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Prove them wrong, Mr Minister

Published: 
Monday, September 4, 2017

The Government hasn’t done the best job in due diligence lately.

From the ferry fiasco to the appointment, revocation and re-appointment of Robert Le Hunte as Senator holding the portfolio of Public Utilities Minister, efforts to get things done or even keep things moving have been undermined by a surprising failure to do basic checks.

Two years into its first term in office and seriously challenged by falling revenue and grave economic constraints, the Dr Keith Rowley administration does not have the luxury of time to get things right.

Its inability to do so will not just affect Government’s approval ratings, the decisions being made now have the potential to take the nation forward or plunge us further into the economic quicksand crippling economies around us.

For former banker Robert Le Hunte, it was a bad start. He inherited a ministry held by at least five people in approximately two years.

Yet, if Le Hunte is as competent as he is hailed, there is a real opportunity to turn things around at the utilities. Under his purview now are both WASA and T&TEC.

The PM has already indicated concern about the price being paid for desalinated water…while T&TEC is reported to owe NGC billions of dollars.

While commentators and the general public have already mocked the “communications glitch” which led to Le Hunte’s appointment blunder, the mandate of financial viability and the practice of prudent fiscal management at these two entities is of more importance.

On day one of his first short-lived round in office, Le Hunte is reported to have spent several hours meeting with key players in the ministry. Immediately recognisable to him was that there “is a lot of work to be done in so little time.”

Not only is there work to be done, but he will also face the reality of vested interests and what some describe as recalcitrant public servants. Both groups, by definition, are opposed to change.

What is there in his record to suggest that he can begin to implement the sort of change needed? Or perhaps more importantly, that he has the backbone and drive to overcome the myriad obstacles which will no doubt be placed before him.

Among his greatest challenges will be reform of the water utility’s contracting and procurement practices; a deeply entrenched system of what appears to be cronyism and possible corruption.

The only good that can be said of Mr. Le Hunte’s bad start is that a determined individual would use it as a spur—an I’ll-show-them sort of impetus that would drive him/her to inspired decision-making and good short-term strategic planning.

Considering the recent public relations nightmare, the Prime Minister will be less than likely to fiddle with the ministry’s leadership any time soon, so the new minister may well have the better part of three years to get something done.

Use your time wisely, Mr. Minister. Prove them wrong.