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posted 26 Apr 2012, 09:31 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 29 Apr 2012, 03:42 by Dave Smith ]
In a media statement dated April 26th 2012, Vincent Cabrera, President of the Banking Insurance and General Workers' Union (BIGWU) attacked proposals put forward by Robert Riley, Ex-President of BPTT for the privatisation of health care and prisons.

The Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union totally and unreservedly rejects the proposals made by Robert Riley, a key managerial representative of the British Petroleum Industry, to privatise the nation’s hospitals and prisons.

We are calling on Mr. Riley to immediately withdraw his most unfortunate and untimely proposal. While Mr. Riley’s views on energy and energy related issues may be respected, this is certainly not so in the case of his latest foray into changing the scope and dimensions of the health sector.

It is even worse as it pertains to his proposals to have privately run jails in Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Riley is certainly no expert on health and health developmental matters; neither is he an expert in relation to penal institutions and penal reform.

His proposals are deficient and ill founded for a number of reasons. In the first place, there already exists significant private sector participation in the health sector and there are serious problems of managerial inefficiency and sub-standard emoluments paid to health workers in the private sector.

The private sector is also involved in the supply of medicine and medical equipment to the State run hospitals. There are already privately owned security firms which are responsible for transportation of prisoners.

Privatisation of the nation’s health and penal institutions, coming as it is has, on the eve of the celebrations for fifty years of political independence would be an admission that the State has failed in terms of delivery of decent health services. Internationally, there has been a trend towards socialisation of the health sector instead of privatisation.

The successful state-provided health care systems in countries such as Cuba, Canada and France is further evidence of the validity of the argument that not all services should be run merely to provide a handsome profit for investors and capitalists. This is exactly what Mr. Riley and his friends at the Chamber of Commerce are seeking to do.

The inescapable truth is that this would be to the detriment of the poor, and to the other vulnerable sectors of the society. It would also result in a massive increase in health care costs for workers and their families in particular.

The BIGWU accuses Mr. Riley of having a moribund thought pattern which prevents him from seeing that the future of the local private sector will be better served by genuine entrepreneurs being creative and extolling new ideas which will result in new industries instead of this constant craving for the dismantling of the State sector.

There is nothing creative in Riley’s proposal to grab a significant chunk of the State’s assets. Unlike Texaco and Shell; petroleum companies that constructed hospitals and clinics in the country, this BP Executive wants to take away our hospitals. Investors must take genuine risks and achieve returns based on well thought out adventure into business opportunities. Why must the development of the mature private sector be achieved only by incursions into what the State already owns and operates for the benefit of the people?

Mr. Riley should be aware that private prisons in many foreign countries are some of the worse run in the world, with overcrowding being one of the many maladies faced by inmates. The State must not shirk it responsibilities. The responsibility of the State is to effect genuine penal reform and not give in to any temptations engineered by the private sector to have prisons run for the sole purpose of providing indecent profits to greedy capitalists.

Regulation of privately run prisons would be a nightmare for any regulatory body established to oversee prison administration. If Riley’s dangerous proposals are accepted by the Government of the People’s Partnership it will also lead to significant retrenchment at the Ministry of Health and at the Ministry of National Security.

BIGWU calls on MPATT, the PSA, the Prisons Officers Association and other representative bodies to condemn this proposal which is evidently aimed at reduction in the levels of employment attached to the public sector.

Vincent Cabrera