March 04, 2008
Under different conditions I could have supported the idea of the Prime Minister having a private jet at his disposal but not in this climate of increase crime, widespread traffic jams, double digit inflation and increases in the cost of essential services.
Patrick Manning denied that his government was interested in purchasing a private jet from Bombardier in 2006 after he and several of his ministers went for a test ride in one to Antigua. I am of the view that Patrick Manning only put his desire for a private jet on hold because the move was unpopular so close to an election, especially after the story broke that Bombardier was also bidding for the $20 billion rapid rail project. The conflict of interest together with the general unpopularity of using taxpayers’ funds to purchase a private jet for his use could have cost him dearly. Now that he has secured another five years in office, he intends to pursue his desire for a private jet to accompany the new Prime Minister’s mansion.
Many citizens do not believe that Caribbean Airlines came up with the idea to introduce an executive jet service business and then approached the Prime Minister for funding. Of course, Arthur Lok Jack, Chairman of Caribbean Airlines, would have us believe that they pitched the idea to the PM and the PM agreed and arranged the financing. The Express newspaper reported that Arthur Lok Jack, “confirmed statements in a Caribbean Airlines press release that Government would be underwriting the cost of the venture, eliminating ‘the commercial risk’ to Caribbean Airlines.” This means that Caribbean Airlines knows that this is a risky venture unless taxpayers foot the bill.
Many believe that the Prime Minister suggested this venture to Caribbean Airlines and assured them that his government would underwrite the cost. Other newspapers reported that the money was paid to Caribbean Airlines to acquire the jet from Bombardier before the Prime Minister took the matter to Cabinet.
A few months ago, Dr. Rowley signaled that the government should be considering cutting the subsidy on gasoline – a move that would mean an increase in the cost of goods and services, including transportation to the common man. Dr. Rowley argued that the funds could be better used in other areas. Does he feel that an expenditure of TT $300 million to purchase a jet to service the Prime Minister together with its monthly maintenance fee of TT $12 million is a better use of our resources? Should we cut the ‘subsidy’ on gasoline and purchase this jet for the Prime Minister?
Now that the PM has seen the 246ft luxurious super-yacht that Prince Charles would be cruising through the Caribbean on, I am sure he is thinking about the government acquiring one for his use to make regular trips to Tobago and the rest of the Caribbean.
Patrick Manning is becoming too high maintenance for the purse of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. He could do us all a favour and get his head out of the clouds.