Thursday, May 27, 2010

She always said I had a problem finishing what I started.

I ran out of time - not reasons - and as a consequence, the Election Primer was left incomplete. Fortunately and in spite of my predicament, reason won (on this rare occassion) and the People's Partnership won the election on May 24 (or Patrick Manning lost - depending on how you wish to look at it). Still here are the remaining reasons as to why you should have voted this General Election and why you should have cast your ballot for anyone but the PNM:


$1.5B spent and no real benefit to speak of - except perhaps the pleasure of putting 'I met the Queen and President Obama' on your resume. *sigh* Even the international news coverage that was promised was less than enthusiastic. While many of us stayed indoors rather than to have to deal with ridiculous traffic restrictions, the rest of the world virtually ignored the fact that we were playing hosts to one of the underwhelming actvities on the press calendar. While Manning et al hobnobbed, the press ventured into Beetham Gardens and commented on the blatant show of banana republic excess. At least we had our five minutes of fame courtesy of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report - even if it painted us as a spanish speaking banana republic - at least they got it half right.

No one can tell you what has been spent on this white elephant to date. And they certainly have made little attempt to say just what it will cost at its completion. In any event, four years is far too much time to have been spent on this project and anything over $400M is nothing but gravy. At its completion we will no doubt have the most expensive Tsunami shelter in this hemisphere.

U is for University of Trinidad & Tobago
Only the PNM would spend copious amounts of money to start up a fledgling tertiary institution while starving the regional, recognised university of much needed funds. This while all the while preaching the gospel of regional integration. yet another one of those pesky mixed messages that was conveniently ignored so that certain people could walk around with honorary titles and unchecked entertainment allowances. Sweet!

V is for Victimization
Like it or not, the PNM systematically ignored the needs of the East Indian population. Be it scholarships through the Ministry of Culture, use of national facilities, disbursements for cultural events, National Awards, positions at State-run companies, or just the delievry of basi necessities such as water and paved roads, the PNM did a piss-poor job by indians. At least the PM was a self-proclaimed roti fanatic. A fact that is more than enough to disprove any accusation of racism that could be levelled against him or his Government.

W is for WASA
WASA has been one of those perpetual problems, not unlike Herpes, that has been the bane of all Governments for the past fifty years. This time around, there were more jobs for the boys, more leaks and more reason for worry and bother than ever. In the end was this Government done in by the worst drought in a century? And the almost laughable attempts to conserve water (and expense) that has resulted in WASA becoming one of the most indebted enterprises in T&T.

For years, the people of this country have had an uncertain relationship with foreigners. They both loved them and despised them. Distrusted and relied solely upon them. Alternately Married them and raped and murdered them. Thanks to the Manning Administration however, ny sentiments of Xenophobia have been replaced by a LOVE for all things foreign - particularly if it came from China via Canada. We've had hallmark projects paid for with your tax dollars but designed, managed and constructed by foreigners. We've had foreign culture given preference over the local ones. Jobs to foreigners. Aid to foreigners. Etc. I am certain that once an audit is completed the Government would have export more dollars and opportunities for sustainable development than any other government in this country's history - including under colonial rule. Naturally, aAs the holder of a canadian passport I feel as though I missed out on the rush while it was happening. Damn you morals and ethics!

Y is for YES MEN
There has been no shortage of 'yes men' in this Government. We've had sycophants of all kinds in the past eight years as the PM has systematically purged the dissent out of his party and surrounded himself with outstrectched hands. They would probably agree to any suggestion that the PM might bring to the table. Like lemmings - they will all follow their leader to certain death.

I have no doubt that the sound of the PM'svoice was for many a source of comfort and joy. For many more more however, it was a signal to switch channels. Yes, his voice may have bored and frustrated you to tears in the last eight years - but to me, it worked better than that white noise between radio stations. Thanks for the many nights of sound sleep Mr PM. I now understand how Hazel has remained married to you for so long.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'R' is for Rapid Rail Project

Reported at times to require an investment in excess of $30B, the Rapid Rail is one of those hall-mark projects that Governments love because of a) their high visibility and b) all the opportunities to milk the public purse. The Government appeared to be hell bent on pursuing this project as being pivotal to this country's modernization thrust, and commitmnets appear to have been made without even so much as the benefit of a cost-benefit analysis.

