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The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.

TOBAGO HEALTH CARE CRASH

posted 18 Nov 2019, 09:51 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 18 Nov 2019, 10:06 ]

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Voices from health care... 

For over a year now we have been predicting this: the systematic shut down of the health care system in Tobago. And over the last 2 weeks it has happened.

So young Sheldon has levelled a misconduct charge against the MCOS, citing that she has brought the TRHA into disrepute because of the email she sent, we would like to tell you about some issues that continue to bring the TRHA into disrepute and you tell us why heads have not rolled as yet.

- 4 senior managers continue to be on administrative leave, with full pay over 8 months now. It doesn't take 8 months to conduct an audit and it certainly doesn't take 8 months for an IR consultant to review the findings.

- selected clients for the pink room…how are these rooms being resourced, do they have a budget or are they being funded after starving the hospital services?

- no gas in our vehicles because we can’t pay NP; vehicles shutting down on the road.

- nurses continue to buy basic items for dressings as none are available in stores.

- patients eating the same thing day after day because suppliers aren't paid, while the THA holds birthday bash for Agatha in Pigeon Point.

- no GM Operations, no Biomedical Engineer, no Mechanical Engineer, no qualified Pharmacy Manager....but we jamming still.

- can anyone tell us about the ICU that the MCOS was building? What’s the status of this building? Is it completed or just a white elephant sitting in the corner? How much of taxpayers money was spent on this project?

- any word on the healing garden? We hear you all brought Ottley from Trinidad with nothing to do, so he's building a healing garden.

- why is it the MCOS is being told to seek suitable coverage for the medical ward, don't we have a GM HR? Doesn't recruitment fall under HR?

- the HR consultants, Doyle and partner, why are they still here? Have they not finished their jobs, their consultancy? Who is paying them while staff can’t get gratuity?

- what is the purpose of those leadership trainees walking around the TRHA, are they working for their salaries and who is paying their salaries while we can't get our gratuity?

- does the TRHA still have a board of directors? What are they here to do? Are they providing any governance to the TRHA?

- what's the latest on the task force? Anybody knows who are on this mysterious task force that seems to be set up to investigate themselves....the disrespect continues.

- about a month ago there were meetings with the board. We hear all board members ditched those meetings after the first encounter with staff. What's the message being sent?


While we are happy that Dr Wheeler is back in the seat. We want him to know that uneasy is the head that wears the crown. We hope you do not lose your objectivity and stoop to the evil powers that prevail over the TRHA.

    
(ANGRY EMPLOYEES OF THE TRHA)

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST By Peter Garvey

posted 18 Nov 2019, 04:21 by Gerry Kangalee

Image result for yara trinidadThe workers at YARA are the latest victims of the epidemic of retrenchment. It is an economic malaise that has spread across our nation over the past three (3) years.

The YARA workers join Arcelor Mittal, RBC, Scotiabank, TCL, TSTT and Petrotrin workers as the most notable to hit the breadline en masse. Massy cashiers are prophesied to suffer the same fate, if they are not absorbed into the structure of the company with their proposed self-service cashing. The workers at TTPost and Unilever are also being readied for the chopping block.

The government's inability (or ineptitude) in expanding our revenue stream away from the energy sector, provides little in the way of opportunity for the newly unemployed able-bodied citizen, whose qualifications and certifications seem to be a waste of time and energy. A cruel realization that you can "ketch real hell" even if you "go to school and learn well" making the Mighty Sparrow a liar (although capitalism has gone mad).

In this disparaging gloom, workers who have not been affected by the scourge of losing their jobs often speak as if they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. What an existence and a thought process to face every day. Tiring as it is we plod on.

What are workers to do? Usually I would say get behind your Unions and push. But, our Unions seem to be individual entities rather than a "Movement". All those companies aforesaid, the only real push made by the "Movement" of Trade Unions, was when the closure of Petrotrin was announced.

Even then, workers were too scared to take part in that action because of a perceived backlash. Some were too busy putting our heads down, believing that working feverishly doing nothing will stave off the economic Grim Reaper. Some of us were just victims of a cynicism that could easily be disguised as being realistic.

All in all, we need our Trade Unions to move away from rhetoric and become influential once more in economic development. There must not be two and three labour bodies. There must be an amalgam of Trade Unions not simply to fight an ad hoc battle, but to move this society forward economically and politically.

We, as the members of Unions, seem to have as much power over our leaders as citizens have over the government. We feel helpless to remove hapless and power-hoarding leaders who clearly are out of their depth to remove us from the depths of an economic ocean that threatens to drown us.

I will continue to call for the membership of various Trade Unions to find progressive leadership. The current leaders have proved themselves inept and bereft of ethics.

Unless we as a people respond forcefully, we will be victims to the deadly virus called retrenchment.

I wish I could have ended on a more positive note but I cannot.

REFINERY: OWTU'S TROJAN HORSE? by David Walker

posted 5 Nov 2019, 10:20 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Nov 2019, 10:37 ]


David Walker
It is difficult to count the ways in which our leaders have mismanaged the Petrotrin refinery. It was mismanaged most hideously by the directors over the years who made the commitments to hugely unwise and unproductive investments to the tune of twelve billion dollars. That depth of mismanagement is difficult to fathom, yet not one director has been held to account. They may still be sitting on State boards today.

Besides investing in valueless enterprises on such vast scale, they financed these projects at the astronomical cost of 9.75% per annum. That means the nation is paying roughly 1.2 billion dollars annually on interest on loans which produce no value.

