“Woefully inadequate” is how political analyst Dr Winford James describes the People’s Partnership Government’s performance over the past three years.
The Partnership Government celebrates its third year in government later this week.
“One is hard-pressed to find any areas in which they have excelled,” he said of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s three-year-old Government, which came into power promising a new kind of governance of transpa-rency and equity for all.
“This Government offered hope on the hustings that they would do things differently, but it is either they are not able or willing to change the core; they talked about strengthening civil society but nothing was ever done,” he said.
“The Government has been boasting of infrastructure gains such as roads and bridges, which to every government are the most visible, but I have not seen nor has the country seen any major infrastructure gains.”
The most high-profile project has been the controversial $8 billion Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin, but James said “there have been a lot of issues around this and one can’t speak about its completion”.
“Also, there has not been any infrastructure works in the other parts of the country, and we must now wait for the Government to say what it has achieved, but one is hard-pressed to find any areas in which they have excelled.
On the vexing issue of procurement legislation, which James said “is a matter which strikes at the heart of corruption, there has been no legislation in relation to procurement, no legislation to limit the term in office of the prime minister nor any legislation in reference to referendum”.
As part of its promise to ensure transparent and accountable governance, the Partnership’s 2010 manifesto promised to “prioritise the passing of procurement legislation and appropriate rules and regulations”.
It also promised to “establish equitable arrangements for an efficient procurement system, ensuring transparency and accountability by all Government departments and State enterprises”, but Dr James pointed to the inaction of the Government on such a critical issue.
As to the pervasive crime situation, the Tobago-born University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer believes the Government is struggling to bring crime down, even as it uses its most draconian measures.
“We have seen the Government’s tendency to use methods that are very draconian, for example, the State of Emergency (SoE) and now, legislation brought to the Parliament to deal with the precepting of soldiers...it has reached the stage of a reliance on using force.
“We all agree that crime is caused by a variety of factors and force is not enough, but the question is whether they have done any kind of psychological and sociological research which speaks to the causes of crime and their solutions. I am not saying that the use of force should not be used in violent areas, but there are other root causes to crime.”
James said the Fyzabad Accord, which is the negotiated agreement between the partners that formed the Government, “was merely to steal people’s vote”.
“What have they really accomplished? As far as I can tell, their main accomplishment has been holding the Government together; they have gone into Government maintenance. They also have a policy of favouring their own people in the offerings of contracts and employment of certain high positions, in board appointments and dis-employing people.
“The question is: where is the innovative Government? Where are the projects they have completed? One is hard to find those things and, therefore, I believe the Government is woefully inadequate. They have displayed poor decision-making and blatant support for their financiers, beyond the people’s interest.”
With regard to Tobago, James said the relationship with central government is “more of the same”, pointing out the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has had its challenges, even under the Manning-led People’s National Movement (PNM) administration.
Of the burning issue of self-government for Tobago, Dr James said that London had made it clear he did not want to embroil the issue with constitutional reform.
“He has signalled his lack of co-operation with that exercise since Tobago has had its own consultations on the issue, and even a group by the central government came up with its own bill, so it is not surprising that the Chief Secretary was not co-operative with (Congress of the People political leader) Prakash Ramadhar.
He said given the fact the THA is controlled by the PNM, “it takes a lot of political maturity to make the relationship work”.
The quiet between the two administrations, he said, should not be taken lightly.
“There is a certain level of quietness, but things are still seething underneath the surface, waiting to be activated. Don’t let the calm fool you,” James said.
The rest of the country takes its signals from the politicians, but lately, there has been silence, he added.
“I know before (Jack) Warner (former minister of National Security) resigned from his office, there was talk of him going to the THA to discuss security issues; I imagine his successor will still do so.”
James suggested the current state of affairs showed the electorate was not behind the Partnership.
“Labour is against them, the THA is not happy, there is disaffection within their camp, civic groups are not happy and the electorate is cut off from the procedures of government,” he cited as evidence that after three years, the Government was not on a strong footing.