By Kamla Persad-Bissessar
More people are rejecting the old style of politics in which our opponents engage – of idle threats, blame, and attempts at bullying and belittling people. More people see that the UNC is the party of the future. We have the vision, we have a plan, and we have a strong team that is ready to get to work once again for you.
Daily we are bombarded with reports of incidents of violence, murder, robbery and other crimes against citizens. What is noticeable is that under The Peoples National Movement (PNM) administration but more so with this prime minister Dr Keith Rowley [and his] regime – when they are in office, criminal activity increases.
I remember the days when kidnapping was a common case, every morning I would look at the newspaper and I was almost guaranteed to read about an unfortunate kidnapping for ransom. It became a business under the PNM.
Every one of us knew that whenever we left our homes, we knew it was a chance. Every time we entered that Chinese restaurant, it was a chance, every time we stopped for that late-night corn soup, it was a chance we were taking.
When I came into office after the rampage that was allowed to run by the former PNM government, I said to myself, I cannot let this continue. I knew from before, that was what motivated me, the fear I felt, the fear I saw in you, the concern for your children, I felt it the same way.
When I was there, we brought serious crime down to the lowest in three decades. Murders were down, kidnappings were drastically reduced, robberies were declining, people could have stayed out late, we had fun, we enjoyed ourselves, we worked hard, businesses were thriving, and we all felt safer. I know all of you here today can agree with me when I say we all felt safer before this calamity called Dr Rowley took over.
These folks cannot even clean their yard in broad daylight anymore. We see the elderly couples enjoying an evening together but bandits have become so emboldened under Dr Rowley and his failed minister of national insecurity that bandits just walk into citizens’ homes, walk through as if they own the place and take whatever they want, from hard-working citizens.
I remember growing up how hard my parents worked and saved for years to finally buy a car. Nothing fancy in those days but that was all my father had. We all know how much men love their cars. Today I know so many families whose prized material possession is their family car. In the same car, you can enjoy a nice Sunday drive with your family. The car that takes your children to school.
These bandits would just come in and take it from you at gunpoint in your own home. I want you all to close your eyes for a second and imagine, God forbid any of us happens to be in that situation, you are at home, relaxing in your yard, broad daylight and suddenly, these ruthless bandits storm your home. An absolute horror to even think of it, far less to experience it.
And, what about our small business owners? Our shop keepers and restaurants have been under a constant barrage of robberies.
Look at all of the innocent children, mothers who lost their children to these bandits who come to rob a store and just shoot the customers because they didn’t get anything of value.
The wound never goes away. A permanent hole remains. What about our fishermen? What about the ones who were recently slaughtered without any mercy by pirates?
Our fishermen, young boys, hardworking breadwinners of their family, braving the rough seas every morning to earn a living, slaughtered for boat engines. Young boys snatched away from their parents – I cry for them.
There is no more time to point out their failings. We need solutions, and the United National Congress (UNC) is focused on getting our country working again.
So, I have not come here today to tell you about the failed Dr Rowley regime – rather I have come here to join with you in saying farewell to this failed Dr Rowley regime. Their time is over, and soon, the people of our beloved nation will choose the best and only option to move our country forward – the United National Congress.
My friends, let us kick off this campaign in memory of the thousands who have lost their lives, homes, families, and jobs because of this incompetent Dr Rowley regime.
I cry for them all. Hardly a family has been left untouched by the scourge of crime which is not only allowed but encouraged by this wicked Rowley regime.
I cry for our nation. I cry for our children whose once-bright future dims with each passing day under this Rowley regime.
I weep for them all. We must take time to mourn. I have never been stronger, I am ready, and with your love as my fuel, I can take on any man woman or beast that may come at me. Better have come and all have lost because my love for you can never be matched.
UNC will transform Trinidad and Tobago
I have heard our political opponents say that they do not intend to talk about local government. That’s because, for them, it is not a priority. It is really because they have no plan. They never did. But we in the UNC recognize that local issues affect every one of us.
When you don’t have proper drainage you get flooding and the losses that occur from that. When your garbage is not collected it can cause a health hazard. And of course, crime is rampant, and people feel insecure wherever they go. Families with young children don’t even go to the parks any more out of fear they may become victims of criminals.
When the UNC returns to work for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, we will do so fully prepared.
We have been working for well over a year with the best economists and minds across the country, and we have formulated our National Economic Transformation Master Plan.
As you can see, we have a plan to transform and move our country forward. We have built our plan on five interconnected guiding principles.