Government backed borrowings, which these effectively were, should not have cost more than 5% per annum in interest. Someone should have to explain why we are paying a premium of almost 600 million dollars annually on this debt. The further question that must be asked is "did Cabinet approve these investments and the associated loans as they accumulated over ten years or so?". 


We had to do something. Or rather we chose to do anything that Cabinet suggested, because we all agreed that we had to do something. It is useful at this point to note that three professional studies had been undertaken on the status of Petrotrin and its refinery at a cost reported to be around 90 million dollars. Each of them resulted in considered recommendations. While they differed in many respects, they were at one in not recommending the closure of the refinery
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Naturally therefore, our government decided to close the refinery with the loss of 5,000 jobs at a cost of several billion dollars and untold contagion to the economy of the nation in general and the regions adjacent to the refinery in particular. 

Ministers painted this as "tough love" and boasted of their testicular fortitude in making this bold decision in the face of widespread opposition. I wonder where was that testicular fortitude while 12 billion dollars was being misspent creating a debt carried at almost double the expected rate for such projects.

· Disastrous and costly decisions by the directors. Not one director punished or even shamed.

· The country left holding an annual bill of 1.2 billion dollars in interest.

· The refinery shut down with disastrous impact on the economy of Trinidad and Tobago and the livelihoods of up to 10,000 persons against the clear recommendations coming from expensive professional studies that pointed to better paths to a resolution.

· No elimination or reduction of the debt burden and its annual cost.


Could it get any worse?

Our political leaders are mining a particularly rich seam of stupidity and counter intuitivity. Unfortunately, they have also been able to persuade a significant proportion of the population that up is down and down is up.

Recall that they themselves told us that the refinery, or perhaps Petrotrin as a whole, was losing 2 billion dollars a year prior to the closure of the refinery. Recall that the then Chairman Wilfred Espinet told us that the refinery was of no value and that nobody would pay for it hence it had no value. These were not simply casual comments. These were at the core of the arguments in support of the refinery closure and the dismissal of 5,000 workers.

Remarkably, within a year or so, the refinery and its assets that we were told had no value, was able to attract more than 70 bidders. Out of that group we hear that there were three credible bidders and that one, OWTU, was judged to be the most attractive.

Was Mr. Espinet being deceitful in his earlier statement? Was the government and the board of directors simply spectacularly wrong about the value and prospects of the refinery? Has anyone in authority sought to explain this most amazing turnaround while the refinery was lying idle? Has this development confirmed that the three consultants' reports were correct? Has this development now confirmed that the closure was a disastrous misuse of public assets? My answer is a resounding YES in each case.

It gets worse. I say this with a heavy heart as my writings pay testimony to a great appreciation of the role of unions as a balance to unfettered power of the owners of capital. I have regularly defended unions and union leaders against what I consider to be unfair criticisms from many quarters. It therefore pains me to say that the OWTU has allowed itself to be nudged into a position of almost certain failure, probably as part of a political ploy by our leaders.

Image result for owtu refineryAt the heart of this proposed sale arrangement is a very simple premise. It is that the OWTU is somehow going to be able to take a business that was losing 2 billion dollars annually just a year ago and turn it into a profit maker in short order. Does that make sense? Does anyone involved in this understand what it takes to generate a two billion dollar per year improvement in a company's operations? I would not expect a team without the relevant expertise and experience to achieve even a 100 million dollar turnaround, never mind two billion. I await a cogent explanation of how a trade union is going to achieve that turnaround.

And what will the impact of this investment be on the union's core operations and stability? Once the union becomes an employer, I expect that its role on behalf of workers inside and outside of the refinery to come under intense strain. Is the union fully cognizant of those challenges, and does it have a plan for them?

I'm also concerned about the potential impact of this investment on the financial stability of the union. If the union is to truly have leverage over these assets, then it surely has to commit a significant amount of its own assets to the cause. No major financial house is going to put up most of the capital without taking major control. What is the arrangement to be as between the union and the financiers?

Should the venture fail to meet expectations, what impact will that have on the assets of the union, and the control and ownership of the refinery? One could easily envisage a situation where a failure to achieve targets results in financial losses to OWTU, and the transfer of refinery assets to as yet unknown third parties.

I know that it feels almost romantic to say that workers will be in control of the assets of the company. I fear that this agreement is instead a Trojan horse designed to coerce the union into losing its clear raison d'etre on behalf of the workers, weakening it financially, and handing control of the refinery assets to a third party in a fire sale after predictable losses.

Things are already bad, but they're about to get a lot worse in this twelve-billion-dollar tragedy.

THE PRIVATISATION OF PETROTRIN

posted 4 Nov 2019, 06:23 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 4 Nov 2019, 06:47 ]

A clear and proper understanding of recent developments in the local energy sector requires a focus on the structural adjustment agenda of the 
International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and the Interamerican Development Bank (IADB) which officially started during the economic crisis of the 1980's.

One of the noticeable trends in terms of official strategy, has been the divestment of state enterprises, which is a form of privatisation. It is an integral part of the structural adjustment package of reforms put forward by the IMF, the WB and the IADB for the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

This approach is really an imposition of the IMF/WB/IADB on the State of Trinidad and Tobago for the financial assistance it has received since 1989. It is
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known as the orthodox liberal approach to development which rejects the approach to development triggered by the February Revolution of 1970 and financed by the oil boom of the 1970's.

Its aim is to reintroduce a system where resource allocation and income distribution would be dictated primarily by the market (read those who control, the big banks, sit in the board rooms of the huge international monopolies and hold top bureaucratic positions in imperialist governments).

Having strengthened the incorporation of the Trinidad and Tobago Economy into the International Capitalist Economic order, in fact the real objective is to reinstate the rules of the game that Trinidad and Tobago had followed as a Primary Exporting Economy - the rules of the Colonial Economic order.

