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 Same Ole, Same Ole with State Enterprises

Same Ole, Same Ole with State Enterprises

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By Neil Gosine

A cabinet sub-committee now realises that WASA (Water and Sewage Authority) is too expensive to operate, too debilitated to fix and the only answer is to phase it out.

This following six consecutive years under the control of a People’s National Movement (PNM) Government and after 56 years as a state company.

This is the go-to solution, like has been done so many times before, to failing state companies, only to end up in the same position as before.

So the great solution is to set up another water management company, publicly owned and unburdened by the current debts of WASA.

Nothing new.

For example, BWIA (West Indies Airways Limited) known locally as “Bee-Wee” and also as British West Indian Airways. This was the pride of Trinidad and Tobago not so long ago, before shutting it down and creating Caribbean Airlines due to the same reasons of too much debt, too much operating cost, too many dysfunctional problems to fix, too much escalated procurement cost… the list goes on.

So the brilliant subcommittee of the cabinet is doing just that, the recommendation is to set up another entity. What a brilliant, new and innovative idea the subcommittee of cabinet has come up with!

One that has worked so well for us in the past.

BWIA was the largest airline operating out of the Caribbean with direct services to the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Its main operation was out of Piarco International Aiport (POS), Piarco.

Now Caribbean Airlines which does exactly what BWIA did, is on the verge of collapse and again Caribbean Airlines is operating with debt of staggering proportions well in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

With its demise looking imminent due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation has become even more unsustainable and the last we heard was that the Dr Keith Rowley administration approved a government subsidy of $65 million –  a guaranteed state loan to ease the financial impact of the closure of the borders.

We expect reports on Caribbean Airlines to reach the media newsrooms soon – that they are in debt over their heads, unsustainable and unable to survive. Just wait for it.

So we continue to make the same recommendations, the same failed initiatives over and over again – we shut down one failed entity and reopen another to fail again.

The same modus operandi, to hire and fire to set up a new entity to continue this failed concept of business as usual with no checks and balances on procurement.

WASA is leaking money faster than a bucket with a hole as we are plagued with the same mistakes as with all state run enterprises where they hired four times the number of employees as what is globally accepted in the industry, where old and aged infrastructure are not repaired, where there is inadequate metering, where a large chunk of operating expenses is to purchase water from a private company and where 50% of expenses go in wages in an already over staffed enterprise.

How can this model work and how setting up another company without fixing the root problems in this one would solve the problems?

In 2017 the debt in WASA was around $5 billion and in less than four years it has doubled to $10 billion in 2021.

The minister of public utilities needs to consider how it failed before implementing a new entity. In the pass there were many proposals for the restructuring of WASA by the Public’s Account Committee, why wasn’t these recommendations implemented before WASA reached this stage?

These hare-brained solutions sound good as a soundbite, to make headlines, without addressing the problems directly seems always to be the route politicians take with their agendas. Never addressing the real problems, never implementing the infinite recommendations from the endless committees that would have saved the company before it ever reached this stage.

We continue to squander our resources at the cost of our tax payers’ dollars playing, the same games over and over.

Dear Liza, there is a hole in the bucket.

Neil Gosine  is a former chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago National Petroleum Marketing Company Limited

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