N Touch
Thursday 20 September 2018
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Picking a fight

On Monday THA Finance Secretary Dr Anselm London as much as challenged TT’s Finance Minister Winston Dookeran to a financial duel.

In his 2010-2011 Budget presentation, Dr London dismissed Dookeran’s concerns about the state of the TT treasury as rhetoric, almost alleging the former central bank governor’s comments were aimed solely at keeping Tobago back.

London demanded Tobago be given regardless, the $3.5 billion he said the PNM THA needs to run Tobago’s affairs.

Dr London’s remarks were not the first salvo from Scarborough of late. Since May 24, since the TOP took the two Tobago seats from the PNM, the PNM in the THA has been making noises about the risks to the integrity of Tobago and to the THA Act of 1996, legislation coincidentally laid by a UNC/NAR Government. Now the issue is money.

Not a shot fired by the new Central Government yet the THA has begun complaining about the future of Tobago, more threatened it is alleging by a PP central administration than a PNM one, which it would seem gave it what it wanted. Dr London’s presentation on Monday read more like a political stump speech than a fiscal plan for the sister isle.

It is clear the PNM is picking a fight with the new regime. A drowning man, the axiom goes, will clutch at a straw if he thinks this will save him. In Tobago, both Orville London and Dr Anselm London are sinking. Politically. They are thus, grasping at anything that looks like a political lifeline.

It is evident that Tobago has swung away from the PNM anew. The TOP took the two Tobago seats in this last General Election. The TOP looks certain to grab the THA from the PNM in the next election in 2013.

The biggest fear now for the Londons in the THA is that funds for programmes such as CEPEP, which have kept the PNM in the THA, are reduced by the PP. It is this sort of “development plan”, which is occupying Dr London’s concern. On Monday, Dr London in his speech made repeated reference to both CEPEP and URP, and to wages for contract workers and THA employees, the biggest pieces of the recurrent fiscal pie.

If Government cuts back on expenditure for CEPEP and URP, the PNM’s time in Tobago is over for it has depended largely on CEPEP and URP for Tobago’s development and its own survival. Everywhere in Tobago, an island where people are proudly self-reliant, there is a sign that boasts, “Another CEPEP project.”

Reduce the number of these and the PNM is history. Tobago West, more PNM than East and despite the CEPEP and URP projects, went to the TOP in May. In 2013, more of the 12 THA seats will surely swing to Ashford Jack’s party.

But in seeking to save their own political careers, the Londons are risking driving a wedge between Trinidad and Tobago. They are also continuing the PNM spendthrift approach to governance, which means make-work, unsustainable projects at all cost, whether the price is the treasury or Tobagonians. The PNM has sought to make Tobagonians as dependent on them as they have made many impoverished Trinidadians.

The plan has not worked for as long as they expected. With fewer CEPEP funds, the THA might also start looking less competent.

It is this culture of dependency, not development, which the THA PNM is afraid the PP will cutback. It feels CEPEP, a PNM creation, will become a political weapon that kills the party in Tobago.

Cutbacks, not threatened, yet feared, will mean only one thing for the PNM THA members. Come 2013 it is their future which will be in peril, not Tobago’s.

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