In this case the local Economy retains its traditional Colonial status in keeping with the International Division of Labour as an exporter of goods with low value added, and an importer of goods with high value added processed in the International (core) Economy - A factor which contributes significantly to underdevelopment in the local economy and the majority of those in the Caribbean and the third world.

A belief in the subservient role of the State complements this approach by removing the Public Sector from any decision making concerning the allocation of resources or Income distribution and also by trying to drastically reduce the State's role as a producer of goods and services.

This structural adjustment policy has its genesis in 1983 with the adoption of the IMF/WB influenced "IMPERATIVES FOR ADJUSTMENT, DRAFT DEVELOPMENT PLAN 1983 - 1986." This plan which was the product of a consultative and collaborative effort of the IMF/WB Mission and the Government-appointed Demas task force, was a direct result of the rapidly deteriorating economy, occasioned by declining oil prices and production, with consequent diminished inflows of foreign exchange, decreasing government savings and the decline in the country's stock of foreign exchange reserves.

Image result for imf logoThe structural adjustment policy foundation had been properly laid. Faced with falling Gross Domestic Product (GDP), severe balance of payments problems, increasing unemployment, rapidly declining foreign exchange reserves and growing levels of external debt, the Government entered into a fourteen (14) month standby arrangement with the IMF in January 1989.

This development deepened the existing relationship between the fund and the Government and placed the multilateral institution in a more commanding position in terms of determining official policy direction. The local Energy Sector was a major target of structural adjustment policy and different strategies were employed to make the sector compliant with official policy guidelines.

However, a number of developments preceded Government's official energy policy. Firstly, there was the creation of a strong lobby of the South Chamber of Industry and Commerce, led by Petroleum Geologist and Entrepreneur Dr. Krishna Persad in favour of state companies handing over “idle” wells and blocks to drilling and other service companies to pursue their own efforts at low - cost oil production.

Secondly, in July 1989, a programme of leasing blocks and farm out operations of “idle” wells was introduced to small independent oil operators. Thirdly, in 1989 production from the operatorship programme was initially established from Block CO - 1 in the Coora field. Fourthly, in January 1991, production from the farmout programme, began from the Krishna Persad and Associates (KPA) lease in the Barrackpore field.

These developments were followed by the publishing of a draft energy policy for Trinidad and Tobago in the form of a green paper released in November which stated as follows: - " Farmouts and lease operatorships shall be encouraged as a means of augmenting production and employment as well as mobilizing idle equipment."

This policy set the framework for expediting lease operatorship and farmout activity in Trinidad's land based oil fields. An excellent example of this form of privatisation was the case of Venture Production (Trinidad) limited, which is a wholly - owned subsidiary of Venture Production Company of Aberdeen Scotland, which became involved in Oil Production in Trinidad and Tobago by buying into the Petrotrin Lease Operatorship and farmout programmes i.e. the Tabaquite Farm Block and the WD 14 Lease Operatorship Block, both in Forest Reserve.

The joint venture strategy has also been employed to facilitate privatisation in the energy sector. Two distinct types of joint venture are used: (1) Industrial Co - Operation (contractual), (2) Joint - Equity. 
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A Contractual Joint Venture is for a fixed period and the duties and responsibility of the parties are contractually defined. A Joint - Equity Venture involves investment of no fixed duration and may continually evolve. In fact, Venture Production (Trinidad) Limited extended itself beyond Land Exploration and Production to include the development of Marine areas, by joining Petrotrin's contractual joint venture Exploration Programme.

It consisted of the Brighton Marine/Guapo Bay Block Joint Venture, signed in October 1999 and the Point Ligoure Joint Venture signed in November 2000. An example of the second type is the Southern Basin Consortium, a joint venture comprising Exxon (20%), Chevron (14.5%), Total (14.5%) and Petrotrin (51%), which was involved in a project exploring for Hydrocarbons. The Joint Equity strategy is usually used by investors to share and therefore reduce the cost and risks involved in Investment Projects, especially those which require Capital Expenditure.

Privatisation in the Energy Sector also included the Government selling its 100% shareholding in Trinidad and Tobago Urea Company Limited and its 51% stake in Fertilisers of Trinidad and Tobago, (Fertrin), to the U.S company Arcadian Partners Limited on March 26 1993, for US$ 175 Million. Of this amount, the Government received US$ 91.7 Million. Additionally, the Government sold a 31% interest in the wholly owned Trinidad and Tobago Methanol Company (TTMC) to Ferrostal A.G. and Helm A.G. on January 31, 1994 for US $ 47.0 Million. The Government also transferred an additional 24% of the Share Capital of TTMC to the two German Companies for the sum of US$ 1.8 Million, to accommodate major private ownership.

In August 1994, the Government divested the Oxygen Nitrogen Plant and the Urea Formaldehyde Plant, both of which belonged to Petrotrin the State owned Oil Company. Caribbean ISPAT acquired the Oxygen-Nitrogen plant for US$ 1.2 Million, while the Urea Formaldehyde Plant was acquired by foreign firm Arestech for US $ 2.9 Million. In 1993 a further 25% stake in the TTMC was sold for US $ 33 Million.

What needs to be noted is that the Privatisation process in the local Energy sector started out in 1989, with lease operatorship and farmout arrangements, moving to divestment involving some equity and contractual arrangements to local and foreign partners and the complete sale or divestment of enterprises in the 1990's.

It is against this background of Structural Adjustment Policy in the local energy sector, that we need to examine recent developments such as the closure of Petrotrin, the establishment of Trinidad Petroleum Holdings Limited (TPHL), and the preferred bidder status for the refinery of the Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Limited, a private Limited Liability Company, established by, The Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU).

