What about Campaign Finance reform

Jesse Ramdeo spoke to Former minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne in the Morning Brew. He says there has been no will to push Campaign Finance Reform.

Thank you so much for staying with us this is the morning variety on cnc three now the covet 19 pandemic has left an indelible mark on nearly every aspect of life systems and policies have changed around the world and economies well they’ve been brought to their knees as we gear up for this year’s general election we expect to see just how much the pandemic has

Changed some of the most familiar aspects of the process especially given that political campaigns have now been reshaped joining us to discuss our election during a very challenging economic timely pan out is former minister and the minister of finance mr mariana brown mr brown good morning and welcome good morning you know mr brown we’ve grown accustomed

Over the years to elections campaign election campaigns underscored by mass rallies and big spending during these times marked by a downturn in the economy how do you expect our political parties to adjust and how will their campaign trails shape up well you won’t have the same sort of public meetings expensive um so you will have a switch to social media

And i think that has already started the battle lines uh uh uh are being drawn on social media um there’s a particularly large footprint and the time frame for public meetings is going to be short and so just about three weeks of campaigning so it doesn’t give you time for a lot of rallies so there’ll probably be one or two and some spot meetings but generally

You can expect that the fight will be carried on social media and it’s also cheaper to do so and the it’s going to be a lot more pressing with flesh you’re going to have to do a lot more work in the communities you have to get out and meet your constituents one-on-one so it’s going to take a uh it’s going to be a small change i would think mr brown just a short

While ago if you would have caught the interview um political scientists talked to bishnu raghunath he questioned why anyone at this point in time will want to go into government as as he noted there are many hurdles and obstacles ahead you know do you share that same sort of sentiment well i don’t think there’s any once you’re in the business there’s no option

About whether you could go there or not i think that once you’re in the business you are in it so you have to do it otherwise um what are you here for so that’s the first point the second point is that yes it’s going to be very difficult um i think the the the from a revenue perspective the the type of year that you’re looking at is somewhere night 2006 2016 and

Probably a little worse than 2016 where the um total revenue position was about 36 37 million billion dollars um it could be lower than that because quite frankly i don’t think we know what’s going to take place there’s a significant fall-off in the petrochemical sector and that is also been affected by the declines in prices all around so we know that the energy

Sector’s contribution is going to be very low which is what happened in 2016. but in addition to that because 2019 was also a bad year we are likely to have they also have carry forward of losses so the net contribution is going to be significantly lower than it was before so that means that the government is not going to have any kind of cash and for this a lot

Of disposable cash and it will have to borrow which is pretty straightforward but the point is that we are in a secular decline that is a long-term decline we have but this has happened from 2016 and we’ve had minuses in 2016 2017 2018 2019 certainly 2020 and definitely gonna have a knock-on effect in 2021. um the projections are that we have a big rebound i

Don’t think that’s going to happen i think we’re going to see another year of decline so recovery is going to come somewhere around 22 23 and largely associated again with any rebound in the energy sector so we’re at the hands of the international markets at this stage and what we have to do the only thing that can happen in the short run is manage your um your

Expenditure and that requires you to have a much more a stronger communication message a bigger outreach program to your constituents for them to understand what the position is and for them to accept that the government will be able to do less and we’ll have to do less with i’ll have to do more with less and that’s a that’s going to be that’s a challenge for

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Them all anybody who takes office yeah mr brown now the economic dislocations caused by the pandemic has obviously exposed many countries vulnerabilities here at home just last month during the media budget review the finance minister revealed that estimates obviously had had been revised due to the fall in economic activity and the collapse in oil and gas prices

But personally mr brown are you satisfied with how the government would have navigated the economy through the pandemic and perhaps generally well i don’t think there’s too much options in terms of what they can do with regard to the pandemic and the difficulties that we are seeing um required you to have been preparing for a lot longer period the difficulties

In the energy sector are not new what has happened is that we’ve had the pandemic has made them worse and we’ve had eight plant closures in the petrochemical sector which is not simply about the pandemic it’s also about the underlying economics of the sector so that the pointless model is under severe strain as we speak because of the input price for produce