The recently held public consultations (after the fact) appear to be farcical at best - just one more motion to have checked off on some list in some office somewhere on the road to getting the job done. In Trinidad & Tobago we are introduced routinely to new nouns and verbs but two new ones (both verbs) stand head and shoulders above the rest.

The first is 'MANNING' as in 'TO PULL A MANNING', the definition of which is simply "to cut corners to get the job done and in the process disregard the intelligence of the many".

The second is related to the first and it is 'HART' as in 'TO BUST A HART'. Simply put, this refers to the same thing as 'pulling a Manning' but which is to do so with impugnity and for massive financial gain only to 'ups and disappear' only when the truth is found out or in local parlance: 'when de mark buss'.

On the issue of the Rapid Rail (or 'Raquet Rail' as refered to in some circles), there has been as little regard for the environment impact as for the economic impact. The project promises jobs for many, but also promises to displace a great deal more. Goodness knows what has spent to date. But one finds the timing of the latest PR blitz (via the national Newspapers) to be somewhat uncomfortable. The week of the General ELections alone, I counted no fewer than five full page adverts in support.

Worse yet, why isnt anyone concerned over the fact that two of the consortiums partners (Alstom and Buoygues Batiment) are under serious investigation in their home countries for bribery and corruption?

There are difficult questions that still need to be asked with respect to this project. And many more issues that need to be addressed. The most significant of which are:

1. What will be the total cost of the project?
2. What will be the annual cost of operating this system once completed?
3. Will receipts be enough to cover the cost of 1., 2., or both?
4. On what basis were the preferred contractors selected?
5. Will the completed project revert immediately to the ownership of the People of Trinidad & Tobago, or will the contractors retain some portion of ownership in perpetuity?
6. How many people will be displaced as a result of the proposed route(s)?
7. What is the overall cost of relocating the same?
8. Have necessary provisions been made for ample 'Park and Ride' facilities as well as to ramp up the satellite services that will bring would be commuters to and from the rail stations?

By my own estimation, it would be impossible for the Government to hope to ever recoup any significant portion of a $30B investment in this regard. Based on a proposed annual cost of $300M, and a daily carriage of 10,000 persons either way, the ticket price would have to be almost $60 just to ensure that this cost is met annually!

As I have said (and written) time and time again, traffic congestion could be immediately and economically dealt with through the introduction of 'flexed' hours (for schools, private sector employees and public sector employees with days that start at 7.30, 8.30 and 9.30 respectively each day), decentralization of government, an increased police presence (vigilance against indiscriminate stopping and overtaking) on the roads, and the creation of specific lay-bys for the safe pick up and drop-off of commuters.

Once again, basic common sense trumps a big project. Unfortunate for some, intelligent solutions have little room for graft.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'Q' is for Queen Street Fire 2005 - Promises Made and Promises Broken

On April 9, 2005, the People's Mall located on Queen & Frederick Streets in Port of Spain was completely destroyed by a fire that started as a result of a car battery explosion. The fire was said to have caused $30M in losses as 140 booths and many more dreams went up in smoke.

Within hours, the government of the day, led by Patrick Manning had made visits to the affected area and promised to rebuild (on the same site) a new modern facility, with promises for the construction to start almost immediately.

The promises made never materialised.

