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‘LET’S DO ... THIS?’

Published: 
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley answers a question during the second “Conversations with the Prime Minister” at the Point Fortin East Secondary School last night. Also in picture, from left, are Energy Minister Franklin Khan, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and La Brea MP and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries Nicole Olivierre. PHOTO: COURTESY: OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER

Last night’s second incarnation of a “Conversation with the Prime Minister” seemed worse than the first. It wasn’t for the lack of trying though, at least on the part of a very experienced politician who did his best to intervene, contain, respond and keep his cool.

It wasn’t because the idea behind the conversation was bad, that itself was more than a good idea in theory. What was simply poor though, was the management of how the entire affair was handled.

With nothing short of a muddle and mess of local complaints, a stiff moderator trying to make up for her social media debacle with constituents a few months ago, a National Security Minister who failed to inspire confidence and repeated himself ad nauseam with little results to show, an Energy Minister who seemed tired himself, it was left to the grit of Dr Keith Rowley himself, to attempt to pull the poor mess together.

The fact that the very staging of the event was dark, bleak, lacked energy and scattered with rented palm trees, was both disturbing and in stark contrast to the phrase the party used to win the general election in the first place: “Let’s do this.”

So what exactly have they done? Apart from an awkwardly placed plethora of Government ministers who seemed stiffer than the palm trees scattered behind them, poor lighting, lack of colour and life, this event simply inspired no confidence.

Here’s what we know: This Government inherited what has been described as an abysmal mess of a treasury and an economy verging on life support; the cabinet selection wasn’t the most experienced, or humble, but this is what the people chose.

Perhaps it came from a desire to strive for substance, perhaps the desire for transparency. But somewhere along the road, something in this Government has gone wrong. For the Prime Minister himself to ask a People’s National Movement-backed constituency whether he should call an election now (and win?) and the response being a resounding “no” says it all.

Viewers required no popcorn last night, they needed hope. Instead, what they got was a glaring realisation that this conversation did not go forward. It was pedestrian and they were fed platitudes. And that unfortunately was little different from what obtained in administrations before.

Dr Rowley, his advisers and his Cabinet are in a difficult position. Like any board, private sector or otherwise, there are those who bring strengths to the table. There are those with knowledge, institutional memory, arrogance, charm, brains and brilliance. Some have all. Some have a few. It’s always hoped that working together, they can take their shareholder toward. Around this Cabinet table however, no one is sure any more what can be expected or from whom. Confidence in people is getting hard to find.

So while the staging of this conversation was worse than the first one in Maloney, the content was even more worrying.

For the PM to have to remind the crowd that this wasn’t a “PNM” thing but a Government thing said it all.

This country is in trouble, we need to talk, even when conversations are difficult.

We are borrowing to maintain, and that is not sustainable.

So let’s continue to talk Mr Prime Minster. But take this conversation further.