The gift of the gab

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There is something wrong with this government. It seems to take an inordinate amount of delight in shooting itself in the foot. Oh, and it’s nearly useless when it comes to communication. Both talents have been brought to the fore with the continuing train wreck (pun intended) that the Metro express is becoming.

But let us take it one step at a time. The MSM declared in the 2014 election that it adamantly opposed the Labour Party’s train project, qualifying it as a disaster. Then, inexplicably, the MSM not only changed its mind about the metro, but elevated it to the government’s topmost priority. A few flashy presentations and a lot of razzmatazz later, the prime minister is accusing the opposition of acting like hypocrites as, the prime minister pointed out, his metro is essentially the same as the one proposed by the Labour Party. Except that then raises the question: Was the MSM lying in 2014 when it said that building the train would ruin the country? Or is it lying now and is just as stubbornly leading the country into disaster?

The opposition then argued that the metro project would not be financially viable or turn a profit. The opposition obviously was playing a poor hand. No major public infrastructure project anywhere in the world is very profitable or can survive without state subsidies. That’s why private companies don’t build them. The economic calculation always is that the costs of the project would be exceeded by the spinoff benefits the greater mobility of labour, goods and services would bring. But instead of ridiculing the opposition for trying to set the metro up to an impossible (and wildly unrealistic standard), the government took the bait. Out trotted the senior economic adviser to the prime minister and generously regaled everyone with excel spreads and numbers to convince everyone that the project would see a profit of Rs220 million from its very first year! Unrealism bred more unrealism. And these numbers were shoved down everybody’s throats until the former minister of financial services Roshi Bhadain began poking holes in the government’s numbers: It didn’t have enough trains to carry the estimated 58,000 people they were expecting to carry from the very start. Whoops. So the government stopped talking about the numbers and attempted to bury its (totally needless, remember) embarrassment. But the government got over that because the opposition parties are looking forward to disembowelling each other in a by-election in No.18.

Then the government blasted off another one of its toes when it chose a religious festival as the day to eject residents from La Butte and Barkly to make way for the metro. The opposition was handed a propaganda coup. Sensing things were spiralling out of control; the government offered the head of the director of the MBC for doing what the MBC has always done: ignoring bad news for the government. Then, Ministers Collendavelloo, Sintambou, Gayan along with Aliphon and Ken Fong in tow, went to Barkly on Monday to tell worried residents there… nothing. They said they couldn’t talk about the metro since the matter had been taken to court. The people of Barkly, understandably peeved at being called from their homes for this scintillating news, reciprocated by promptly chasing the ministers away along with their police escorts.

The government has precious few toes left but its gift of the gab seems to be as strong as ever.

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