Five years later - the tenants of the People's (Drag) Mall have returned and a complex reminiscent of shanties from Port-au-Prince to Johannesburg has risen up from the rubble. The tenants - who ironically are traditional supporters of the ruling party drawn from the depressed neighbourhoods surrounding Port of Spain - appear to have conveniently forgotten about the promises that have been made and accordingly their needs have been leapfrogged by more important issues such as Prime Ministerial Palaces, international summits, and million dollar flags - more important in the eyes of the Government.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'P' is for Petrotrin

Here's a perfect example of incompetence and ineptitude as it relates to the management of state resources. The state petroleum company has been long described as a loss-making enterprise in spite of its enviable position in the oil & gas equation of Trinidad & Tobago. It doesnt matter if oil prices are at record highs or lows, Petrotrin will show a loss. In recent years, I can only recall one instance where a profit was recorded (and this was under the previous UNC administration). The event was so momentous and historic that Petrotrin promptly spent much of its surplus advertising the fact and soon returned to loss making a year later.

Now, the more skeptical among us might be tempted to view the procession of annual losses in the light of the company's on-going problems with its workers and its union, the OWTU. Would it be too far a stretch to suggest that the company has deliberately declared loss after loss as means of keeping the demands of its workforce within reason? Or is this a sinister attempt on the part of the Executive (the Prime Minister and his Cabinet) to squirrel away funds for more nefarious means? As I am not a conspiracy theorist, I would prefer totake the performance on face value and place the blame as it were squarely at the feet of the management of that state-run firm.

If the annual loss making was not nearly enough to ask for four aspirin and a stiff drink, we are now faced with two other issues which individually amplify the unsutability of that company's management, and together scream for the removal of the Minister of Energy, the Cabinet and the Prime Minister.

The first is the neverending saga of a refinery upgrade that was initially budgeted to cost US$350M has now, like the stadium obliquely opposite it, suffered from the most untenable and yet to be explained cost overruns that have pushed it to US$1.3B - an increase of 271% AND COUNTING!

(See Here: )

It amazes me that a management team could be responsible for such mismanagement and not be held 'responsible'. I have no doubt that since no one has been fired and in light of the fact that there have been few reported defections and resignations, that bonuses have been paid every year to the management team as well. My outrage bubbles over!

Now added to the pot are the recent reports that Petrotrin is being sued for US$12B - That's right, BILLIONS. Or Approximately, TT$75B. Or in terms that the common man can more easily grasp: 37,500 two-million flags!

(Read Here: )

Starting to get the picture? And as if enough money hasnt already been 'wasted', now there is talk of a US$12B industrial estate project INCLUDING a spanking new state of the art refinery. What? you say? Didnt they just spend $1.3B on an upgrade of an existing refinery at Pointe-a-Pierre? More wastage and more graft to come.

(Read here:,120486.html )

Breathe deeply. Now focus your outrage and your anger. And on May 24, be sure to vote out the people who reward such stupidity and incompetence. And who continue to waste your tax dollars every day.


Pro-People / Pro-Life

There have been alot of questions asked and innuendoes thrown the way of Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the People's Partnership in recent weeks regarding its stand on the Abortion issue. The Abortion Issue has never before factored in a General election here in Trinidad & Tobago and the mere fact that it has suddenly risen up on thelandscape could well be a reflection of just how 'americanized' our politicking has become in the past few years.

Abortion is and remains an illegal act under the legal code in Trinidad & Tobago. The punishment for a woman who has an abortion is 4 years in prison and the punishment for a doctor or other person who performs the procedure is the same. Aiding in the process of finding someone to perform an abortion or other preliminary steps is also illegal and subject to a 2 year prison sentence.

Access to this procedure is not a national issue as we have been spared the challenges of Roe v Wade, the emergence of a Feminist Movement, and the rise and fall of the accursed 'Abortion Clinic' in our sleepy twin republic. One 2007 survey did however indicate that about half of the Trinidadian population were in favor of increased legal access to abortion - and this perhaps is the genesis of this suden interest.

Similarly perhaps is the news that the Draft Constitution calls for a total outlawing of abortion spearheaded it would appear by religious interest groups and vehemently opposed by a group known as ASPIRE (see website here: ) ASPIRE seeks to expand the current exceptions in the legislation which among other things allow for abortion in cases where the mother's life is endangered.,43838.html

Statistics on abortions in T&T are incomplete at best. And are estimated to be between 10 and 20,000 per year. ASPIRE estimate that of this number some 4,000 are 'botched' procedures that end up in secondary medical care. So this is most likely where interest in this issue is being driven from in 2010.