People-centered development: Getting people back to work
The core philosophy of the UNC is that our nation’s greatest resource is our people. Build up our people, and we will build our nation. A new UNC government remains dedicated to creating jobs and getting people back to work, safeguarding social equity and justice and protecting people’s rights.
We commit to supporting lifelong learning, skills building and giving full rein to the enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity of all our citizens. Putting you back into jobs is our priority so you can care for yourself and your family. We have done it before, and I assure you we will do it again.
Pro-Business: Allow the private sector to drive growth and development
We will follow a pro-business strategy, which allows the private sector to be the main driver of economic growth, transformation, and sustainable development. A new UNC government will focus on improving the ease of doing business, tackling crime, removing obstacles to business growth and expansion, and attracting local and foreign investments by providing an enabling environment and necessary incentives.
Had it not been for the business incentives that my government put in place in 2010 to 2015, the economy today would have been much worse off. These incentives that we would provide to stimulate economic activity will become the engine of the vehicle to get us where we need to be.
Resilience: Deepen Economic reforms but with a human face
Deepening economic reforms with a human face is a powerful force for sustainable development. A new UNC government will focus on improving the economy’s resilience to future shocks, bringing the budget into balance, stabilizing high public debt, protecting our external position and safeguarding financial stability.
Reducing poverty, closing the income inequality gap between rich and poor, and providing a safety net for the poor and vulnerable will form an important part of our economic reform agenda and lead to more economic opportunities for people and a better quality of life for all.
One hand doesn’t clap; we must collaborate to get it done because people’s issues and needs must be balanced with policy and direction.
Local content: Give people a sense of ownership and independence
Local content has the potential to stimulate broad-based economic development, which will give a sense of ownership and independence to everyone in our society. All projects will include opportunities to maximize local content and local value-added through jobs, skills training, procurement of goods and services and technology transfer.
Reducing our high propensity to import will be addressed through a meaningful national, local content policy that focuses on our existing agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Side by side we stand must engender greater meeting we must not only talk the talk but walk the walk.
Sustainability: Promoting environment stewardship
Trinidad and Tobago is blessed with abundant natural resources, from forests and wildlife to rivers and wetlands to coastal and marine ecosystems.
This natural environment is the foundation of our well-being and, by extension, our economy. We must promote greater environmental stewardship, making more responsible use of renewable resources and ensuring water, food and energy security. Our children and their children must inherit a better Trinidad and Tobago than us. We believe in the greatness of our country and all our people. Together we will achieve the society we envision.
As you saw in the video, a new UNC government pledges to create 50,000 new jobs by 2025. At the heart of this job, creation plan is the diversification of our economy. For far too long, our country’s economic fortunes have been too closely linked to the energy sector. We will encourage strategic investments in niche non-energy sectors where we have a strong competitive advantage, market opportunity and growth potential.
Our plan embodies a “business unusual” spirit. This spirit will see the private sector take the lead in strategic projects while the Government will play a facilitative role. Of the many interventions, we have identified and singled out 12 prosperity engines spread across communities in Trinidad and Tobago.
These prosperity engines will mobilise and engage the private sector, both local and international, and their implementation will have large positive multiplier effects in kickstarting the economic recovery, fostering growth and supporting diversification.
The twelve prosperity engines
- Brechin Castle Agro-processing complex
- Organic sugar and sucrose derivative manufacturing facility
- East-West biotechnology manufacturing corridor
- Sevilla digital innovation park
- Tamanna ‘solartech’ renewable energy park
- West Port of Spain – Trini creative arts street/area
- East Port of Spain steelpan manufacturing facility
- Piarco airport maintenance; repair and operation hub
- Cedros/Moruga Southwest peninsula economic zone
- Point Galeota energy logistics hub
- Plymouth international cruise ship/marina complex
- Tobago’s first locally-branded hotel
The first 90 days of the next UNC government
We are ready to govern. We are ready to hit the ground running, and for this, we have a plan of what we intend to do in the first 90 days after we are returned to office.