(Economic Analysis unit of the Labour Advisory Bureau)

PRODUCTIVITY: WHERE DOES THE PROBLEM LIE? By Ken Howell

posted 31 Oct 2019, 11:53 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 31 Oct 2019, 12:14 ]

The question of productivity is sometimes a very contentious issue. It involves labour and the capitalist who invest in a production process, from which he intends to reap super profits, by extracting as much as he can from the labour power of his employees, in exchange for less and less wages.

One of the pet peeves of employers in this country is this perception that the workers are to blame for the existence of low productivity. They consistently argue that workers are not producing while the banks and the local conglomerates make super profits each year. They complain that their employees have poor work ethics as a result absenteeism is high, workers are frequently late for work and these incidents affect productivity. Who is to be blamed for these kinks in the performance of the workforce?

Well in most instances, the employers pay little attention to the design of the work environment and the needs of the workers. In most instances the question of occupational health and safety is usually
an after-thought.

But when we speak of productivity what are we speaking about? The Oxford English Dictionary defines productivity as: 1) the state of being able to produce something in large quantities and: 2) the efficiency with which things are produced.

It follows, therefore, that a large part of the responsibility is to ensure that the production process is capable of achieving whatever production targets it was designed to achieve. In addition, it must be done on time and with a great deal of efficiency. While labour power is an important factor in the production process, it is important to bear in mind that the employees who expend labour power function under supervision in the work environment.

Even in situations where there is a recognised union, there are terms and conditions governing the employer-employee relations. Most agreements begin by recognising the right of management to manage the particular enterprise and consistent with that right the agreement will include the existing hours of work which existed in the undertaking prior to the union gaining recognition in the company.

In addition, other terms and conditions which formed part of the workers contract of employment prior to the union gaining recognition are usually taken on board after favourable adjustments are made. I am saying all of that to say that no collective agreements that I am aware of has taken away the right of the management to manage their enterprise.

Where the trade union comes in is when the employers seek to interpret the collective agreement in a manner which infringes the rights of the worker or groups of workers, by seeking to deny them benefits to which they are entitled. Then there is usually the question of health and safety which the management is sometimes reluctant to manage properly because of the cost.

When the workplace is not properly ventilated and finished products are stacked in places where they inhibit the free flow of air and the safe movement of workers in the work environment it also creates cramped work spaces. These occurrences affect the worker’s ability to function properly.

These and many other situations, which occur on a daily basis in the workplace can and do affect productivity. In addition, some companies choose to purchase machinery from external sources, which were written off the books of the previous owner and were sitting in a warehouse for quite some years. These are the types of machinery which workers are required to work with in some companies. As a result, it is not unusual for the production process to experience frequent break downs.

Then there is the question of the administrative staff both in the public and private sector. In the Public Service which includes the State Sector, there is the old public service structure which is a relic of the colonial era, with systems which require employees to work with an out-dated filing system which sometimes make it impossible to locate important documents when they are sorely needed.

There is also the out-dated promotion system which seems to recognise seniority over competency and the tedious public service regulations which are a relic of our colonial past. But in the face of the monumental obstacles which these out-dated systems present the public servants are still able to keep the government running.

Although the so-called state sector seems to be structured along the lines of companies in the private sector, they suffer from political interference which render them vulnerable to nepotism and exposes them to becoming the feeding ground for elements whose only desire is to accumulate wealth during their tenure at the helm of these enterprises at the expense of the public purse.

Therefore, the question of productivity in these institutions is affected by the perception that they are the legitimate feeding grounds for elements who serve the respective political parties thereby aiding their ascendancy into high political office.

It goes without saying therefore that the question of productivity in the public service is difficult to quantify, because the nature of the respective functions is to produce what might be described as intangible materials; although, in almost every instance these so-called intangibles are important links in the tapestry of the workings of the system of government as dysfunctional as it sometimes is.

Mo
st companies usually have organisational, charts. These charts spell out the lines of authority, such as who is reporting to whom and their respective areas of responsibility. This means that there are always in place persons with the authority to manage every aspect of the operations of a company. In such circumstances, the quantity of items produced and the efficiency with which it is done is a function of the management who is tasked with the responsibility to supervise the operations at every stage of the process.
Also, the quantity of items produced and the efficiency with which it is produced, depends on the tools with which the workers are required to work. This includes the structure and layout of the production process. In the end the ability of the enterprise to meet the demands of the market and the speed and efficiency with which it is done will determine whether the definition of productivity is met.

Sometimes increase in the output of the products supplied by an enterprise may not be synchronized with the demand in the market at the particular point in time. As a result, in cases where the product is not perishable, the company will stockpile the product and layoff the workers. In such circumstances, therefore, increased productivity is not in the best interest of the workers. In the final analysis, therefore, an increase in productivity is determined by the demands of the market and the capacity of the enterprise to satisfy such demands.

The role of the labour power of the workers in such circumstances is also dependent on the demand in the market for the supply of labour power. Where such demand exists the enterprise that is in the market with the intention to purchase labour power usually indicates the skill sets, qualifications, years of experience and the nature of the position in the company that it is seeking to fill. 

The attempts of the employers to put the blame on the workers for the perception that there is a decline in the level of productivity cannot be sustained. It is the out-dated systems in the public service and the various utilities, the nepotism in the state sector and the inefficiency of the management systems in the private sector which have to bear responsibility for the perceived state of affairs. That is where the problem lies.