Producer prices is that’s affecting the ability to compete so we’re talking about the average cost of production of a tunnel methanol average cost of production not including any sort of transportation cost is about 170 175 dollars and the market price is about 150. well you’re underwater to start that’s one of the reasons why the plants are closing there’s no

Sense continuing to produce you will lose money on every turn that you produce right yeah so that’s gonna that that takes time to navigate you’re gonna have time to take you you have to get you have to take a little while to get around that from a market conditional point of view so it isn’t about finding more gas and even in atlantic lng in terms of the export

Of lng well we’ve also found that the prices of lng uh the spot prices of energy are substantially depressed around the world so that’s also going to take a little while so you there’s little option other than the whole stream and that also requires some transitioning in terms of way quality is going to go and also some a different approach by the business sector

In terms of what they’re doing mr brown you’ve been very vocal over the over the several years pnm has been in government you know what’s your assessment of the handling of the economy as we now head into this general election well the biggest issue is affiliates are planned i mean it was always obvious to me at least from where i sat that we were going to run

Into issues in terms of natural gas and that we needed to be um how shall we put it much more um we had to have a much more concerted effort in terms of the management of our monies in terms of our expenditure profile what we spent money on and to be frank they didn’t they did cut the social programs but they have done nothing and not enough with regard to the

Subsidies and transfers i mean it came pretty late in the day but i thought that the decision to deal with wasa was the type of decision that you had to make in 2016 right nothing not in 2020 and as it came up it came up in cabinet well of course that piggy it cost one minister his job effectively because he’s talking about you have to take some radical steps into

The what’s going to take place and that’s going to we have to talk about adjustment of rates right and we’re talking about the whole series that’s an adjustment of electricity rates adjustment of water rates adjustment of we have to put property tax in position but just look at it all of those things are off the back burner and they’re going to have to come in i’m

Going to have to come in pretty soon with regard to whoever takes over the government those are issues that have to be faced the longer you postpone them the worse it gets it’s like taking medicine if you’re sick today and you don’t take the medicine and you don’t take it in the right doses at the beginning well you’re not going to get better you’ll get sicker

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And then you need more a more radical intervention so my my difficulty has been that the choices that were required to be made were always known at the beginning and the pnm cannot tell me they didn’t know that they didn’t make that they opted to wait and see and in a sense wait for oil prices to recover and if oil and energy prices recovered then we’d be okay

But guess what happened it’s gotten worse not better yeah mr brown you know over the years we’ve also heard this regurgitation of the rhetoric of diversifying the economy in your opinion were any moves or efforts really are made to achieve that no um the last real effect of diversification was it would want away from oil to gas and we really haven’t done very

Much with that in fact um they they moved to diversity and got stolen somewhere in the nightism perhaps the worst thing that happened is we were successful at natural gas and as a result of it the impetus to do any changes along uh moving the economy away from a dependence on oil and gas slowed and died because we’re in the middle of a boom and that’s when you

Have to make the changes you have to make those kind of difficult choices and changes when you are in a boom and you have the money to finance it we did the reverse of that we spent all the money on subsidies and transfers right which was maintaining the existing position we can’t do anything about that now we haven’t done them well we are here now but so we’ve

Got to deal with it now yeah mr brown you know it’s not going to be a smooth ceiling for uh whichever party goes into government after the august 10th election it’s obvious but they really won’t have any sort of honeymoon period as a budget is expected soon after you know what do you think a post-election budget should look like given these various variables that

Now exist um well we’ve seen what the propensities are the minister of finance two weeks ago announced that he had successfully raised 500 million dollars 250 million dollars to pay off a bond which was 20 years old and he announced that it was savings we will receive 890 million dollars well you can’t receiving um if you’re paying less the point is we ought not

Have been paying at all after 20 years 20 years ago we should have paid off that 20 250 million dollars and we should have spent if we had to borrow 250 million dollars to make a difference in economy then we should have had all 500 million dollars available to the economy as such the net effect was 250 billion 250 million dollars u.s all right that is not going

