Express Editorial : Daily

The government is once again proving there is nothing like a financial crisis to sharpen one’s focus.

After six years in office the Dr Keith Rowley administration now appears to be moving with haste to tackle the decades-old problems at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA). Predictably, in doing so it has concluded that the source of WASA’s problem lies in its management. Consequently, its first move is the immediate removal of Alan Poon King as acting chief executive officer and the upgrade of chairman Dr Lennox Sealy to the position of executive director. This would give the Minister of Public Utilities and, by extension, the government a more direct line into the troubled public utility.

It was almost surreal to see Mr Poon King, the acting CEO for four years, sitting silently at yesterday’s news conference while Minister Marvin Gonzales lay the blame for WASA’s problems squarely at the feet of the management. Minister Gonzales may be youthful, but as a minister with portfolio responsibility for WASA he would have access to the multiple reports which have diagnosed WASA’s symptoms of rot. All would reveal that while mismanagement is a key problem, the root of WASA’s problem goes beyond management to government policy and decision-making. To quote the Cabinet sub-committee’s report to be laid in Parliament on Friday, WASA, like Petrotrin and other State sector operations, became an “unwieldy, unproductive, unresponsive organisation” because of decades of efficiency sacrificed for “political patronage” and because management accountability was “exchanged” not only for industrial stability, as the reports states, but also for electioneering benefit.

As the country prepares to bite the bullet on WASA, neither the Government nor the Opposition, which will begin debating the way forward should be allowed to escape their responsibility for bringing WASA to this point of crisis after years of kicking the can down the road. While there is enough blame to go around, it is governments that have presided over the mess.

Now that the can has landed in the lap of the Rowley administration, its responsibility will be to achieve the transformation of WASA in a manner that is effective, reasonable and fair. We therefore look forward to the report that is to be laid by the Government in Parliament on Friday. Whatever the proposed course of action, the public will want to be assured that it is not being asked to carry the burden of the Government’s failures while accepting the responsibility for carrying a reasonable share of the burden of adjustment to declining national income.

While much has been made of consumers not paying bills and others stealing water without payment, the full size of the Government’s own debt to WASA for water remains unknown. The public also needs to know the facts behind WASA’s accumulation of $650 million in unpaid debt to contractors and its failure to maintain a substantial percentage of its plants and machinery in good working order.

Successive governments have provided poor oversight and management of Petrotrin and WASA and the country simply cannot afford a repeat.


Due to a glitch, the wrong Raffique Shah column appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Express. The correct column appears below.

The error is regretted.

IF a brush with death is said to prompt man to reflect more deeply on life, then the Covid-19 pandemic that swooped down on mankind last year, cutting a path of death and destruction such as we had never seen in our lifetime, has also triggered deep thinking on the social contracts that exist among governments and the governed, on how societies are structured to sustain inequality, and on altering such arrangements, replacing them with more equitable alternatives.

EVEN as Trinidad and Tobago joins the world in observing International Women’s Day today it is evident that many women are too busy trying to survive and to stay alive to see the relevance of this day to their lives.

Women’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) raised the consciousness of women to challenge prevailing myths that spousal abuse, rape and sexual abuse were the fault of women. Feminist NGOs forced public political discourses and attitudinal changes in society’s views on domestic violence and violence against women.

For International Women’s Day, ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean) Caribbean calls on individuals to #choosetochallenge gender inequality and gender-based violence

ECLAC Caribbean is championing the call to elevate the voices who #choosetochallenge gender-based violence (GBV) and gender inequality, as well as limiting beliefs and attitudes about women’s roles in the home, workplace, and society.

Nearly a year ago, on March 12, 2020, Trinidad and Tobago recorded its first Covid-19 case, marking the arrival of the pandemic to the sister-island nation. The ensuing lockdown and other restrictions protected the lives of the nation. However, while these measures safeguarded the people from the virus, it also took, and indeed, is still taking a heavy toll on the livelihoods of the people who have had to adjust to the new realities.

All over the world, women lead. They lead peace processes, run businesses, establish hospitals and schools. They are presidents of countries and corporate boards. They head international and grassroots organisations, faith-based groups and sports teams, labour and environmental movements, often while caring for their families and communities.