THE ULTIMATE VISION! By Alvette “Ellorton” Jeffers

posted 22 Oct 2019, 09:26 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 22 Oct 2019, 09:27 ]


Image result for antigua and barbuda protestsThere has been a noticeable uptick in the number of protests since 2018. They are not the earth shattering kind political apparatchiks prefer and activists clamor. Though they are not yet capable of altering the socio-political landscape, they are, nevertheless, evidence of the impossibility of the system to adequately meet the people’s needs, made worse by a bumbling administration.

I have been paying close attention to Observer’s coverage of protests in Antigua and Barbuda and the Paper has been exemplary in its reporting of them. The latest demonstration by ten women seeking Prison reform, reported in the September 27th issue, magnifies the growing discontent and points to the stark existence of life in Antigua and Barbuda.

The crumbling, diseased Prison is just the extreme representation of the crisis. Long before the women for prison reform staged their protest, government employees have been engaging in temporary work stoppages since 2018. And it continues to date with the Nurses Association airing the frustration of all who work in that profession, according to Observer of 2nd October 2019.

It seems always that the unhealthy and stressful conditions under which work is performed top the list of public workers’ concerns, followed by unpaid wages in the form of back pay and discrepancies in raises or overtime. And the volume of displeasure is amplified by Pensioners who are never certain of the date they will receive their pension.

Reinforcing the existence of a general discontent are the demonstrations by by the Faithful Nationals in support of Barbuda’s land claim and against the Global Port Agreement, an Agreement which announces that Antigua and Barbuda can be had on the cheap.

Since Irma devastated the island in 2017, Barbudans continue to fight for Nationals very existence. Why is there this haphazard and ineffective approach to solving problems or in some instances an avoidance of problems, leaving them to linger and, therefore, requiring in the end more resources to solve?

Why do some types of infrastructural problems keep recurring and continually contribute to increasing levels of public distress and escalating aggravation? Why the politicians’ constant flippancy in response to the citizens’ demands for amelioration of their grievances?

It’s tempting to say that the government acts out of spite or deliberate indifference to afflicted communities because they refuse to comply with its questionable objectives. For Barbudans, this might
contain more than an ounce of truth. However, the more convincing evidence lies in Antigua and Barbuda’s political economy. Just recently, Prime Minister Brown boasted that China had injected more than one billion dollars, consisting of grants and loans, into the economy. Were it not for this investment, the island’s infrastructure would be in an underdeveloped state. He is even anticipating China’s help with The University of the West Indies, Five islands.

Some months ago, the government admitted that shortfalls in revenue collection were contributing to its failure to pay Pensioners on time. In 2017, the PM worried publicly about the negative impact the temporary closure of Sandals would have on government’s ability to meet its budgetary obligations. The government clearly lives from hand to mouth and in such a fiscal environment, when deadlines are stated for the completion of public projects, they are always unreliable and hampered by unexplained overruns.

It is not only the fluctuations of economic investments which influence the ability of governments to raise revenue. The present structure of property ownership and economic relations impose certain policy choices on the government.

Were it to adopt a fiscal regime unfavorable to the economic elite but which buttresses its revenue collection, the power which the elites derive from its control over the country’s strategic resources, permits it to impose its will on the government by withdrawing resources from the economy or pass its cost unto an already deprived, over taxed and agitated population.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne
Despite the Prime Minister’s perennial blustering, he is quite aware of the constraints the transnational economic elite places on his ability to intervene in the economy. The problem is made less governable when the political governing elites’ political ideology and interrelated business interests fortify the primacy of capital, local and foreign, over everything else.

The slow or no repair of bad roads, the dilapidated prison, the crumbling office buildings, poorly managed water and electrical systems, rising cost of living, low or stagnant wages, late payment of social security and pensions, a problematic health care system, the lack of human resources in Barbuda and the uncertainty surrounding the source of funding for the University of Antigua and Barbuda, all manifest the truth that the power relations in the society which is bolstered by the economic and property relations influence both the realization and the distribution of income in Antigua and Barbuda

What can and cannot be done, despite governments’ finagling, is ultimately directly connected to the limitations placed on its capacity to raise capital to meet the social requirements of a modern population.

Even when it attempts to raise capital through State endeavors, its low capacity and inefficiencies present hurdles a corrupt government bent on enriching its own members and extended families cannot overcome. Antigua and Barbuda’s structural woes will continue and there will always be need to protest but the protest can only be effective if all the protestors realize that they share a common enemy; and that is an economic structure which is not responsive to public good and politicians incapable of or uninterested in taking a revolutionary course.

You, the people, must insist upon a new economic structure that has as its objective, not just the satisfaction of material needs. It must allow the further development of your managerial skills that will be indispensable in meeting the challenges that will accompany the development of the economy. To realize these goals, political influence over the creation and use of resources in the society is a prerequisite. One cannot proceed without the other. Therefore, when protesting, consider this your ultimate vision.

REPARATIONS AND HURRICANES By Eusi Kwayana

posted 21 Oct 2019, 09:33 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 21 Oct 2019, 09:58 ]

This statement is a personal one intended to support opinions, especially in the Caribbean, that the costs of practical recovery from annual hurricanes should not fall, as they mainly do, on the victims of these natural disasters. This statement is a personal one intended to support opinions, especially in the on the victims of these natural disasters.

As it is, the pain, the agony, the distress, the abandonment, the unpredictable fatalities and other psychological costs of re-organizing and re-establishing their homes, their communities and their livelihoods are borne logically by the residents of the hurricane-prone countries.

It is the argument of this statement that the unfortunate victims should not be expected to bear the capital, recurrent, and other financial costs of rehabilitation after these more and more ruinous disasters.

