Let’s face it! Our economy has collapsed. Dark clouds are hovering over the country. The PM is hurting, desperately looking for a scapegoat to blame for the current state of the economy.
The Minister of Energy, Stuart Young, has laid squarely the closure of Petrotrin at the feet of the UNC. He charged that the UNC did not take corrective measures when it was in power in 2010 to 2015. This is being said despite the UNC’s record of returning annually more than 2B in taxes to the treasury during its term.
The PNM is brazened in its refusal to accept blame for the present state of the economy. The blame is directed at the UNC government of 2010-2015. This vicious propaganda runs the risk of stirring up social unrest which can easily lead to racial riots as is the norm in multi-racial societies like ours.
Sadly, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley cannot see beyond the energy sector despite the ongoing closure of many downstream plants at Point Lisas. The latest in this trend is the closure of the LNG Trains 1 in Point Fortin after the failure of the NGC to supply natural gas. The reality is that the upstream companies can no longer supply the demands for gas of down stream companies, thus forcing them to shut down and migrate.
Our government has failed to see that the petroleum sector will be a relic of the past. It was pointed out in an article that BP and Shell are downsizing their operation across the world. The emphasis is now on renewable and clean energy. But our government does not see beyond the next general election and hence its socialist policies of feeding its supporters to build a vote bank as was attempted in Venezuela but has now degenerated to hunger and migration.
Agriculture was a big savior for this economy and can still be. Before the oil boom of 1973-84, Trinidad and Tobago’s economy was always heavily dependent on agriculture. The low allocation of funding and the placing of resources in the hands of party hacks, resulted in the decline of agriculture sector. Today, agriculture gets less than 2% of the national budget but 4% of the workforce depends in it for their livelihood. More damning is the reality that 80% of the budget is spent in recurrent expenditure with only 3% for development.
Historically, farmers have been on their own. With the majority of farmers perceived to be not voting PNM, agriculture has been sidelined not just for political reasons but also to boost the income of the food importers who are also the financiers of the PNM.
Most disturbing though is that when the UNC came to power riding on the backs of farmers, agriculture remains in the doldrum. When Trevor Sudama was appointed Minster of Agriculture he described his portfolio as minister of pumpkin and bhaji, much to the distress of many including Sat Maharaj, the late Secretary General of the Maha Sabha. Trevor Sudama was responding to the downsizing of his portfolio where land, forest and fisheries were removed from the Ministry of Agriculture, this leaving him with pumpkin and bhaji.
Abuse of agriculture appears to be the past time of our Prime Ministers. When Vasant Bharat was Minister of Agriculture in the PP Government, our farmers were upbeat, even the employees in the Ministry of Agriculture felt proud to say that “I am working in the Ministry of Agriculture.” Vasant Bharath, the most efficient minister, was taken out of agriculture and given the Ministry of Trade and Industry. It was clear that Vasant Bharat was too risky to be trusted among farmers when any other could suffice!
While doubles is the number one fast food in the country, is anyone looking to an alternative to the wheat flour for the making of the barra? When are we going to get cassava barra? How can our local farmers increase their income from this fast-food craze?
How long are we going to import corn from North America? Can our government not venture into a government-to-government arrangement with Guyana to grow corn for animal feed including the poultry industry?
How long again our fishermen would be forced to go out to sea to be killed by pirates? Why can’t fish farms be developed in Cedros, Orange Valley and other parts of the country so that the pressure can be released from our depleting wild fish stock? Currently, the price of fish, a rich source of protein, is beyond the reach of the average family. Through fish farming, employment, food and foreign exchange can be earned.
The PNM policy is to throw money in projects that their party supporters are engaged in such as CPEP, URP, basket-ball courts, soca, calyso, carnival and pan, not agriculture. PNM politics has never been about development but always indulging the whim and fancy of their diehard and fanatical supporters.