by Vernon Khelawan
Forgive me for not understanding this new ferry issue. How is this government, which is always crying broke; no drugs in the hospitals; looking feverishly for money to pay public servants every month; owing a large debt to contractors and paying debts generally, can out of the blue have $120 million (TT) to purchase a brand new ferry (not withstanding it is slower by more than an hour) for the inter-island service?
Now understand I have no problem with the government having another ferry to add to its fleet. Proper repairs to the two current boats to service the inter-island should add a few years to them.
But that’s not the point. I just don’t understand how a financially struggling government can suddenly buy a new boat; spend $400 million on a piece of roadway in Cumuto; fire almost 300 people at the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT); subsidise Caribbean Airlines and the public transportation service, water and electricity to name a few while people go without drugs, wait years for proper hospital care and the list goes on…
What did the Prime Minister say in his speech a couple of Sundays ago? Oh yes. I remember. He spoke about things past, many of them repeats, blamed former administrations for our present problems, but nary a word on what he was going to do about development, plans for our economic recovery and so on…
Anybody who listened to the Prime Minister’s address would have been left wanting. He did not offer any solutions for our economic problems; the runaway crime problem; the imbroglio in the judiciary or our foreign exchange problems.
Almost every time Prime Minister Keith Rowley speaks to the people, he mentions the difficult economic problems we are now facing. So much so that four months into the new fiscal year, allocations to several regional corporations have not yet been received. The Health Ministry is at pains to pay many workers and to buy much needed drugs for the CDAP programme and for the hospitals.
The Education Ministry is no different. Schools remain closed for want of repairs. Grants to pay cleaners and sanitation staff at some schools have not been received since October. In some cases, teachers’ salaries are paid by means other than government grants.
There is a delayed response to many water leaks until they become saunas and let us not talk about road repairs; only when they become chasms are they repaired. Of course, this only means filling the dug-up space with blue metal and some oil.
Road maintenance is so poor that in Tunapuna, near the grocery formerly owned by the Sinanan family on the Eastern Main Road (EMR), there’s a hole which nobody can explain, but is protected by several cones. This hole has been part of the landscape for more than a month. The same goes for small road repairs. And so the story goes with most ministries, especially those dealing with the poor and disadvantaged. The position seems akin to a crime.
Most people who live in Trinidad and Tobago understand that and empathise with the government for their dilemma. But then the government turns around and spends billions on what appears to be vanity projects—a ferry port in Toco; a road in Cumuto that leads to nowhere, they say Manzanilla; another playground it is said is the Brian Lara Academy where more fetes than cricket takes place; PTSC’s school bus racket and hear this—out of the blue we ups and buy a slower boat (and it is coming from China) to service the suffering seabridge. And neither the various Chambers of Commerce nor any such organisations say anything about that…