Before making recommendations, it is only fair to note that big-hearted, generous and humane individuals and institutions of other countries, often with no relationship to the victims, have always been ready to organize and deliver critical items and services to relieve the extremes of suffering. Our people will not
Image result for hurricane in barbuda forget these acts of generosity.

In the case of the Bahamas, parts of which were devastated a month ago by hurricane Dorian, the assistance of the US Coast Guard was frequently noted in dispatches, an intervention which might have justly attracted the attention of the people of Puerto Rico. In a different mood, the United States civilian authorities received orders not to admit people in flight from the natural disaster, if they could not present visas and passports.

We now feel compelled once again, as a responsibility to history, to remind ourselves and the international community that the majority of residents in the hurricane-prone countries of the Caribbean, such as Bahamans, Barbudans, Haitians and others are there as a result of a specific centuries-long crime wave, known as the Atlantic Slave Trade.

These Caribbean people are in the hazardous paths of these annual and all-powerful winds, now seen as growing in force and frequency, as global warming increases.

HIGH BENEFITS WITH NO SENSE OF OBLIGATION 

As a subset of the general demands for Reparations, the claims in this statement, made on European slave-owning powers of the past, can be supported by repeating a selection of facts from world economic history:

· In the French empire, Haiti produced more revenue for France than any other possession, owned by that nation.

· “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” by Walter Rodney has laid bare the process by which one continent enriched itself at the expense of another.

· Looking back at the Atlantic Slave Trade, Karl Marx wrote in his classic enquiry that the entombment in mines of indigenous populations and the turning of Africa into a warren for the hunting of Black skins marked what he called the “Rosy dawn” of capitalist expansion.

· For a whole century, it was admitted that India was “the most precious jewel” in the British crown.

Against this background, this statement makes a very logical and human claim: The Caribbean countries randomly affected by hurricanes are populated by the descendants of people traded from the African continent, without any semblance of their consent. As one African woman poet puts it:

“We had no part in it
You brought us in your ship
You beat us with your whip …”


To make the lack of consent more emphatic, any attempt of the enslaved to escape from the plantations was punishable under the slave codes.

It is the argument of this statement, therefore, that the successor governments of the slave-owning empires cannot escape responsibility for the suffering and loss which the descendants of their captives experienced from natural disasters in countries to which their fore-parents had been forcibly transported.

Attempts of the enslaved populations to free themselves and claim rights as human beings were regularly answered by the dispatch of gun boats and war ships from the oppressor nations to reduce the rebels to submission. This in brief is the process by which the populations of the countries randomly assaulted by hurricanes have become sitting ducks to these natural disasters.

Moreover, the economic frameworks into which the Africans, and later others, were entrapped proved in time unsustainable as the powers concerned and the USA conducted their economic rivalries. The cotton industry, the sugar industry, and the banana industry are examples of how several Caribbean populations have been forced to experience a loss of economic security and have been left to survive mainly by their own devices.

Image result for caribbean slaveryDecades ago, the Working People’s Alliance, as an organization outside of government, had proposed publicly that small disaster-prone countries should be protected by a new kind of multi-lateral Insurance Scheme from the injustice of bearing the cost of rebuilding and rehabilitation after a disaster. The recommendation fell on deaf ears. Since those years, the problem has become more acute, as carbon emissions increase and render hurricanes more destructive.

The present personal statement is made in the hope that although it does not come from an organization, it can be the subject of critical study, leading to action that places responsibility where it really belongs, at the feet of the European Empires referred to above.

It is hypocritical and impractical for the successor governments of the slave-owning powers to expect CARICOM and its citizens to muster the resources to respond to these calamities. On the other hand, for CARICOM to aspire heroically to assemble the human resources, the financial resources and the hardware necessary in these emergencies is a serious misunderstanding, exaggeration and distortion of the principle of self-reliance.

1. Since the slave-owning powers had assumed the super-human right to deploy populations from their natural homes, their successor governments should consider themselves mainly liable.

2. Since the hurricane season can be accurately predicted, it is not too much to ask that the governments concerned anticipate the needs of the hurricane-prone countries and deploy peace ships with necessary forms of relief to strategic locations in the region on a precautionary basis to make timely delivery of search and rescue and relief in the affected countries at the earliest possible moment. In the same spirit and as advised by CARICOM or any other empowered regional organization, they should be ready to assist in the transport of medical and other service volunteers to the affected locations with as little delay as possible.

In making this statement, my purpose is clearly not to assign to the slave-owning powers and their successor governments any guilty knowledge of all the results of their expansionist activities of the centuries after the invasions of Columbus. Rather, the purpose of this statement is to apply the standards of judgment of the present day and the 21st century to argue that they cannot escape the moral responsibility for the consequences of their self-serving and inhuman population transfers, and that it is time to apply adequate reparatory measures.

THANK GOD FOR MISS ASHBY by Wayne Kublalsingh

posted 17 Oct 2019, 07:46 by Gerry Kangalee

am sorry to say that Mrs Yvonne Ashby, the noted Chatham Anti-Smelter Activist, passed away at her home in Chatham on 14th October 2019. She sparked the flame which led to the collapse of the Government's 2001 Gaffney-Cline Master Gas Plan, which entailed a round of thirteen heavy gas-based industries and industrial estates and ports along the Western Coast of Trinidad. Please find hereunder excerpts from a Newsday article I wrote about her in 2008. Condolences to her three daughters and the fighting people of Chatham and Cap-de-Ville.