ASPIRE, the Draft Constitution, and the question of access to safe, hygenic medical care aside, the PNM has repeatedly raised the issue on the platform this Election, and although the People's Partnership has repeated refuted that they have any intention to change the law as it pertains to this delicate subject, I watched the Works Minister, Colm Imbert raise it once again just last night (May 18) at a political meeting in DIego Martin.

Just in case you are not aware, the People's Partnership has declared publicly that it is decidedly PRO-LIFE. The following Q&A between a supporter and one of the PP's leading legal minds Timothy Hamel-Smith best illustrates:

From: "Alan Harford"

Date: Sat, 15 May 2010 17:25:11 -0400

To: Timothy Hamel-Smith

Subject: UNC/Cop Partnership

Dear Timmy,

There are a lot of people asking what is the partnerships position on abortion. The parties need to make an unequivocal statement as this is loosing some support as we don't know what they are going to do.Please get them to say something definite.

God Bless


From: timothy hamel-smith

Date: 5/15/2010 7:44:48 PM
Winston Dookeran; Prakash Ramadhar
Subject: Re: UNC/Cop Partnership

The People's Partnership has no intention of changing the present law of T+T which prohibits abortions.

The People's Partnership in its Manifesto have categorically stated that in Taking Health Care to the People it will take care of them "From Conception to Exit" . We consider that it is our sacred duty to protect life.

The attempt by Colm Imbert to bring up the issue is merely a distraction to try and steer away from the real issues of crime. We believe that it is the sacred duty of every Government to protect the lives of our People. The PNM have failed miserably in that regard- in our view the lives of the unborn have equal importance as those as each of us. The PNM, whatever they may say, and remember by their fruits you shall know them, have no real respect for human life treating victims of murder as mere statistics and collateral damage.

The People's Partnership will not be sucked into this PNM ruse to escape the real issue of crime which impacts on the life of everyone.

There probably are women in all the parties, the PNM included, who favour abortion and because we have a female Leader the PNM believe they can run an underground smear campaign on this non-issue. This attempt to introduce the abortion question is a PNM inspired fear tactic that has no truth in it whatsoever.

Making this into a national issue will play right into the hands of ASPIRE who would like to make this non-issue a debating point on the hustings.

I am one of the leaders of the Public Policy Program who developed our Manifesto and I assure you that there has been absolutely no attempt to introduce support for abortion. Indeed I have let it be known that I would resign if abortion was a policy to be promoted.
I hope that Christians and members of other religions will not fall for these disingenuous dirty tricks of the PNM. You can expect that desperation will drive them to pursue many fear tactics. Do not believe any of them least of all any on the abortion issue.

The dictatorial tendencies of Mr Manning are coming to the fore as he has commandeered all TV stations to broadcast free of charge interviews and addresses which he proposes to make for 3 hours over 3 separate occasions. Do not be fooled by PNM propaganda which they will try to pursue by underground rumours of lies and half-truths.

We believe we have a sacred duty to protect all life from conception to exit - that is our promise and covenant with the People



So spread the word: the People's Partnership is Pro-People and Pro-Life!

PS In a ironic twist, it would appear that PNM Candidate for Port of Spain North / St Anns West, Patricia McIntosh was recently awarded as ASPIRE's educator of the year - a development that no doubt aligns her with the issue on the side of the PRO-ABORTION movement in T&T. One wonders how long it will be before Colm Inbert publicly calls on Mrs McIntosh to publicly state her position on this most volatile and divisive issue.

