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LE HUNTE = INCREASED RATES; RETRENCHMENT by Gerry Kangalee

posted 5 Sep 2017, 20:35 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 5 Sep 2017, 20:50 ]

The jhanjat over the appointment of Robert Le Hunte just confirms the glaring incompetence of the PNM administration and the suspicion that Prime Minister Rowley seems to be living in a bubble of his own making. 

Normally politicians would write their memoirs after they demit office. Before this guy sat down in the Prime Minister’s office, he published a book From Mason Hall to Whitehall. What this suggests is that becoming Prime Minister was the objective he had in mind - the be-all and end-all of his life’s work. Now that he has achieved, he is just coasting, without a clue as to what the job entails.

The Le Hunte bacchanal has generated thousands of words in the establishment press and from the Facebook Warriors. But, from the 

Robert Le Hunte

point of view of what is in the interest of the working people and the poor, I contend that most of it has missed the mark. The essential issue with Le Hunte’s appointment is not whether he was a Ghanaian citizen or what the Ghana constitution says or whether his 

revoking Ghanaian citizenship is seen as a slap in the face to the government of Ghana.

The essential issue is why has an experienced, international banker been appointed to be Minister of Public Utilities. This has nothing to

 do with income levels. Bankers and energy industry executives are the highest paid professional parasites in the land. Politicians have to make up the difference by engaging in below the table deals and splurging on public funds. Mr. Le Hunte seems quite willing to forego a bit of h

is income so that other agendas may be pursued to the benefit of finance capital both at home and abroad.

Who is Le Hunte? According to the Bloomberg web site: Mr. Robert Lennard Le Hunte, MBA, MSc (Acct.), C.A., BA (Econ) Dip. (Mgmt.) was an Executive Director at HFC Bank Ghana Limited since April 2013 and served as its Managing Director from April 2015 to August 21, 2017 and served as its Executive Director of Risk Management until April 2015. The HFC Bank is owned by Republic Bank

He was General Manager of Special Projects of Republic Bank Limited. He served as the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Barbados National Bank, Inc. (also owned by Republic Bank). He served as the Chief Executive Officer of Barbados National Bank. He was a Director of National Enterprises Limited from June 2012 until November 2013. He is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago and was the President of the Barbados Bankers Association. Pretty impressive, you must admit!

Image result for wasaLe Hunte’s appointment is a clear signal that working people and the poor in T&T are in for a lot more pain as the creeping austerity programme sinks its teeth deeper and deeper into our purses and wallets. It suggests that particularly WASA and T&TEC are going to be approached not as public utilities primarily in the business of providing public goods to the citizens or as T&TEC would have it providing a safe, affordable and reliable electricity supply. WASA’s web site speaks of providing a safe, reliable and efficient water supply.

I am afraid that instead of getting reliable electricity supply or an efficient water supply what Mr. Le Hunte would be interested in is the bottom line. That’s what bankers are interested isn’t it? In terms of the bottom line there are two ways these finance wizards approach the issue: cut expenses and raise rates.

The first way means that workers are going to be put into jeopardy once more. So look out for more workers joining the breadline soon, in addition to the thousands who have already been thrown on the rubbish heap. At WASA you may argue that cutting costs may mean rooting out the blatant, endemic corruption for which WASA is justly notorious.

Yeah right! How are the financiers, suppliers, contractors, friends and families of the politicians going to live?  Let’s not be foolish: corruption is the lifeblood of the economic system in T&T. Everybody benefits from it except working people and the poor (what Ancel Roget amusingly called “the balance”).

If you think I’m just talking off the top of my head because I’m a bad mind, old socialist dinosaur (which I am, as Errol McLeod once dubbed me); let us take a look at WASA. How many of us know that WASA has taken loans to the tune of US$600,000,000 from the Inter American Development Bank (IDB). Yes, six hundred million United States dollars. We all know that WASA cannot pay back that loan, so it goes on the government books, which means you and I have to pay it back.

The first tranche of the loans was US$250 million described as the largest loan to the English speaking Caribbean. It was signed in 2013. It is called the MULTI-PHASEWASTEWATER REHABILITATION PROGRAM. There are three components to the loan programme


  1. Improvement of Trinidad and Tobago’s wastewater system.

This involves the construction of two waste water treatment plants: one in San Fernando and the other at Malabar.

  1. Reorganization of WASA

  US$50 million of the loan is for the re-organization of WASA. According to the IDB, the plan is to decrease the number of employee per 1,000 connections from 12.5 in 2011 to 5.8 in 2016.” This means that more than half of WASA’s workforce in 2011 was supposed to have been eliminated by 2016. It hasn’t happened yet. Enter Mr. Le Hunte.

According to the program annex;

 

Image result for idb

2.03 This component benefits from the inputs of technical studies that focused on the preparation of a transformational analysis for WASA (i.e., including definition of critical personnel roles within WASA, optimal size for divisions and departments, and performance considerations). The activities financed through this component will include: (i) support to the implementation of transformational actions concerning the organizational structure, financing voluntary selection separation plans; and (ii) voluntary vocational training for employees accepting the separation plan.

 

3.      Institutional strengthening of WASA in wastewater management


What does this involve? Well according to the loan proposal:

 

1.5 “In addition to the foregoing, the water and sewerage sector in T&T, and more specifically WASA itself, faces several operational, financial and institutional challenges and difficulties covering its operational costs through tariffs” In plain English, the water rates are too low. It goes on to mention “the low tariff level that has not been adjusted during several years” and further, “These challenges are currently being addressed…the economic regulator has issued a new methodology that will allow WASA to update its tariffs; and WASA’s Board has approved a strategic plan to transform WASA into an autonomous commercially run company with a strong corporate governance.”  That is management jargon for privatisation.


And again; “WASA’s commercial management service needs urgent attention, as it is based on an outdated billing system installed in 1996 and on a customer database not supported by by geographical information systems.

The loan proposal goes on to state: “The operation is directly aligned to assist T&T prepare for a post-hydrocarbon economy by the reduction in subsidy transfers from GORTT to WASA and reliance on revenues from tariffs.”

It’s becoming quite clear now isn’t it, that Mr. Le Hunte has been brought in  to raise rates and eliminate labour all with an eye toward the possible privatisation of the utility?  So while we blather on about dual citizenship and Le Hunte’s integrity and all kinds of irrelevant issues, the Rowley administration is bringing down yet another hammer on working people and the poor, but, say what, in the words of the finance minister: “dey ent riot yet!”

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Gerry Kangalee,
5 Sep 2017, 20:46
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