Marlene to act as PM?
GEORGE ALLEYNE Wednesday, June 27 2012
Friday’s appointment of former San Fernando Mayor, Marlene Coudray, as a Cabinet Minister ran second only, and a close second at that, to the shifting of former Works and Infrastructure Minister, Jack Warner, to Minister of National Security, and the appointment of the previous Chief Executive Officer of First Citizens Bank, Larry Howai, to the portfolio of Minister of Finance and the Economy.
Coudray joins a list of persons associated with the San Fernando Borough, now City Corporation, who have been appointed Cabinet Ministers. Her Cabinet appointment may be setting the proverbial stage for her eventual supplanting of Warner as a dominant figure in the United National Congress (UNC) component of the ruling People’s Partnership coalition Government.
The new Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister has been a controversial figure in national politics since it emerged in the run up to the UNC internal elections earlier this year, when she was announced as a candidate for one of three posts of Deputy Political Leader, that she had resigned earlier from the Congress of the People (COP). Several COP officials had expressed their being unaware of her switch to the UNC.
While being brought into the Cabinet has greatly enhanced Coudray’s position on Trinidad and Tobago’s political stage there is clearly more in store for her. I firmly believe that Coudray is being earmarked to act as Prime Minister, during the absence from the country of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on some of her official trips overseas. Indeed, from where I sit Coudray may be called upon to act as Prime Minister in the run up to the nation’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
I had noted earlier that Coudray had become one of a list of persons associated with the San Fernando Corporation to become Cabinet Ministers. The list, for the record, includes Roy Joseph, Gerard Montano, Errol Mahabir, Muriel Donawa-McDavidson and Carlton Gomes.
Meanwhile, now that the long awaited Cabinet reshuffle has come perhaps the Prime Minister may wish to explain to the nation what strategies her Administration has in place for the rebuilding of the country’s economy. Will there be a determined bid, for example, by Government to encourage the various stakeholders in the private sector to stimulate industrial expansion including the offer of tax incentives? Is Government in its approach to the development of tourism prepared to take needed steps to facilitate the growth of internal tourism, even as it seeks to put in place plans for attracting foreign and regional tourists to Trinidad and Tobago?
Governor of the Central Bank, Ewart Williams in the bank’s monetary report for April had announced a downward revision of the bank’s earlier forecast of economic growth for TT for 2012 from 1.5 percent to one percent. Does Government have plans for the expansion of economic activity in the country, including encouraging the investment of idle capital in say the purchasing of shares in the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Market?
Is Government, what with the old preferential quota entry of agreed upon Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom goods into the European Union, now history, urging on other Caricom Member States the need to expand the region’s manufacturing sector?
In the meantime there has to be a pronounced shift away from the commodity market. With respect to Trinidad and Tobago I point in particular to the market in Europe for this country’s cocoa, long acclaimed as the best in the world. Yet despite the high quality of our cocoa and the high price that the finished product fetches in the international market place we still insist on selling our cocoa as a commodity rather than as a finished product. In turn, are we in the process of identifying niche markets in, say, Latin America for our products?
One of the things which must bother a great deal of citizens/residents is why if this Government found an empty Treasury, as the PM declared at her Cabinet reshuffle, and economic growth forecasts have been downgraded, Government only recently entered into a massive loan with the Corporacion Andina de Fomento (CAF) for the construction of a $7.2 billion highway from San Fernando to Point Fortin and other projects?
And as this Column has been asking, what is the full extent of the loan and, exactly, what are the terms and conditions?
Additionally, will Persad-Bissessar’s decision to reassign former Minister of Finance, Winston Dookeran, to another Ministry, that of Foreign Affairs, mean that Government may have a rethink on the CAF loan? Meanwhile, is there any truth to rumours that Government having found itself in difficulties because of less revenue than anticipated, along with uncomfortable high expenditure, plans to sell off largely State owned First Citizens Bank to a Far East buyer?