Election Primer A - Z: 'O' is for O'Halloran

Truth be told the PNM were never afforded a chance to deal with the issue of corruption nor perform the necessary penance to obtain national attrition when they were voted out in 1986. Almost 25 years later, we have seen an unending progression of smart men and con-artists. Questionable business deals and policy shifts. From LABIDCO to UdeCott to the write off of Mr Manning's Personal debt - No one has ever had to pay the price.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'N' is for No-Confidence

With the recent aborted no-confidence motion and his subsequent decision to put his mandate to a national vote, Prime Minister Manning has created more questions than answers. Why would anyone with an eleven vote advantage in the lower house seek to pre-empt any such attempt by risking that advantage still has political pundits scratching their heads. But then again there is little that PM Manning does that can be considered conventional, rational or intentional. Perhaps it is that Mr Manning has a better view of the 'end-game' than anyone else - and if so it would be testimony to his near four decade career in the lower house. Or is Mr Manning the beneficiary of some divine ordination or advice.

Is it that Patos got wind of a possible palace coup that would have led to his removal as PM? This assertion is not as far fetched as it may seem. From where I sit, the PMs chess game failed when he decided to start the screening process
before the motion had had its day in Parliament. And in so doing, had telegraphed his intention to remove as many as six MPs from his roster in an upcoming election. (a swing of six would have resulted in the motion being passed). A defeat in parliament in April would have hypothetically saved the nation the expense and hassle of an election, and his party the ignominy of a mid-term loss at the polls. (Question: Would the PNM be facing such a serious threat were Dr Rowley in charge at this time?)

And of course there are the questions of the timing of his decision to call an election. The PM maintains that he had a date in mind since last October and wished to benefit from the element of surprise. Coincidentally, news of a probe into the Hart Issue has a similar date of origin. As for the element of surprise - why wait for ten days after the dissolution of parliament? And more importantly, will the gift those additional ten days prove to be the difference in the end for the People's Partnership should they hold on to win come May 24?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'M' is for Manning

Truth be told this issue is quite possibly the biggest reason as to why the PNM loses this election should they in fact lose come May 24.

The Prime Minister has gone from poster-boy to greatest liability in eight years and is the subject of the hate and derision of more than half of the population due in large part to his perceived arrogance, but more pointedly due to his almost blind
support for the blunders of his government and of individuals such as Messrs Rao and Hart - who have enjoyed the confidence of the PM in amounts greater than many of the members of his own party.

Mr Manning has surrounded himself with ineffectual yes-men who have helped him to dig himself into an even deeper hole. It amazes me that his political advisors have not themselves seen this - and should they have, how is it that they continue to make Mr Manning the central figure of their campaign?

Battle cries such as 'Patrick goin back' may appeal to the 150,000 or so dyed-in-the-wool PNM supporters who will chant PNM until I die until they quite literally live up to that promise. But it does nothing to help court the large pool of swing and undecided voters who will readily agree that the Prime Minister's cocky air of superiority - his arrogance - is their biggest turn off in this election. Without a command of the majority of these voters, the PNM cannot and will not win.

It is therefore against the best advice, that they continue to erect larger than life billboards featuring full-length images of the PM. They continue to write jingles that make him out to be some sort of Orwellian demi-god. And they continue to push Mr Manning to the forefront in this campaign.

Even long standing supporters of the ruling party such as Selwyn Ryan has gone as far as to endorse the People's Partnership in next week's election. And perhaps his article in today's Express best sums up the national sentiment on Mr Manning and the creeping desire for change:

Were it not for Manning the PNM would not be in the mess that they currently find themselves. There would be no need for a 'mid-term' election. And they would not be facing down another defeat at the polls. This could well be the third time (1995, 2000 and now) that Mr Manning leads his party to a loss. Lets hope that in the post-election period that the PNM will follow the UNC and jettison Mr Manning from the party and begins the process of rebuilding sans the baggage of arrogance and allegations of corruption that has plagued it over the past 8 years.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'L' is for Legislative Agenda

If one positive could be spared for the PNM's legislative agenda this past decade, it would be that if they exhibited the legislative zeal that they did for the things that mattered to them (the TTRA Bill, Property Tax Ammendment, legislation to allow the PM to fly the coat of arms on his official vehicle) on the issues that truly mattered to the public at large, then this country would be well on its way to being a First World Nation.

