Last Updated on Sunday, 27 March 2022, 18:02 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali on Sunday denied that government’s utterances about the flagging state of Trinidad and Tobago’s oil and gas-dependent economy amounted to a subtle endorsement of the twin island nation’s opposition United National Congress (UNC).
“I’m dealing with straight language, straight language. I’m not interpreting language; straight language. There was no pitch for any opposition or government,” he said when asked by Demerara Waves Online News/ News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM. Dr. Ali added that Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo’s “said nothing about the opposition or government.”
The largely Indo-backed UNC has historically been cozy with the PPP, which also draws the bulk of its support from among Indo-Guyanese, in and out of government, and its then leader Basdeo Panday had even addressed events organised by the PPP-aligned Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU). In 2018 when current UNC Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had addressed an event that had been organised by the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association, no minister of then David Granger-led administration had attended but attendees had included former President Donald Ramotar, and then Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira.
Dr. Ali on Sunday, however, reiterated that the Guyana government was focused on developing this country and “we value every single one of our regional partners and we’re going to work with every one of them.”
The issue of Guyana-Trinidad and Tobago relations have taken centre stage over the past several days after a UNC parliamentarian Rodney Charles asked that twin-island nation’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley whether it would not have been better for him (Rowley) “to go to Guyana than to Qatar” as Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley had gotten 10,000 jobs from this country. To that Prime Minister Rowley responded sharply: “What do you have in Guyana? Why you don’t go to Guyana if you want to be in Guyana? As a member of parliament in the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, you always talking about Guyana and Barbados. If you are unhappy here, you’re free to go. Nobody has tied you here,” he said.
The political firestorm in Trinidad and Tobago also appeared to have been fueled by Vice President Jagdeo’s comment that things were “falling apart” in that country because of the way the oil and gas resources there and in other oil and gas-producing nations had been managed. ““Trinidad is falling apart, and that’s putting it mildly – falling apart! No jobs, sustained periods of negative growth and can’t see the light of day for the near future.”
Days later Mr. Jagdeo doubled down, despite concerns raised by the Trinidad and Tobago government. “I have tracked what is going on in TT for quite a while and what I have said is not anything new….This has nothing to do with just Rowley, this is the fact of the economy in TT over a long period growing to rely only on one sector,” said Mr. Jagdeo, a former Finance Minister and lead policymaker on Guyana’s oil and gas sector.
Dr. Rowley, for his party, sought to shrug off Mr. Jagdeo’s criticism. “There are a lot of people in Guyana, and I am not really distracted by Vice President Jagdeo’s comments about us. A lot of people comment about us, some favourably and some not. We will not be distracted by that,” he said.
Mr. Jagdeo has also assailed Trinidad and Tobago for treating Guyanese the worst at the Piarco International Airport.
Trinidad and Tobago, which has over the years scaled back its agricultural output, has suffered from declining revenues due to a reduction in oil production as well as lower world prices for that commodity. At the same time, there have been increasing natural gas discoveries.
Neighbouring Venezuela, a once-thriving economy, has been in socio-economic and political tatters due to a slump in oil prices, United States sanctions and mass exodus of millions of persons to neighbouring countries including Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.