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EVERYTHING FOR SALE: PRIVATIZATION IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: PART V by Godfrey Vincent

posted 15 Nov 2020, 07:11 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Nov 2020, 07:18 ]
The PNM won the 2002 General elections by capturing Twenty of the Thirty-six parliamentary seats, thus defeating the UNC. With this mandate, the PNM, under the leadership of Patrick Manning presented the 2003 Budget Speech entitled Vision 2020: People…Our Priority.

The goal of this vision was to make Trinidad into a Developed country (whatever that means) within the shortest possible time by the year 2020. This Vision 2020 was not original but was linked to the United Nations Millennial Development Goals 2015 and beyond.

Some scholars called this a new form of Modernization theory that sought to line up Developing countries with the goals and objectives of the IMF and the World Bank. While touting this new vision, the budget speech did not shy away from a discussion of privatization of State Enterprises. This installment will examine how the Manning administration pursued the sale of State Owned Enterprises during the PNM’s tenure from 2002 to 2010.

An examination of the 2002/2003 Budget Speech has revealed the following concerning the government’s privatization thrust: 

1. The restructuring of First Citizens Bank Limited;

2. The introduction of private sector involvement into the operations of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago;

3. The conclusion of the sale of the assets of Trinidad and Tobago Forest Products Limited;

4. The restructuring of the Trinidad and Tobago Unit Trust Corporation into a public limited liability company;
 

5. The restructuring of and reorganizing of Caroni (1975) Limited. In the 1970s, Patrick Manning’s mentor Eric Williams put together a comprehensive policy of nationalization and state-ownership of resources. These privatization measures were clear indications that that the Manning-led PNM had completely abandoned Eric Williams’ vision. As the government continued in office, it made more pronouncements on privatization. 

In the 2004 Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance announced that the government “will seek to encourage private sector participation in State sector.” More specifically, the Minister focused the government’s intention as it related to the Port Authority. On this note, he stated, “A restructuring of the Port Authority of Trinidad and Tobago will be undertaken in 2004. The program will include the establishment of strategic units to undertake the operations of the Port relating to infrastructure development, real estate management, cargo handling, cruise shipping, the inter-island ferry service, towage operations and the CARICOM wharves.” 

One may recall that the Private sector firms once ran the port, and that the PNM government nationalized it. Because the Manning regime was fully committed to the Washington Consensus policies, it had no problems of policy reversals concerning the Port Authority.

From 2005 to 2010, the PNM government remained silent on its implementation of privatization. The Budget Speeches from that period made very vague calls for the need for State Sector reform but did not spell out the details. However, this did not mean that the government had shelved its plans of privatization. It was well and alive in the Energy sector as laid out in great detail in an article entitled RETREAT OF THE ENERGY SECTOR.

While the PNM may have not been vocal about more privatization, its plans for more were put on hold when it faced a devasting defeat in the 2010 General election that ushered in the People’s Partnership. Part VI will examine the new government’s position on privatization.

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