THANK GOD FOR MISS ASHBY

Thank God for Miss Ashby. It is Miss Yvonne Ashby of Chatham who has started this revolution in Trinidad and Tobago. It is Miss Ashby who stood up, three years ago, before Mr Vijay Lal of the National Energy Corporation and the three corporate executives of ALCOA, the Aluminium Company of America, and said NO to an aluminium smelter in her backyard. While young local men jumped up and howled, “Wuk, we getting wuk in the smelter,” Miss Ashby, stood up in that first public consultation in the Chatham Community Centre, and said No! She was not saying No for nothing; she was taking charge of her own development.

Miss Ashby is a nurse by profession. She is now in her late seventies, retired, living in her own home and garden in Chatham. She spent most of her life as a nurse in Port of Spain, and as a widow raising three daughters. She is also the granddaughter of African slaves. Her grandfather was one of the first to receive his “free paper” from the plantation owner in Chatham. He was one of the first to establish a free colony in Bourg Congo, on the Chatham coast, the densely forested area which ALCOA wanted to take. He was an independent sugar manufacturer, making his own stills and tools.

But Miss Ashby’s ital man, ital African icon, is not her grandfather. It is Jan Juma. He was the warrior conqueror of Bourg Congo. After Emancipation, one plantation boss continued to demand manners from the former slaves; you had to take off your hat before talking to him, you were forbidden from walking up his stairs onto his verandah, you had to stand hat in hand in the yard to talk to him. This bossman wanted to take back Bourg Congo’s “free paper”. One night Jan Juma ordered all the villagers to lock themselves in their huts. The following morning the bossman hurriedly packed all his belongings and boarded a schooner for Port of Spain. He was never seen again. The blow from Jan Juma’s gun had passed inches from his face.

As much as Miss Ashby celebrates her brave African ancestors, so much does she decry the cowardice of modern men. They lack courage, are weak. When their cause should be the nation, they throw their lives away after Nike and rank. And stupid men must die. The nation has no time for stupid leaders. They must go. Die! Before they get the chance to sell out our forest, our dairy, our honey industry, our sea and fresh breeze, our young people, they must disappear! We, the people, must now take charge.

Miss Ashby’s logic is the logic of the revolution. The people must now take charge of their own development. This is because the historical agencies usually appointed for this prodigious task have failed, or have been emasculated

Last week, August 5th, a group of Indians from Essar Steel, escorted by two SUVs, drove into North Claxton Bay, the community on the fence-line of the proposed steel mill and port. Mr. Prem Singh, and his Indian corporate executives, did not get very far. Eggs and rubbish came flying at their persons and possessions. Rubbish barrels came onto the road and blocked their escape. Citizens rocked the SUV’s back and forth. The executives cowered in fear. Two years ago, at a consultation, Mr. Prem Singh, had literally thrown chocolates up into the air for the happy natives to catch. Now the natives were returning the favour. Egg after egg knocked into their SUVs.

The persons who were leading this defence were women. Ordinary women found the strength to throw barrels, rock the vehicle, drive back the interlopers.

They were fighting for their development, the right to have a say in the destruction of their mangrove, the destruction of their health, their arable lands, their fisheries, their seagrass beds, their coastal food-rich foreshore, their mullet industry, their gas resources, their nation.

Miss Ashby is the oracle of the movement, the person who utters what is true, correct and ital when you go to her. You have to fight them, defeat them, she says, and God will protect you. If the ordinary people do not stand up to protect their ital resources, affirm their right to participate in their own development, who will?

DOG ATE TOBAGO HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY'S HOMEWORK by David Walker

posted 15 Oct 2019, 09:15 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Oct 2019, 09:24 ]

Image result for tobago david walkerOver the years I have done many media interviews discussing mostly matters of the economy and finance. I most enjoy doing interviews alongside people who hold a different opinion to myself on whatever we might be discussing. I regard it as a wonderful opportunity to test the validity of my arguments and assumptions. I often come away with a better grasp of the subject matter than that which I arrived with.

It was therefore a new experience for me to have to cope with someone who expressed views that bore no relation to reality but who was being treated during the interview with deference and respect. Are there no boundaries as to what claims a guest can make on a public show? Is every utterance no matter how damaging to be treated with the same respect as honourable and fact based arguments?

I was incensed by a claim made by Ancil Dennis, Assistant Secretary, Office of the Chief Secretary, Tobago House of Assembly (THA) during a post budget interview. His
Image result for tobago ancil dennis
Ancil Dennis
claim was in response to criticism of the THA for not having received a clean audit in more than a dozen years. His argument is ludicrous in the extreme.

In his world, the failure to obtain clean audit reports over all those years is not in any way a reflection on the performance of the THA. No, in his telling, the failure resides at the door of the Auditor General's Department. The context here is that the Auditor General is responsible in law for conducting the audit of the THA. Assemblyman Dennis, who reports directly to the Chief Secretary said this with a straight face. I have since learned that he has made this claim previously as reported in the media.

He made other specious, misleading and irrelevant statements along the lines of "there is nothing in the auditor general's report, at least up to 2016, to suggest People's National Movement (PNM) politicians are stealing money from the assembly". This is wrong on so many levels that I have to choose which to highlight.

Firstly, it is not the responsibility of any auditor, except perhaps a forensic auditor to detect corruption as a matter of primary concern. Secondly, there are enough instances of prima facie corruption (Virgin Atlantic cheque credited to unknown recipient and the 430,000 US$ paid to singer D'Angelo who did not perform and has not repaid the sum are just two examples) to support a claim of likely corruption when taken in concert with the lack of clean audits. Most persons on the island do believe that money is being stolen and only one group is in a position to steal from the public purse.