- We have shown how the property tax legislation is flawed, and we will repeal it;
- We will fix the broken sea and air bridge between the islands and have it running smoothly;
- We will protect our farmers and fisherfolk by incorporating the Praedial larceny squad into the TTPS -So our farmers and fishermen would no longer be told that they need to “make a quiet request to the government for help”;
- We will settle all outstanding issues for ex-Caroni Workers, Cane Farmers, and Petrotrin employees;
- Within the first three months in office, citizens will be able to benefit from the quality health care that will be available at the Couva Children’s hospital;
- So that our citizens will feel safe once again, we will provide the TTPS with the resources they need to catch the criminals and bring crime down;
- We will work with stakeholders to get the Petrotrin refinery working again;
- We will work with the Central Bank, the ministry of finance and the central statistical office to determine the true state of the economy, the country’s finances, and capital projects, and share that information with citizens. Unlike the conman stats we have been receiving;
- A UNC government is committed to transparency, accountability and good governance. We will fully proclaim the procurement legislation and provide the office of the procurement regulator with its budgetary resources;
- We will prepare a divestment plan and debt workout strategy for non-strategic, loss-making state enterprises;
- We will scrap the proposed revenue authority;
- We will examine and address the issue of outstanding VAT refunds, which is crippling our SME sector;
- We will prepare legislation to reduce personal income and corporate taxes and simplify the VAT regime;
- We will begin drafting legislation to fully integrate the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF) into a new fiscal responsibility framework;
- We will mandate each minister to prepare a one-year action agenda for consideration and approval of Cabinet. Each ministerial action agenda once approved, will be included in our next budget;
- We will share with citizens our priorities for action during our upcoming budgetary period;
- We will formulate a project plan for completion of all infrastructural projects currently in trail;
- We will establish the economic strategy council;
- We will initiate discussions on forging economic partnership agreements with the governments;
- We will begin a public “Green Building” pilot with the Twin Towers (Ministry of Finance and Central Bank buildings) and the International Waterfront Centre;
- We will mandate the National Institute for Higher Education Research Science and Technology (NIHERST) to conduct fore-sighting exercises to consider the adoption and use of biotechnology and digital technologies within specific industries;
- We will ban all single-use plastic straws and mandate Solid Waste Management Company Limited (SWMCOL) to develop a new national recycling education programme;
- We will table legislation for the decriminalisation of Marijuana;
- We will develop a National Health Insurance System;
- We will develop a Mental Health plan to decentralize mental health care and make it more accessible;
- We will complete the National Oncology Centre;
- We will table legislation to amend the Children’s Life Find Act to widen the listed diseases including beta-thalassemia;
- We will initiate the process of aligning GATE funding to economic priority areas and labour market needs;
- We will restart the Laptop programme in schools;
- We will request both the ministry of finance and the Central Bank to initiate the process of creating the National Food Security Fund, a National Infrastructure Fund and a National Climate Trust Fund. These three innovative funds will mobilise financial resources for our economic development plan without raising public debt;
- We will request both the ministry of finance and the Central Bank to prepare an action plan for issuing diaspora bonds to the Trinidad and Tobago diaspora community;
- We will re-establish the ministry of the people;
- We will re-establish the ministry of justice.
The UNC is not about talk. They [the government] talk – UNC works. We get the job done.
It’s about working for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. And the UNC will get Trinidad and Tobago working again. I want you to be able to put food on the table when the day comes. The UNC’s core philosophy has been to improve the lives of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
During the government I led, we invested in policies, projects, and programmes to achieve this. We also recognized that investment in our human capital, particularly our young people, is critical to national development. As we move forward, we remain focused on ensuring that our young people are given opportunities to grow, develop and become productive citizens.
We laid a strong foundation during our term in government, and when we are returned to office, we will build on the good work and advancements we made, to return our country to growth.
I feel it’s important that I share with you, once again, some of the many achievements of the government I led.
The Dr Rowley regime has done nothing in the four years they’ve been in office, (except their blame Kamla campaign) and hope that the people forget the work we did.
But it is important that you are reminded:
- We created more than 55,000 jobs;
- We stabilized the economy and returned to a growth path;
- We brought serious crimes down to the lowest levels in over three decades;
- WE improved health care delivery across the country;
- We established the Children’s Life Fund to give critically ill children a chance to access life-saving medical care;
- We built over 100 new schools;
- We delivered clean water to 70 percent of the population;
- We constructed Hundreds of kilometres of new roads;
- We built thousands of new homes;
- We built the Couva Children’s Hospital, the San Fernando Teaching Hospital, the Carenage; Health facility, completed the Hospital in Tobago and started the Arima and Point Fortin Hospitals;
- We built several police stations;
- We carried out Infrastructure development across the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago
These are just a handful because there are too many to mention here.
I will never apologize for investing in our people because that is the simple mandate of any government: To protect, provide and invest in its people.
Related: Part 1