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THE RISE AND FALL OF THE STATE ENTERPRISES by Cecil Paul

posted 26 Jan 2021, 18:40 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 26 Jan 2021, 19:46 ]
The National Trade Union Movement since the colonial period of the 1930’s through Independence and up until the present time has called and fought for state control of the commanding heights of the economy and the end of foreign control of our nation’s economy. The trade union movement was born in the midst of anti-imperialist uprising and has carried that “nationalist” stance ever since.

This is so not only because of the absence of a developed national capitalist business class and the export of the resources and profits to others

VICTIMISATION AND NEPOTISM

A grievous example of nepotism and victimisation involves a case favourably handled by President Dave Smith of the National Workers Union. 

Despite being awarded a large sum as compensation by the Industrial Court for wrongful dismissal, this unjust dismissal destroyed the career of a bright, long serving and loyal worker in a leading state enterprise.

All because, so the story goes, some person from the governing party eyed and wanted this managerial position at this company. 

So, millions of dollars of the people’s money were paid in legal fees and wrongful dismissal awards. Why? Because of a job coveted by a party loyalist supported by a party financier, with access to the Union-negotiated higher salaries and benefits in the Energy Industry. 

This job had to be delivered to this politically connected person at the expense of a long serving managerial worker.

So a case for dismissal had to be manufactured. Every action or decision had to be examined with a microscope for the smallest hint of error that could be used to dismiss. This is despite it being a clear case of victimization and most likely would result in high financial compensation. After all the money is not paid by the politicians but by the State Enterprises, by public funds - the people's funds.

, but most importantly to create other industries based on our natural resources that would enrich our society and reduce poverty. Those nationalised industries would create a large pool of skilled technical workers and managers who in turn would train other workers and push our society forward. That was the vision

Butler was robbed of his freedom and isolated for many years on Nelson Island. Many Trade Union Leaders were imprisoned during the two states of emergency in the period 1970-1972. Many others were beaten including nationals who supported the cause of national development and peoples’ control. The history of that almost 60 years of struggle to control our economy and have the fruits of our labour serve our people is written and available as a testimony that nothing is gained by passivity and conformity.

It is by first identifying the source of the problem and then uniting people to rid ourselves of those and that which enslaves us and hinder our progress.

For varying periods over the last sixty years a large slice of the commanding heights of the economy were put into the hands of our governments. The benefits were great for us in terms of education, training, health, construction projects and in many other areas of our country.

However, it was greater and much more profitable for the politicians, their operatives, their business financiers and their upper class opportunists – the contractocracy, the kleptocracy. Many of these political operatives were given high positions for which they were not qualified nor interviewed for. So that not only incompetence, political victimization and nepotism became a feature of our political culture, but corruption and wastage competed for being the major cause of the rise and fall of the State Enterprises Sector in Trinbago with nepotism being the major weapon. 

These dirty political sins were criticised and called out by the Trade Unions for almost fifty years but with no change to these economic evils of political intervention. Trade Unions proposed but to no avail. Governments of the day not only appoint directors but control the hiring, firing and operational systems of the Peoples Enterprises.

As both a worker for some 40 years in both a foreign owned petroleum company and then the nationalized successor company, I am a witness to many instances of destructive political intervention at the operational level of that company and others by every government that came into office during my years as worker, trade union leader and manager. 
(SEE ACCOMPANYING STORY IN THE SIDEBAR)

We are now at the stage where most of the State Enterprises, fought for by workers and which uplifted the economy of the country and the standard of living of many of our people, are now being dismantled. The largest of all, the Petrotrin Refinery, has been closed down for almost two years now with the Union trying to buy the company and resume operations in what seems to be a recurring mamaguying of the union by the government with undelivered promises one after the other.

Several years ago the Unions, fed up with political interference, wastage and rumours of corruption, had suggested that the authority for the operations of State Enterprises and the selection of the Boards be removed from the Ministry of Finance – Corporation Sole and be vested in a separate non-political State Enterprise Authority appointed by the President of the Republic and approved by Parliament.

But perhaps it is too late to resurrect that idea as our state entities may soon be of the past: some mothballed, others sold and the full scale return of foreign control in an import consuming society. After all we are now importing fuel for our vehicles.
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