After two years in government, the People's National Movement (PNM) has been doing its best in challenging times to bring stability to the country. Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young expressed this view ahead of the two year anniversary on Thursday of the PNM's general elections victory of 2015. Young recalled that when the PNM assumed office, "the treasury was given a parting gift by the UNC (United National Congress) of backpay to the tune of approximately $5 billion when revenue had crashed."
He continued, "These and other inherited matters meant that the new PNM administration had to deal with serious economic crisis immediately upon assuming office." While noting the many criticisms levelled against the PNM, Young said, "The Government has managed to stabilise the economy despite these many challenges and this is often overlooked." He added energy revenue was down by approximately 92 percent when the PNM assumed office in 2015.
Young said Government continues to deal with unsustainable expenditure while working, "on improving revenue and cutting waste." He said the PNM has been successful in addressing gas curtailment issues, expired upstream and downstream gas supply contracts and billion dollar claims against the National Gas Company (NGC), which it inherited from the UNC. The minister said contracts for future upstream gas supply, stabilisation efforts with the downstream industry and the possibility of cross border gas from Venezuela's Dragon Field are some of the PNM's successful energy initiatives to date.
Young also hoped an announcement will be made soon on a proposed Sandals resort in Tobago which will provide a significant boost to the country's tourism sector. "These are a few of the achievements in the first two years of this administration." However UNC MP Dr Roodal Moonilal countered, "The PNM government has collapsed." He claimed there have been a total of 24 scandals over the last 24 months. Moonilal said the recent swearing in of Robert Le Hunte as Public Utilities Minister and the procurement of vessels for the seabridge are two examples of this.
He said the UNC over the past two years has proven itself to be "a genuine alternative" to the PNM. Moonilal said the country knows "the capacity and care" that Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has for it. He said the UNC continues to work, "in mobilisation and policy formulation." However former minister Mariano Browne and Movement for Social Justice leader David Abdulah do not believe either the PNM or the UNC have demonstrated the ability to solve burning national issues.
According to Browne, neither party has been able to inspire public confidence in the areas of confidence, leadership and management. Browne said the UNC is not providing the country, "with the type of opposition required at this time." Given the current economic circumstances, Browne said the country has to transition itself towards smaller budgets. He said were it not for the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund and the country's foreign exchange reserves, TT would find itself in "a 1986 moment." Browne said the UNC does not understand the country's economic challenges while the PNM is not communicating effectively to the population about how to address these challenges.
Abdulah said the UNC had no moral authority to criticise the PNM, given its absymal track record in office over the last five years. He said the population has not forgotten the huge deficits ran up during this period or the plethora of unresolved corruption allegations which faced the last government. Abdulah said the PNM has disappointed many citizens because it has not done what it promised to do two years ago. He said management of the economy, tackling corruption and local government reform are but some of the areas in which the PNM has either done nothing or is not working fast enough to give the public any kind of confidence that things will improve.