Our Sustainable Development Mystery.
The enigma of sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) is one of life’s greatest mysteries. In the 119 years of T&T’s hydrocarbon industry, the idea of economic diversification has been parroted by charlatan politicians on either side of the aisle. The newest advocate of sustainable economic diversification is our PM Rowley, who in a recent address lamented the fact that our country has been unable to diversify citing failed PNM pipe dreams such as the Chatam Aluminum Smelter Plant and the Sandals Resort in Tobago. PM Rowley chastised the public but never consulted us on how we wish to sustainably diversify our economy.
Fifty-Nine years ago, Dr. Eric Williams in his inaugural Prime Ministerial speech stated that “Democracy, finally, rests on a higher power than Parliament. It rests on an informed, cultivated, and alert public opinion.” PM Rowley is reminded that in spite of Dr. Williams’ pronouncements, that at no time, the public was ever consulted to chart a way forward for T&T. In a small economy, our best minds have been locked out.
Had this been done, PM Rowley would know that our population largely opposed the smelter plant because of cancerous health implications. Also, the public opposed the Sandals Resort because of imminent threats to our fishery, mangrove, and Buccoo Reef. We have grown weary of the promise of a booming “tourism” industry that like Hilton and Hyatt is a prestigious drain on our Treasury. Most importantly, he would know that our citizenry has grown weary of convoluted “kickback” schemes that continue to escalate in the absence of a strong Procurement Law which line friends and financier’s pockets rather than sustainably develop our country.
To compound matters, PM Rowley has, in the midst of a global pandemic, accused and blamed us for this undiversified failure of an economy. PM Rowley is wrong, Sandals would not have diversified Tobago, but instead, make Tobago more dependent on a single industry – tourism which has a bleak future and collapses in this evolving pandemic. Secondly, the Chatam Smelter would have been reliant on subsidized natural gas which today is in short supply and even caused the shutdown of many facilities including ALNG Train 1. Would the Chatam Smelter be operating during this gas shortage? Is building more oil and gas-dependent companies diversification, when that resource is exhausted?
After decades of planned Government “development schemes” which have defrauded our Treasury, and after we the citizenry have worked tirelessly to finance this corruption, we are being blamed for our PM’s lack of vision!
Until our leaders are able to meaningfully consult with our best minds, we will continue to suffer the consequences of advisors without experience, of decisions without logic, and of investments that, like many before, are doomed to drain our national Treasury.