This argument that the lack of clean reports should fall at the door of the Auditor General is outrageous and beyond contempt. We should call it for what it is immediately lest citizens be misled into placing responsibility for THA non-compliance with audit requirements at the feet of the Auditor General. If we let this pass, as happened during my interview, then we should expect the THA to continue to ignore all notions of financial accountability for another dozen years.

At best this is a very costly version of the classic excuse "the dog ate my homework" being presented to us by Mr. Dennis and his ilk. Being the creative people that they are, they did not let it end there. Their ire is now directed at the teacher who marks the student down for claiming that the dog ate the homework. In Mr. Dennis' world he says that the teacher is at fault for giving him a failing grade because the teacher should not reasonably expect to receive the homework for the obvious reason that the dog had eaten it.

Image result for missing documents
Mr. Dennis claims that it is simply a matter of missing documents at the heart of the failure to obtain clean audits. That somehow becomes the responsibility of the Auditor General in his mind. He is adamant that the (to him) trivial matter of missing documents should not result in any blame falling on the THA. He states clearly that the THA will not be accepting any such blame as they could not now be expected to find those documents.

Mr. Dennis should be told that it is the statutory responsibility of the THA to ensure the existence and safe keeping of all the records necessary for the conduct of the annual audit. He and his colleagues must learn that they have a fiduciary responsibility to citizens and that one of the main ways in which that is discharged is by the keeping of adequate records and the delivery of financial statements in a satisfactory manner to the Auditor General annually.

Returning to the issue of the interview at which these disgraceful comments were made by Mr. Dennis, I have to express my great disappointment with being denied the opportunity to refute the heinous claims. When the media permits or even facilitates the making of such statements without push back I have to say that the media becomes part of the problem. They fail their audiences when an obvious wrong is allowed to go unchallenged.

I take particular exception to the failure to be given an opportunity to rebut Mr. Dennis' statements on the night. I must do so as most viewers know that I am an accountant of four decades standing. Some may know of my academic and professional career. I was made to appear as if I had no objection to the disgraceful words of Mr. Dennis in what I presume was his official capacity at the office of the Chief Secretary. A viewer could easily come away with the conclusion that I had no objection to the utterly disgraceful attack on the competence of the Auditor General's Department. Nothing could be further from the truth.

So yes, this is personal. I totally reject the basis of their attack on the Auditor General. I go further and state for the umpteenth time that the Auditor General's Department is one of the few gatekeepers that function efficiently in this country. We fail them by not following through on the many disclosures in their annual reports with disciplinary or legal action. Some matters that they raise, with supporting evidence should also logically lead to forensic audits. My position with regard to the Auditor General's Department is clear, and it is diametrically opposed to that of Mr. Dennis and the THA.

Is it not more than a little ironic that the inefficient, incompetent and unaccountable THA should attack the Auditor General's Department for highlighting the THA failures in these areas? On the other hand, you could argue that it makes perfect sense.

BLACK WOMEN STORM THE WALLS OF HISTORY BY RAE SAMUEL

posted 15 Oct 2019, 02:35 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Oct 2019, 02:50 ]

Last weekend three African women, two from America and one from Kenya set records in their individual sporting disciplines. Simone Biles of the USA set a record for the number of gold medals won at the Worlds gymnastics championships. At the London marathon Brigid Kosgei broke the women's marathon record, held for 16 years by Paula Radcliffe of England. In tennis rising star Coco Gauff becameImage result for coco gauff the youngest female to win a W.T.A title, with victory in the Linz Open in Austria.

Of course the likes of the BBC conveniently fail to mention that they are all Black women. At least until they falter...and/or end up having to prove they are female and subject to compulsory drug programme.

Image result for olympic black power saluteEven as we laud the achievements of these women, we must never ever forget the narrative at the back of these stories, especially those of Biles and Gauff, resident in the land of good ole Donald the Dump Trump. An aside, dear readers, let us not make the error of imagining Donald represents some type of exceptionalism, even as his predecessor emerges to laud the achievements of the women for obvious 2020 political reasons. We need to recall the Jackie Robinson's, Tommie Smith's and John Carlos's, Althea Gibson's and Muhammad Ali’s, efforts to break into sports. These pioneers would not have succeeded without popular, mass based support.

Where does Brigid Kosgei fit into all of this as a Kenyan and as a female? If the fortresses of discrimination and prejudice had not been breached by mass movements from below, how would she have been able to participate? No matter where you come from you are Black. Racists and segregationists do not ask to see your passport.

Lewis Hamilton is world famous as a Formula 1 racing driver and fully embraced as a Briton, never mind that he is Black. Most us do not know of Wendell Scott, a Black American who was a NASCAR racing driver in the late '50's and early '60's.

Like Hamilton has done in modern times, Scott was attempting to break into a lily white sport. Even when he won his first major event in Florida, the victory was initially given to the 2nd place driver. Wikipedia states that he was two laps ahead and was not declared the winner until two hours later. He was awarded the winner’s trophy 47 years later, posthumously.

In the midst of all this our solidarity with South African Caster Semenya, Worlds and Olympics 800m women's champion, must be consistent. Semenya has been declared 'less than female' by track and field governing bodies because of her naturally occurring testosterone levels. She was barred from the just completed World's athletic championships in Doha and may miss out on Tokyo 2020 Olympics. To imagine her case is a one-off is to stretch imagination to the limit. Like Muhammad Ali in 1967, she has lost her crown not on the track but in the offices of I.A.A.F and W.A.D.A

It seems that Africans, both at home abroad, 'storm the walls of history' when they make breakthroughs in sports initially dominated by others. In cricket, football, golf, basketball, gymnastics, boxing, track and field, road running they have raised the bar. Other sports might just be wondering not if but when their turn will come. It is ''nightmare'' food for some.

 

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