It’s unlikely there’ll be any apologies from US president Donald Trump to Democrats presidential contender Joe Biden, after Tuesday’s disgraceful presidential debate.
Trump’s current COVID-19 affliction is seen as karma after he “pitbulled” a visibly shaken Biden. There are now doubts over next week’s second debate after Trump contracted the virus which he’s been so blase about despite COVID affecting 7.3 million Americans and taking 208,000 lives so far.
Locally, the apology incoming for Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith—for his “hypocrite” shot —wasn’t completely unexpected. Speaking to the T&T Guardian the day after he met with Rowley on September 15, Griffith backed off when asked if he still felt Rowley was such. He said both had spoken, it “was water under the bridge and we’ve moved on.”
The situation was a tight fit for Griffith’s CoP space made even tighter by the recent Drugs Sou Sou discovery ($22m at a house in a country which Griffith had vowed to clean up) and further embarrassment (an army officer in the police-commanded raid allegedly filching cash).
In a situation where questionable elements appeared at play at different ends of the spectrum, it was therefore unquestionably bad timing for Griffith’s vacation when issues were lighting up spotlight on police.
Griffith’s reset bid will be guided by the experiences undoubtedly. But unlike Griffith, Finance Minister Colm Imbert has loads of guidance formulating his 2021 Budget —not the least of which comes from his boss, who on Monday made it clear he’s responsible for what Imbert does and doesn’t do.
Monday’s Budget forum to educate the public on T&T’s financial affairs would have spawned some anxiety that people were being prepared for the worst. Government would have meant it as assurance as replies came on various queries. And with a week of feedback, the administration can fully inform Imbert’s package.
The forum has confirmed that T&T in 2020-21 will have $1b less of funding than the 2020 budget of $53b.
Also: $7b less revenue than expected 2020 Budget revenue of $47.749.
That tighter picture for 2021 output and intake, plus Rowley and Imbert’s warnings of “difficult”/“hard” decisions looming is broad signal that the Budget will seek to re-engineer T&T onwards from the “lost” 2020 year, Rowley said.
Imbert’s computations continue blaming PP Government management as well as COVID costs. Contrary to his “turnaround” boasts of the last two (pre-election) years, he admitted Monday “We’ve not generally been doing well for the last several years.”
Therefore, the words “at this point” which followed assurances about no devaluation or public service retrenchment, are being regarded sternly.
There’s hope the inevitable property tax—earnings calculated at $1b —will accommodate citizens’ uncertain circumstances along with Treasury requirements.
Government’s assured maintaining priorities from social sector spending to debt servicing. But questions remain whether Government may divest certain state assets. Statements on costs Government’s had to foot for T&TEC and WASA have hinted where other actions may arise; though perhaps not in immediate Budget prescriptions for WASA, a review of which will be completed in November.
It remains ahead if Government’s October deadline for the patriotic/refinery sale materialises by end of Budget debate then. Or if other options – such as government retention and Patriotic lease —arises.
With allocation cuts expected save for Health and Security —since Rowley’s office now commands Communication, it remains ahead to see what examples he sets in cost-cutting, avoiding duplication/wastage and ensuring proper operations in an area where PNM’s messaging is often off.
Questions are lingering – after the murder of Reshma Kanchan — why OPM’s Facebook page yesterday carried a post correcting reports that Rowley commented, saying “real men don’t hurt women.” The OPM noted he’d made those remarks on domestic violence in January, not on Kanchan’s terrible demise which Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar lamented along with possibly every female in T&T. And any T&T male who understands many fellow men need advice.
Budget-focused Rowley, however, has continued messaging on public “resilience.” It may have textbook psych appeal. But after Monday it’ll be determined how well that—and his government’s Budget—works.