Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley is a living example that platitudes in political opposition often sharply contrasts with the realities of government.
Take his government’s recent awarding of a $1 billion contract to the Chinese company Shanghai Construction for erection of the Central Block of Port of Spain General Hospital.
In October 2009, following his dismissal from Cabinet, Rowley had a radically different view with respect to the selfsame Shanghai Construction.
He angrily told the House of Representatives then: “$700 million worth of contract lands on the Princes Building Grounds (for construction of NAPA).
“Not a soul in Port of Spain, in Belmont, in Cascade, in Laventille, in Diego Martin gets one day’s work there.
“One hundred percent Chinese work!
“Design, construction, material – everything!
“And I am supposed to support that!
“And if I don’t support that, I get myself slandered in and out of Parliament by my own Prime Minister.”
He said then that “PNM is on trial”, the Shanghai and other allegations were “worse than Piarco” corruption and the next election would be about bobol involving his party.
He took his moral outrage to the Uff Commission of Enquiry.
But the recent announcement of Shanghai’s return for the hospital project does not carry any assurances of local jobs.
Maybe Rowley’s four-day May 2018 visit to China – during which he went to Shanghai Construction – altered his world view on economics and power.
But his indignation has been tempered to the point where, in the midst of high unemployment, no jobs are assured even as $1 billion is being dished out to the company he demonised a decade ago.
That is merely a sample of Rowley’s about-turn on the critical issues of the day.
Shanghai Construction could be a metaphor for political doublespeak.
Then there is crime, about which he now terms offenders as mere “idiots.”
In opposition, he intoned that “the government has outlived its usefulness”, and told the country that in the next general election, “you voting to save your lives.”
Since then, the crime scourge has only worsened; murders are more rampant than ever.
Examine the collapse of national institutions, which Rowley identified at his party’s 2014 convention as a “major challenge”.
“It is critically important that key institutions … not be allowed to break down further,” he affirmed.
Since then, public confidence in the judiciary has slumped, even as Rowley has not trigged the constitutional provision against tortured Chief Justice Ivor Archie.
The education and health sectors have declined, the Integrity Commission and Procurement Regulator are toothless, the university and other institutions are not meeting their potential.
He also touted morality in public affairs, a longstanding PNM adage.
But the recent revelation – after a court order! – that three appropriate vessels were available ahead of the woeful Galleons Passage put a lie to several government declarations.
Government spokesmen had insisted that a technical team was unable to source a carrier for the inter-island run.
That led to the setting up of the Imbert Committee, which purchased the dubious $130 million Galleons Passage, which is docked during periods of turbulent seas.
The cloistered Sandals decision-making and absence of probity in purchase of $1 billion inter-island vessels are among a slew of other questionable procurement matters.
In 2014, Rowley vowed value for money “in the delivery of goods and services” and that he would overhaul and strengthen the relevant systems.
He intoned then that the public health system “is not adequately serving the needs of the population.”
“We have to redesign the education system,” he stated.
Contrast the current performances of both vital sectors.
He promised tripartite consultations, but discussions with trade unions collapsed within months.
And he guaranteed improved foreign and Caricom relations.
Equity, discipline and improved productivity were hallmarks he touted.
As we head to another general election, the sobering realities of Rowley’s report card would be critically examined.
Maybe national office taught him that temperamental outbursts do not help and that promises must be supported by effective leadership and efficient performance.
And yes, a still tongue really does keep a wise head