Sometimes I must confess that I am absolutely amazed at the brazenness of some politicians. Finance Minister Colm Imbert is a classic case in point. His latest pronouncement on yesterday’s Sunday Guardian report about the CEPEP allocation being some $21 million less than last year is quite simply unbelievable! A respected university senior lecturer, Dr. Bishnu Ragoonath pointed out that the CEPEP allocation this year was a little less (about $21 million less) than last year’s allocation. So, the learned Doctor rightly concluded that in the absence of any credible (and I want to emphasize that word “credible”) explanation (for which there was none in the budget) that this would mean that there would either have to be a reduction in salaries paid to CEPEP workers or there would have to be lay offs or both! A not unreasonable assumption.
But the goodly Minister immediately jumped up and slammed both the Sunday Guardian as well as Dr. Ragoonath of “baseless and scandalous statements”. The Minister went on to say that Dr. Ragoonath was “unscientific, illogical and bordering on political mischief” to look at a “mere number” in the Budgetary Estimates and come to the conclusion that he had come to. The Minister said that “even a cursory glance at the Estimates over the years will reveal …” that these Estimates are routinely revised upwards or downwards as the case may be as the fiscal year progresses.
To which explanation I can only say WHAT? No matter how you cut it $21 million less is $21 million less! And to say that it could be revised later on is begging the point. If you know that it will have to be revised, shouldn’t you say so? Shouldn’t you, Mr. Minister of Finance, have pointed this out and given us (the public) some sort of explanation? I don’t know what. Maybe you could have said that the Man in the Moon told you to do it this way. That would sound more truthful than the extremely brazen and obfuscatory response that you put out which, quite frankly, leads to all sorts of ugly and most unnecessary suspicions that you are angry because you have been caught out and not because Dr. Ragoonath was wrong.
Look, the Minister’s response doesn’t make sense, and when something doesn’t make sense 99 percent of the time it is because the person making the remark doesn’t want you to understand. One percent of the time it is because he doesn’t want you to understand.
So what is it, Mr. Minister? What don’t you want us to understand? You see, quite frankly, your explanation doesn’t really cover or explain why you put out the contradictory figures in the first place. Now, I certainly can’t say why you put them out but one explanation that comes to mind is that you have told the truth and you will not decrease either the number of workers or their salaries … at least, not until the next elections. Of course, if you win the next elections you can deal with that problem then. It won’t matter because you will have already won. And if you lose? Well that would be the UNC’s headache and not yours and you can always say that you never intended to cut jobs or salaries and wouldn’t have if you had won. Either way you would come out looking good. (Which also suggests that the next elections will be called some time around April/May next year as the money won’t have run out yet by then!)
Of course, what is said above is pure speculation, but it makes sense, doesn’t it?
PIECE ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY ROBIN MONTANO,
a well respected Trinidad and Tobago Attorney.