New Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte yesterday insisted that his ministry is not blighted, minutes after being sworn in by President Anthony Carmona as that ministry’s fifth minister in two years.
In an impromptu media conference after the formalities at President’s House, St Ann’s, reporters noted his four predecessors – Ancil Antoine, Fitzgerald Hinds, Marlene Mc Donald and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley – and asked if this high turnover meant the ministry was blighted?
Le Hunte replied, “No. It's not blighted. No. I see it as a challenge. I see it as something that is there that needs to be done.”
Saying the ministry affects’s people’s daily lives such as their water-supply, he said, “I think it’s a honour that I’ve been given the opportunity to work in this ministry to try to make the lives of those people a bit better.”
Le Hunte said he has had a successful four years in banking in Ghana and now heeded the call to serve in TT in Cabinet utilising his business sector skills.
Newsday asked that given that his four predecessors include two experienced politician/attorneys and a Defence Force retired head, what makes his fate in the ministry likely to be any more successful than them?
“I’m not privy to all of the reasons that had happened in the past, what has made them not successful. I don’t even know if you could consider them to be not successful. I think I know what I’m about to do. I know what has driven me throughout my career in the private sector which is about service and serving people.
“I really believe that with dedication and with execution I am going to try my best to make a difference in the lives of the people.”
Newsday asked what motivated him to join a Cabinet with challenges in crime, economy and aspects of governance? Le Hunte replied, “Service. One word. Service. I strongly believe that if good people do not get into politics then a void is created. You must be authentic as a leader in whatever you do, and so when asked to serve I could not stand by and say all the challenges that we are facing – and you know them probably better than me – and then say ‘well because of the challenges I cannot’.
“When asked to serve, I think this is an opportunity to give back to the people of this country – who have served me well, who have provided me with education, free education – and this is my time to give back.
“Then too I am also a person who is driven by a Higher Being, that is a little bit bigger than all of us, and I feel this is where he wants me to be at this point in time in my life.”
Newsday asked that if he wants to make a big impact, is he implying that a big gap exists in the Government’s performance?
“No, no, no. As a matter of fact you’re the one saying about making a difference. I am really just saying that I am about serving. I’ve been asked to serve, was asked to come and help and give my expertise and I’ve accepted that challenge. And I am about going out and giving my best, in whatever I do. I do it with passion. I’ve done it in the private sector and I’m going to do exactly that. What results from all that I hope will redound to the benefit of TT.”
Earlier he had begun by reading out a formal statement.
“It is indeed an honour to be part of Prime Minister Dr Rowley’s Cabinet, especially during these times. I know he’s rallying a team together to take us to another level.
“I’m aware that public utilities is a very sensitive ministry, with responsibility for water, electricity, things that affect the daily lives of all our citizens. I am going to give dedicated hard work, passionate work as I’ve done in the private sector to try to make the ministry as effective and efficient as possible, especially during these times where efficiency is going to be very important when we have a lot less to go around.”
Asked why his career move, he said he hoped to transfer his skills built over decades in business onto public life, including an ability to work with people.
“My success in the private sector is really about service, to my customers and to my employees even though I was the leader.”
Rowley offered him the job about two weeks ago, Le Hunte having once been a People’s National Movement (PNM) alderman on the San Fernando City Corporation.
He said he had not spoken to Mc Donald, saying her saga was in the past but that he is looking forward to what is ahead.
Le Hunte’s first order of business today (Friday) will be to try to contact board chairmen from WASA, TSTT and TTEC. “I’d like to get an idea, what are the emerging issues, do an assessment and consult Dr Rowley, and determine some realistic goals to achieve in some specific times.
“When I get into the ministry, I’ll be able to make a better assessment.”
He vowed to set some realistic goals. “It’s about prioritising and then effectively executing. “I’m going to go out there to try my best to serve the people and bring all my private sector skills I have developed. I see it in a sense as a new career I’m entering.
“There’s a song I like by Whitney Houston, ‘There is one moment in time, when you have to take it and make it shine’. This is the moment, so I look forward to just going out there and serving the people as best as I can, and the chips will fall where they may.”
He said he will serve and contribute his skills wherever Rowley wishes.
Asked by Newsday if he had cut short his stint in HFC Bank in Ghana (a Republic Bank subsidiary) to return to TT, he said he had built a fantastic team over the past four years that is now able to carry on. “I’m leaving the bank at a very pivotal point where we’ve moved from losses to the highest level of profitability.
“It has been four years in Ghana, I’ve gained a lot of experience. I think Africa is a fantastic place, but I think this is the time for me to come back and contribute to my country.”