Four political commentators agree that distributing the $ 50 million allowance to Tobago ahead of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections on December 6 could be seen as an attempt to bribe voters. This was the dominant opinion offered to Newsday on Thursday by Dr Indira Rampersad, Dr Winford James, Dr Bishnu Ragoonath and Vanus James.
At a post-executive press conference in Scarborough on Wednesday, THA chief secretary Ancil Dennis announced that the assembly had received an additional $ 50 million from the government to help hoteliers and displaced workers in the area accommodation still reeling from the covid19 pandemic. Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced the allocation to the THA during the presentation of the 2022 budget to the House of Representatives on October 4.
On Thursday, Rampersad, professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said the move would certainly be seen as an electoral gimmick, as the upcoming elections were crucial for the PNM. up for grabs because of equal opportunities in the January elections.
“So it’s a carrot that they are handing out to the Tobagonians, and would therefore certainly be seen as such to solicit votes.
“This is also not a very prudent political decision, as the rest of the political population, including the people of Trinidad, is watching. There are so many job losses, so much economic fallout from the pandemic, with suffering and unemployed people, businesses have sunk.
“It has been reopened now, but even the reopening is in question and suggests that it is inappropriate given that the pandemic is now escalating. It remains to be seen if this will work in favor of the PNM for the election, but it is is bad – timed.
Dr Winford James, professor of English at UWI, said the PNM was pursuing a practice it had had for some time and it was evident the spending was aimed at attracting voters to the PNM. He said the act smacked of political desperation.
“Ancil Dennis is spending to win people over, but other voters might look at what he is doing and say you can’t go wrong with me with that, and that may even put off some of the PNM voters who are not happy with the stasis that has set in. in, in the governance of Tobago during the last legislature. There are voters who are likely to be unhappy, disenchanted, with what is being done, because it is such a clear attempt to bribe voters and addresses the voter in a particular way.
“It’s almost admitting that they haven’t done enough, and now they’re trying at this last moment, at this eleventh hour so to speak, to bring back voters and win new ones, who are inspired by such political acts. “
Ragoonath, a senior lecturer and political scientist at UWI, said all the opinions he had read suggested that the PNM was using state resources to influence the outcome of the elections, although this could also be seen as a injection needed into the island’s economy.
“Just last week, the PNM criticized the PDP when it said it gave some sort of bonus to the THA workers, saying there was no money, but suddenly, PNM is proposing a $ 50 million grant that could be used. in an election. In this context, the Code of Political Ethics says that state funds should not be used or abused to get voters to vote in a particular way, and this could very well be considered one of those case.
He said there was concern that the Tobagonians receiving the grants thought they should support the PNM in the hopes that the party would be willing to take similar action after the elections.
“Of course we know that after an election things get very different once an election is won. I wouldn’t want to say how people will vote, I think the people of Tobago are well informed and know the operation of the system and they should deal with this issue as they see fit. “
Economist Vanus James said the people of Tobago were poised to hold the PNM to account for its “mismanagement of Tobago’s economy for 20 years and for the continuing authoritarian vindictive government”.
He said that in 2000 there were almost 100,000 foreign guests in Tobago, and that number had dropped to 15/16,000.
“We gave them after 2000 and the Dispute Settlement Commission 20 years and 40 billion dollars to develop the tourism sector and the PNM demonstrated here that they have no idea what should be done to fix the tourism sector in Tobago and enable it to catch up with our Caribbean neighbors.
“Even if you were to go sightseeing in the sea, sun and sand, which is the easiest form of tourism to do, Tobago needs much more in-depth tourism approaches than inviting people to come here to to go to the beach.
“Money is indeed seen as an expression of the desperation the NMP feels now, the people of Tobago are really saying now that their time is up.”
He asked what money meant in terms of the nature and scale of a totally devastated tourism sector even before covid19.
“When you understand that you are doing the wrong kind of tourism under the MNP and that it took them 20 years to learn it, helping them survive in a poorly designed and poorly exploited sector won’t change anything at the cost of what whether it be.
“After covid19 leaves they will still be in trouble and the people in the tourism industry know that.
“The PNM is just desperate they think they can redeem the people of Tobago and it’s as big a bribe as you can imagine. But I can tell you that the last elections demonstrated it, the PNM repaired the roads at midnight and always lost four seats, and in this election, I tell you, the bigger the bribe, the more they will lose. .