ensure that all our citizens benefit from the new opportunities being created in the technology sector. That’s why innovation is a critical component of our national economic transformation plan.

Recently, when I was in the Sangre Grande community during the local government elections (which I don’t have to remind you we won) a young woman came up to me said: “Aunty Kamla I want to say thank you.” When I asked her what she was thankful for she said, “I am a student at the UWI – and I am still using the laptop I received when you were prime minister”.

My heart swelled with joy. My friends that is what the UNC is about. That is what we have always been about – serving the people of our country. Everything we do is aimed at ensuring prosperity for our children and the next generation of Trinbagonians. That’s why, when the UNC forms the next government, we will move forward with new initiatives in recycling, getting our young ones learning to code, implementing digital services, biotechnology, renewable energy and much more.

We will ensure our young people will have the skills they need for the jobs of the future. We will hand our children the tools they need to succeed, not just hand them a lightbulb and say “hold that”.

Launch of UNC economic plan website

www.UNCplan2020.com

My UNC family, in keeping with our theme of innovation we have created a website for our national economic transformation master plan as a communication medium for the public to interact with and better understand our economic plan.

The public can visit the website at www.UNCplan2020.com and get first-hand knowledge of:

  1. The macroeconomic context on which our plan is based;
  2. Our five guiding principles;
  3. Our 12 prosperity engines to diversify our economy;
  4. What we intend to do in our first 90 days;
  5. Our funding strategy – how we intend to finance and fund these projects;
  6. How we intend to implement our plan through an economic strategy council;
  7. Download the economic masterplan for review.

We are encouraging everyone to visit the website, learn of our plans to transform our economy, see how we plan to diversify and create more than 50,000 new jobs and generate US$5 billion in non-energy exports.

You can also subscribe to receive updates of our plans now and of our progress when we are in government, implementing these plans to benefit our blessed nation. Our economic masterplan is a transformational plan for our economy to take us into a new era of growth and prosperity. I encourage you to visit us today, www.uncplan2020.com

You will see our economic plan website is easy to use, engaging and effective. It’s a modern design. We have used modern techniques to optimise loading and rendering. Our economic plan website is also mobile-friendly.

I would like to tell you about the significance of yellow, which is the main colour used on our economic plan website. The colour yellow relates to acquiring knowledge. Yellow is uplifting, illuminating and cheerful. Yellow inspires original thought and is the colour of new ideas, helping to find new ways of doing things. Yellow is the practical thinker; not the dreamer. Yellow is the best colour to create enthusiasm for life and can awaken greater confidence and optimism.

Like the UNC, yellow offers hope.

 

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