It has been more than a week now since the US elections have been held and Joe Biden is now that country’s President elect.
At least that is what the major media networks are saying. After all he has been projected to get well over the required 270 electoral college votes to become the 46th President of the United States.
Under the US law, convention and practice, while the election is held on the first Tuesday in November the term of the sitting President ends at midday on January 20 the following year. This gives enough time for a transition between administrations and there are funds put aside for that.
What we have seen in the last few days is nothing short of what the US itself frowns on and often takes diplomatic or even economic action against; the failure of the head of a government to accept the will of the people and leave office.
Would it be imaginable a mere four years ago, that a country which promotes itself as the beacon of democracy could find itself mired in a challenge to the democratic process itself, with an administration, led by its President refusing to accept the outcome of an election, alleging voter fraud and the stealing of the polls.
How can the US even begin to confront and criticize Venezuela’s strongman Nicolas Maduro when Donald Trump is trying to convince the people that like Maduro, Biden has stolen the elections?
How can the US intervene in places like Haiti and Guyana if in the future they have electoral challenges? Trump’s behaviour is nothing short of what you would expect of leaders in so-called “third world countries” and certainly not in advanced democracies.
But this is no surprise, and to be sure Trump has challenged at every turn the US institutions, as he tried to get the them to yield to his whim and fancy.
His emasculation of the US Attorney General Bill Bar, to the extent that he acts ostensibly as Trump’s personal attorney; his iron-clad control of the Republican party so that Members of Congress are so afraid of his political power that they are prepared to bend over backwards in an effort to accommodate or explain and even join him on an expedition that only serves to further damage America’s global standing, is mind boggling.
It is however the very institutions that will now have to act to ensure that the elections were not stolen, to ensure that the will of the people is adhered to and if it is that Joe Biden is President post January 20, it is the institution that will ensure Donald Trump exits the White house, even if it is kicking and screaming.
What happens in the United States is important because it is still the only true super power and this issue of making baseless allegation of voter fraud is dangerous. We remember only too well the UNC and its tactics to delay the swearing in of a new government, seeking to fool its supporters into believing that their failure to win was as a result of voter fraud and it allowed us to see clearly that the veneer of national unity is nothing short of a smoke screen to hide the deep divisions in the society.
It is the same kind of behaviour that allows Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to cry administrative error to what appeared to be nothing short of plagiarism, in something as simple as a congratulatory note.
We have to assume that the Biden/Harris ticket will form the next government and while they are likely to be less dismissive of the Caribbean and perhaps less divisive than the outgoing Trump administration, what is clear is we can expect a laser-like focus by the administration and importantly the US private sector on further digitalisation.
We can reasonably expect that artificial intelligence including the full roll out of 5G technology to allow for things like autonomous driving vehicles. We can expect more work from home and a reduction in the need for the morning and afternoon commute. Gasoline usage is likely to decrease and the focus on renewables and green energy will limit that growth of natural gas and all but lead over-time to the phasing out of oil, in the same way coal is on life support.
Therefore the events of the US are important to us. As our largest trading partner, many local jobs are dependent on the US market.
The actions of the Biden administration are likely to have lasting and consequential effect on this country’s economy.
T&T has unfortunately wasted more than 15 years in failing to implement what was at that time a roadmap to diversification. Instead, the Persad Bissessar administration spent the returns from oil and gas as if there was no tomorrow and the last administration spend five years blaming the UNC for the challenges we face, while constantly dipping into the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to fund deficits.
Even now as we stare down the barrel of a gun the government still seems incapable to seizing the moment, of seeing that if we do not act now we imperil the country and future generations.
Increasingly we will not be in a position to rely on the earnings from the energy sector to drive the economy. Yes we need to continue to develop the sector and maximise returns from it, but that is not the long-term future of T&T and it must be seen for what it is, a bridge to a different economy. This has to be communicated and the country must be brought together and face the challenge head-on.
The wastage at the institutions and the poor results from health to infrastructure must be fixed. Many of these challenges are systemic requiring changes in systems but more importantly changes in the culture of organisations.
While Biden will have to make 4,000 political appointments to federal agencies in T&T the political directorate also has the largess of state companies.
The bungling of the attempted sale of the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery to the OWTU’s Patriotic Energies is an example of why the state has to get out of business.
Can anyone deny with a straight face that this was about politics and that the deception and games of the government were aimed at trying to be re-elected?
If we are to believe that the OWTU had neither the financing nor the capability to own, repair and operate the refinery then where was the due diligence and how did the evaluation committee then rate the proposal top of the list.
If we are to then believe that Patriotic’s bid was credible, how the fact that the refinery was encumbered was not raised very early in the piece and why is this of recent vintage or as the OWTU tells us, the matter first came up months after the negotiations begun? It is the very politics that makes us feel state enterprises should not be run as businesses and leads to more pain.
So the OWTU, through the signing of the non disclosure agreement is even to today unable to speak freely on this matter. They are in a difficult position and as they say in Tobago, “nah sit pon river bank and bad talk river.”
Only in a third world country!