ST Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen cited Port of Spain South MP Keith Scotland’s “coal pot” remarks to argue that the Government was out of touch with reality, in her budget speech in the House of Representatives on Monday. On Saturday, Scotland had claimed to use a coal pot at home and urged others to do likewise, and vowed to cycle to work, but provoked a social media storm of derision and disbelief. Ameen alleged the Government was “clearly disconnected from reality and the citizens of TT.”
She hailed Opposition’s Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s budget response for exposing the Government’s “alternate data, alternate facts, alternate statistics.”
Ameen said government MPs’ budget speeches had a common thread.
“This Government is bereft of reality. They are disconnected from the real world.
“When they could talk about roasting a breadfruit on a coal pot… While that is a delightful thing for a special occasion, I wonder if that particular member left Parliament that night and went home and lit coals to heat water to make a cup or tea.”
Ameen then scoffed that while the PNM had called the UNC a box drain government, the PNM were “a pothole government.”
She quipped that the Ministry of Digitization was not digitized, even as many local government councillors and CEOs lacked laptops.
She asked if people generally would digitally access public services as mooted by Local Government Minister Faris Al-Rawi.
“You want to announce an app for pavements, an app for street lights, an app for potholes, and you are doing absolutely nothing.”
She queried Al-Rawi’s plans for hiring, after past job losses in local government. “I’m shocked to hear the minister speaking about hiring litter prevention wardens. When the PNM came into office in 2015, they fired hundreds of litter prevention wardens hired under the UNC government.”
Ameen asked about the Government’s past plans for a tire tax. She alleged the Government’s only interest in local government was to win elections.
She lamented Al-Rawi’s claim that municipal corporations had lost funds they failed to request funds. “Your Government gave corporations releases on the last day of the financial year.”
Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh muttered, “Bad mind!”
Ameen said the Local Government Ministry had blamed the Ministry of Finance for delays in corporation funding. “While the grass is growing the horse is starving.”
Flooding, poor drainage and potholes were now the order of the day, she said. “You don’t need new legislation to ensure regional corporations effectively spend the money allocated to them in the budget. What you need is political will, and this Government clearly does not have the political will.”
Ameen said Al-Rawi’s vow to babysit the corporations was belittling.
She called for legislation to raise a corporation CEO’s spending limit from $300,000, noting high costs nowadays. Ameen lamented corporations bearing the brunt of fallout of the Government’s non-performance: school repairs, water-truck delivery and road repairs. These burdens curbed the corporations from improving citizens’ lives, well-being and happiness.
It also obstructed local tourism. Ameen said the Devil’s Woodyard road in Princes Town was in a deplorable, near-impassable condition.
“What it means is less local tourists. But it also means less local entrepreneurs, micro-entrepreneurs, to go and make a living for themselves.”
If people can’t get to the mud volcano, food, drink and craft vendors income is interrupted, she said. Likewise, she lamented a lack of support for the Carli Bay fish festival. “When you fail to fix a road the impact is not just the road but the entire community and its ability for earning an income.”
Ameen said any lack of a development plan behind Government calls to make Siparia and Diego Martin into boroughs suggested just an election gimmick.
She asked about former local government minister Kazim Hosein’s plans in 2018 to hire 1,400 municipal police officers, against crime.
Ameen asked why the Secondary Roads and Rehabilitation Company was allocated $300 million, while corporations were cash-starved. She alleged a plot to pave roads to win votes.
Alleging corporations non-engagement in local government reform, she scoffed, “Again it is just talk and talk, and no action.
She sought for bridges, floodgates and a drain in her constitution.
The Government was so disconnected, she said, that farmer were offered more incentives but lacked leases to access any.
Expecting people to send the Government a message next local election, she said, “They are beginning to riot, Mr Minister of Finance. Are you listening?”