Unfortunately, the old adage applies: show me your legislative agenda and I can tell who your friends are. This government has been notoriously weak both in terms of enactment and enforcement. I mean, can they really lay claim to having a legislative agenda?

When we look back at the pieces of legislation that have been laid in parliament, their almost ad-hoc introduction and the lack of entusiasm shown to the OHSA bill, the Child Rights Act and even the delay on the Breathalyser Bill isnt it patently obvious that they dont give a f#$% about the average man on the street.

Do they even really have a plan if they can point to no draft legislation that backs it up? Case in point: the IFC. We've been hearing about the IFC for five years now and the legislation that would facilitate its creation as well as provide for the organizations that are supposedly being targeted by it still does not exist. WTF, You say? Well get in line.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'K' is for Kamla

As has become common-place in democracies around the world, election contests have become less about finding Mr or Ms Right and more about finding Mr or Ms Right Now. I would not say that Kamla is the best possible choice for leader of this country but given the crop of individuals given to a public life, she is by far the best choice.

Many of the criticisms leveled against Kamla so far, are similar to the ones made of a certain one term senator from Illinois who opted to take that first step on his personal journey to world change. What she does have going for her is the fact that she is a bright, accomplished woman, who is not the present incumbent, and of course that the people simply want change.

There are no guarantees that Kamla's brand of change will be sustainable or will in the long term prove to be to our benefit. In the end, her participation in our Government will be determined by FAITH.

We really arent ever 100% sure what it is we are getting when we walk out of that polling station on election day. Conservatives who voted for Bush in 2000 had no idea that the world would have changed so dramatically inside of 18 months. Similarly, many of us feel betrayed by the Manning administration not only because its been soft on crime and long winded in execution but because we invested a certain degree of faith in confirming his selection in 2001 in the GE of 2002.

We believed thenthat a change was required to put an end to the spectre of corruption that haunted the then administration and unfortunately he was not the best knight for the job of slaying the dragon - he was the only choice available to us.

And now again in 2010, the tables have turned. Corruption has once again become the rallying cry of the day and we must place our faith in the only option that is available to us at this time. Its the democratic way.

Why reward for non-performance, empty-promises and lies? And should the tides once again shift in the future, then my advice to everyone would be to exercise your franchise once again in the HOPE and in FAITH that all things wrong could be set right.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'J' is for Judiciary

The copy of the op-ed piece above provides a perspective into just one of the ways that the PM and the President may or may not have acted wrongly in the handling of the entire Justice Sharma matter. No matter how you look at it, the PM successfully outfoxed, stone-walled and hounded the Chief Justice out of office over (his) allegations of bias.

Allegations which involved some level of collusion (?) with the Chief Magistrate who himself should at some point be made to respond to accusations of using undue influence in one matter in exchange for political suasion in a financial matter involving him and a land deal valued at $2M.

Even beyond this, the dispensation of justice has been severely hamstrung under a PNM government: court dates are still being made years in advance and the Judiciary as an institution is being routinely starved of funding for the items that it requires to improve and evolve. So convinced is the PM of the inability of the Judiciary to remain independent and unbiased (against the PNM of course) that he has taken to advocating for a Ministry of Justice as part of his Manning Constitution that will all but surely eliminate any semblance of the separation of powers that we have at our disposal or rather to best protect us against the effects of an unchecked executive. Volney matter aside the storm has been long brewing.

So frustrating is the matter in fact that the Chief Justice himself has been given cause to complain about the interference of the Executive:,107527.html

Wake up people, an independent Judiciary is an important pillar of the rights and freedoms that you enjoy. And this Government is trying its hardest to debase its value and importance on the first part and to rob you of it in the next. BEWARE. Vote DEM out!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'I' is for International Financial Centre

Perhaps you recall all the grand plans that would have made T&T the Gateway to the Americas? Almost a decade on and we still have neither the capacity (airport, hotel rooms, legislative) nor the demand (are people really knocking down our doors to come here let alone layover on their way to the US or South America?) to make this dream a reality.

