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ADDICTED TO FOREIGN INVESTMENT By Keston K. Perry

posted 24 Mar 2018, 20:26 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 24 Mar 2018, 20:28 ]
Keston K. Perry
Among the technocrats, politicians and World bankers etc, the discussion has been “let's "facilitate/enable" investment and make the country "attractive" for investment.” It is why BP and the transnational lobby were able to negotiate the tax break in 2014 under the People’s Partnership Government. It is why former Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and current Prime Minister Rowley both speak in, generally, the same tone when it comes to foreign investment.

We should also separate the rhetoric from the reality. Talking tough and taking tough actions are not one and the same and I think there is at present little space for the current Prime Minister to actually do much as we are in a weakened state.

We've become so addicted to foreign capital, the politicos have no choice but to bend backwards to accommodate and do everything against the country's interest to keep them. It is also why there was hardly a hue and cry from politicians when ArcelorMittal packed up shop to actually shift operations elsewhere. The current era of Transnational Corporations’ "exploitation" and our "lack of capacity" to negotiate and engage forcefully, certainly date back over the last 30 years.

The diminution of this capability started with the market-opening policies of the late 1980s when everything was done to encourage foreign investment. All the ministries thought their role was largely to become investment promoters. They have come nowhere close to managing and regulating how investments are directed and carried out.

It is why the non-energy sector has seen little foreign investment. This contrasts for instance with the iron and steel company in the 1970s when Williams decided to "go it alone" against having Mitsui & Co., Hoogevens and Kawasaki in the deal, as the country had a little more leverage when he felt that it would not satisfy our interests. He eventually paid for this by upsetting the Americans who took comprehensive actions to block T&T's interest.

It's part and parcel of being within the international marketplace and requires a balancing act without yielding too much of your sovereignty: how to simultaneously meet certain public interest objectives, while ensuring Transnationals don't ride roughshod over you.

It can be done with the right kind of people and approach, with politicians seeking our collective interests and not the interests of their principals i.e. financiers and pandering too much to these Transnationals. Politicians alone should not be doing these negotiations, as they do not have the technical know-how but they also should provide the philosophy, vision and leadership of which we seem to be in deficit at the moment.
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