To change anything that’s just going to give that’s that’s to give us time to sort of tie this position out and the mere fact that he’s announcing success at borrowing money tells you that there’s nothing to talk about in terms of any sort of economic general that’s just plug in a gap it’s not it’s not changing your sales so that that’s precisely what’s going

To happen in the next budget the next budget is going to be about plugging gaps and communicating and trying to get the country to understand that we are poorer and therefore we have to we have to essentially go back to base in terms of rebuilding literally almost everything that we do i want to talk a little bit about campaign finance reform here mr brown yes

You’re laughing there yeah i mean something that really has a population um i guess in the same sort of manner just laughing over it you know the government promised to deliver this before the 2020 general election you know parliament has has been dissolved this mata seems to now be seems to not be shelved you know well it’s like procurement campaign finance

Reform and procurement go together right right the act was passed on the cusp of an election a very limited um amount of it was put into position we have the person who’s in charge of the the committee set up sort of the procurement office they have done and they were seeing what nine months ago they had put everything in position for it to be deployed right

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It hasn’t been all right so the nexus between procurement and campaign finance reform is very very tight and the fact that we’ve done nothing with either tells us as business as usual nothing has changed and there’s no real impetus on the part of either party to make any changes to this at this stage of the game it’s expensive running an election campaign is

Expensive even if we’re going to run it on social media which is cheaper even if we’re going to do that it’s still going to cost a lot in terms of the the just in terms of the campaign machinery on the day of the election that’s a couple of million dollars that alone is a couple million dollars right far less to talk about everything else that has to take place

Before and by the way we’ve been campaigning for the last six months i don’t know if you’ve noticed this campuses this is not the campaign hasn’t started now the campus started about six months ago we’ve been paying attention to that you know mr brown it’ll be remiss of me not to ask you your your projection of of in terms of the outcome of this general election

Do you think it’s going to be a close one what do you think the results may look like well i think it’s inertia i don’t think either party has really addressed the specific issues to deal with the matters and quite frankly um to address them essentially is to give a very morbid story it’s a difficult story to tell so what you have to talk about are the things

That you’re going to have you you have to do to deal with these situations now that requires time and what and this is always how i had pla how i had expected it to work out right that’s why you need 10 years to make changes so if you’re going to make 10 10 to 15 years to make any sort of changes that are going to move the country from point a to point b which are

Going to be deep you have to start in year one right where we miss that opportunity so we’re gonna everybody’s gonna come to the table talk about what they’re gonna do next well we’ve showed no commitment into over the last five years what is going to what is going to change for either of the two political parties in that in that regard so quite frankly i think

That citizens know after start some i started asking the political directors some very serious questions about how they plan to uh to deal with the current situations rather than just go along with the general um the football camp put positioning right we’re all in these stands we’re raving red and yellow and regardless that equality football we back in our side

Mr mr brown as you wrap the interview you know you touched on it earlier painted sort of a bleak forecast in the future you know what what’s what what’s the country’s economic outlook like going into 2021 well um let’s just start off the minister of finance has said minus 2.4 the imf initially said a minimum of approximately five so twice what the minister said

They’re revising numbers which are seven seven to eight right for the region and if you consider if you look at the projections for other countries the us the uk france germany all those other places you’re talking about minus eight minus ten percent so how can trinidad do minus two point four percent if the two critical areas uh in difficulty which is oil

And gas it can’t so it’s going to be worse it’s going to much less than 2.4 percent and it’s not it’s not for it’s not for two or two years not for one year it’s going to be for three a minimum of three we’re not going to see any recovery until 2022 2023. mr brown thank you so much for joining us here on the morning brew mr marion abram a former minister in the

Minister of finance weighing in on an election in a depressed economy the economic outlook a post-election budget a number of things that are looming and are on the horizon mr brown thank you so much sir thank you we now pause for a short commercial trinidad and tobago as always we have lots more in store for you up next

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What about Campaign Finance reform By CNC3Television1