What about the desires of our sitting PM that Port of Spain become the home of the Secretariat of the Organization of American States? Remember how the PM stood up publicly and explained that regional suport for this venture was a 'lock' - only for our self same neighbours to turn their backs on us to vote in support of Miami instead?

And then of course for the last five years, Mr Manning has been nuturing a new dream - that of an International Financial Centre in Port of Spain. And to facilitate this his, government has invested Billions of dollars on the Waterfront Centre with a view to situating the IFC there.

A Government owned, Hyatt managed hotel, two towers and a fountain later, this dream has confirmed itself to be just that. To date, there have been no international financial companies that have signalled any intent to expand into T&T let alone become tenants of these buildings. The legislation that has been passed to date has been hodge-podge and inadequate at best. And the towers are with the exception of the Ministry of Energy, empty.

If anything, the IFC presents us with one very important as it relates to the PNM led Government: that although the PM and his advisors are filled to the brim with 'visions' of a developed nation, their ability to execute (especially execute in a timely, economical and beneficial manner) has repeatedly been called in to question.

And other questions to. Why wait until after a decision has been made by the executive to solicit the views of a wider population as has been the case with the smelter, the rapid rail and the new constitution? Why can this Government never account for every dollar that is spent in every one of its projects? Why the routine cost-overruns? Why do project time-lines get thrown out the window? Why all the unused office space in the IFC and the Government Campus yet the Government is not only the largest tenant in Trinidad & Tobago - but the actual sqare footage being let has increased exponentially in spite of this building thrust.

In the end, it would appear that we, the taxayers of this country, have been led down a path and we have been introduced to the briar path. All that remains is for those who govern us to throw us in. It is in our power and in our best interest to voice the above questions and more importantly to demand accountability. And failing a satisfactory response - to make a wontonly wasteful government pay the ultimate price for their failure to execute and execute well.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Election Primer A - Z: 'H' is for Home Mortgage Bank


What do you call it when the sitting Chairman of a state-owned company takes the decision to sell $110M worth of shares in that company to himself? And what do you call it when that individual is also the Treasurer of the ruling party?

And even though it has been reported that neither the Government nor the Central Bank has read much wrong in what Mr Monteil has done, to any impartial bystander this is a clear case of the immoral, self-serving actions that has characterized the present administration.

To recap, while he was the Chairman of HM, the Financial Controller of CL Financial and Onwer of Stonestreet Holdings, he convinced the other board members of the HMB to allow him via Stonestreet to purchase CL's 43.8% shareholding of the HMB for the sum of $110M. Though deemed a legal transfer, Mr Monteil was ultimately made to reverse the transaction.

A partial chronology of the unsavory issue is available here:

As a follow up, it was reported a month ago that Mr Monteil was being sued by CLICO Investment Bank (an organization he was also connected to as Financial Director) for several breaches of company law and common-law and fiduciary duties, including:

…breach of his duty under the Companies Act to, as CIB director and chairman, “act honestly and in good faith with a view to the best interest of the company” and “to exercise the care, diligence and skill that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in comparable circumstances”;

…breach of fiduciary duties to avoid conflicts of interest, to act honestly and in good faith and in the CIB’s best interests and to have loyalty to the company;

…breach of a duty not to self-deal.

In brief, he 'borrowed' $78M from CIB to finance the failed deal and this apparently has not been yet repaid.

Should you be unconvinced by the above, there is also the case of the state purchase of land that belonged to Mr Monteil for TT$4M:

Today, Mr Monteil is the former Financial Controller of CL Financial and former Treasurer of the People's National Movement. But he remains deeply rooted to the party and to its leader, as he is the man who is also responsible for first introducing the PM to the most important Canadian to ever visit our shores: Mr Calder Hart.