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LETTER OF THE DAY - Trinidadian election important for Jamaica

Published:Wednesday | April 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

On Sunday, Jamaica entered a crucial election period that has nothing to do with either of our major political parties.

Instead, the battle has begun between the People's National Movement and United National Congress/Congress of the People over who will govern Trinidad and Tobago, courtesy of an early election called by Prime Minister Patrick Manning.

Why should Jamaicans care?

Well, we need to remember that the person being elected is also the de facto CEO of some of our most important companies.

And, more importantly, it appears that the person at the top is likely to change (according to the polls).

Before getting into who that person might be, let's look at the stake that the Trinidadian government has in Jamaica's economy.

Significant stake

The Trinidadian government owns several companies here including a significant stake in a financial institution. It's influence over these entities may have happened quietly, but its role as the absentee master of Air Jamaica's future has been loudly debated both here and in Trinidad.

Well, to be more accurate, it's hardly been a debate. The governments of both countries have promoted the marriage while Trinidadians and Jamaicans have fought it tooth and nail.

Now that elections are upon us all, what's the deeply unpopular Patrick Manning likely to do?

Will he defend the equally unpopular Air Jamaica deal, as he fights for his political life? Or will he abandon his aspirations to rule the airways of the region, leaving the Government of Jamaica with empty hands?

How much does he value the deal? How much does he care that the IMF is quite likely to hold Jamaica to its promise to get rid of the airline by a certain, non-negotiable date?

Is he willing to take a stand for the Air Jamaica acquisition on a point of principle, and fulfill his part of the bargain?

Trinidadians will tell you, with a laugh, that they know the answer to that question.

'Kill it dead'

Even if he does stick to his guns to fulfill his vision for the barely profitable Caribbean Airlines, what is the opposition likely to do during this election period? Will the leader of the UNC/COP, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, ignore this particular issue that Trinidadians feel so strongly about, and pledge to go ahead with the expansion of Caribbean Airlines?

Or is she more likely to exploit the unpopularity of the deal, and promise to kill it once she gets a chance to become prime minister?

Once again, most Trinidadians I know would laugh, and make a joke that they hope that she has the common sense they expect of their leaders ... and "kill it dead".

What are we to make of this as Jamaicans?

At the very least, we need to pay attention to the rest of the Caribbean region, so that we can start to learn how to do business with countries that know much more about us, than we know of them.

I am etc.,

Francis Wade