Rowley: My travels benefit Trinidad and Tobago

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Rowley – ROGER JACOB

A FIERY Prime Minister lashed out at the Opposition and media alike as he defended his travels to various countries, furthering relations between governments and businesses which came at a cost of $10 million in the space of the last three years.

Dr Rowley, during a post-Cabinet media conference at the Diplomatic Centre in Port of Spain on Thursday, said his travels had benefited the country, securing billions of dollars in revenue through personal negotiations.

“If I have to invest 10 million in travel to get $17 billion, I would do it every day,” he said. “The nature of these businesses required me to go where the decisions are made by the decision makers. That is why I have been to The Hague, I have been to Houston, I have been to Washington, I have been to London, and I have been to Melbourne. That is where the board meetings are held, where the decision-makers make the decisions.”

Rowley said Government took the decision to go directly to leaders of major oil companies, businesses, and decision makers in the US Government to negotiate terms for the benefit of the people. One visit he spoke on extensively, the Summit of the Americas, was only possible because TT “led from the front…

“The special advisor of the American president, Christopher Dunn, came to TT to work with us to ensure that Caricom did not boycott that meeting. TT prevented that from happening.

“When we got to Los Angeles, it wasn’t business as usual. It was with Caricom saying to the United States that the time has come to work more closely with Caricom on three special issues. One was national security, the other was finance and the third was agriculture.”

He said, as a result, relations between US and Caricom were stronger than ever with three committees in operation, chaired by the American vice president and co-chaired by three Caricom prime ministers, with Rowley being one of them.

He also brought up negotiations which resulted in the restructuring of Atlantic LNG’s contracts with all four trains.

He said despite ridicule from the Opposition, Government decided to hold on to Train 1, to be able to remain at the negotiating table. He added that, were it not for Government’s direct approach, TT’s contracts with oil and gas companies would still have been hinged to the Henry Hub price of natural gas which, up to press time, stood at $1.60 a barrel.

Referring to an editorial published in a daily newspaper, Rowley said, “We worked out an arrangement with the people we negotiated with, that the markets that are better – the European Market and the Henry Hub – we use them as a basket and out of it will come a better return for the people.

“I am talking about billions of dollars that wouldn’t have come to us, and you come calling my name about “scandal” over 10 million in travel to get that done. You eh see all of you are crazy?”

He knocked the Opposition reminding the nation of UNC leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s trip to Bihar, India while she was prime minister. He also knocked the media for being “echo chambers to foolishness,” by covering the complaints of the opposition.

“There was a big string band going to Bihar because the Prime Minister is going to her roots in Bihar, and have the gall to ask what benefit the Prime Minister’s travels have had?”

In a response to Rowley’s statements, MP for Oropouche East, Roodal Moonilal, called the Prime Minister “farse and out of place.”

“Rowley’s immoral and wasteful foreign trips have brought no results to the suffering of people in TT. In sharp contrast, Ms Persad-Bissessar attracted investments of an annual average of US $1.5 billion and undertook duties that led to unprecedented economic growth.”