Stating that he kept his promise not to take Trinidad and Tobago to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said the United National Congress (UNC) would take the country to the IMF if elected in the August 10 general election.
Addressing a virtual People’s National Movement (PNM) political meeting at Bagatelle Community Centre in Diego Martin on Saturday night, Rowley said: “I say to you tonight that if you put God out your thoughts and allow those jokers on the other side to have the responsibility for Trinidad and Tobago’s affairs and they put together their mish-mash and their stupidity that they promising you in their popularity quest, you would be guaranteed to end up at the IMF. Guaranteed!”
The Prime Minister said if this were to happen, many of the Government’s social programmes would have to go because the IMF will not fund that.
“You see the 87,000 people on the Government payroll that we have kept to keep people in jobs, the IMF is not going to fund that. You see the water rates and the GATE that we funding now while we borrowing the way we are now, the IMF is not going to fund that. And then you will know where barley grow. The best thing is for this country to stay as far as possible from Kamla Persad-Bissessar and her kindergarten class,” said Rowley.
The Prime Minister said the Government kept 87,000 public servants employed during the Covid-19 pandemic when the country was on lockdown. It kept Caribbean Airlines and hotel employees on the payroll, as well as paid benefits to the vulnerable groups of persons affected by Covid-19.
“We put ourselves in serious debt to be able to give ourselves a chance to survive when this is over,” he said.
Trade unions being
Rowley said there were employment consequences to the trade unions’ demands. “It is not easy to keep everybody in a job. Those persons on the Government payroll have something to be thankful for up front — that they have a job. We do not have the resources to pay them at the level that all of us would like to pay them at. Whenever the circumstances are right, rest assured that public servants will get what is due to them,” he said.
“It is not for the people who have jobs to disrupt and break up the country because they want some more and put the lives of those who have nothing at risk. There are many people in this country who have nothing,” he added.
The Prime Minister said there were some households in which the only money coming in was what they received from the Ministry of Social Development in grants and other benefits.
“Think about those people. And think about us as a country borrowing to spend the way that we are since we can only do so much of that,” he said. Rowley said this Government borrowed $6 billion to pay public servants backpay in the “hard start” of September 2015.
“So when you hear union leaders saying that this Government is wicked, this Government is disrespectful because we have not given public servants anything, ask them ‘since when yuh calling $6 billion nothing’,” he said. “And today we are in a pandemic that is causing the Minister of Finance to look for $20 billion that we never expected to have to find, just remember that this country’s position under the PNM is that we are all in this together,” he added.
The Prime Minister said there were three demons facing the country — indiscipline, indecisiveness and inaction.
“Those are the three demons that will damage our prospects going forward,” he said.
“The one thing you know is that this PNM Government has been making decisions for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. So tonight I can stand on this platform and tell you without fear of contradiction that there is nobody in my Government who is running from the police. There is nobody in my Government who has used the office during the last five years to further their own interests,” he said.
He said the Government was doing more with less and Diego Martin could attest to that because Government in the last five years had constructed the Diego Martin Sporting Complex, Carenage Fishing Complex, Four Roads Community Centre, which was close to completion, as was the health centre on Wendy Fitzwilliam Boulevard, and the sod had been turned for the Diego Martin Regional Corporation headquarters and for the Diego Martin overpass.
UNC buying votes
The Prime Minister accused the UNC of using the money that they “tief” to offer $300 bribes to the electorate to corruptly vote them into office.
“Their solution in this election is to spend as much of the money that they ‘tief’ to come into the constituencies and pay you $300 for your vote. Let me say to every citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, under the laws of Trinidad and Tobago it is an offence to pay somebody to vote. But, secondly, your vote is worth more than $300 and anybody who is paying you to vote is insulting you and your intelligence, and your children’s future is at risk in the hands of any such person.
“The one question you must ask them is where that money is coming from.
“Yuh know the answer already, but (still) ask them the question. That is the money they tief, that they now bringing out, and their friends who help them tief it, paying to get them back into office to continue the tiefing. That is what you facing, you know…They want to get back into government to stop the numerous criminal operations at the police against them for their misconduct,” he said.
Rowley said the Government could not speak about those investigations.
“If we talk about what we know that is happening with them, that is their defence… Them and their lawyers went to the court and say ‘the Prime Minister say this, and the Minister of National Security say this and is political persecution’. Let the wheels of justice turn, they turn slowly but they do turn,” he said.