A budget should address the pressing needs of the hour. In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, a budget should address high food inflation, runaway crime, and flooding. There is no single way to address these issues; nevertheless, they must be addressed.
Increasing the ceiling for income tax exemption is commendable. However, it does not address the growing number of households that are living under the poverty line. To boast of a high increase in social welfare expenditure -exceeding $5B- is not the solution. It is time to train our citizens for the world of work. For this there must be emphasis on skills development. Too many of our graduates stroll out of school ill-equipped for the factory floor.
Why is the Minister of Finance offering further training to youths who have failed in the regular school system? If our youths are failing, then the reasons for their failing must be addressed before moving on. In the secondary school system, there is a vast curriculum that exposes students to the traditional grammar education, tech-vocational training, agriculture, business, and physical education. If after being exposed to this curriculum students remain unskilled and lacking in basic literacy, then the cause of such failure must be identified.
Floods remain an annual menace in this country. It is not derived from a hurricane that develops in the Atlantic Ocean but from limited rainfall. Sadly, the Ministry of Works and Local Government do not seem to have the wherewithal to address this problem.
In the past it was common to accuse affected citizens of building houses on the banks of rivers when districts in central and south Trinidad were under flood waters. Now that PoS and the entire East West Corridor are similarly affected, Colm Imbert has rightful increased fines for illegal quarrying and removal of lumber. If this is not done mud slides may cause havoc sparing none on its path, not even Camille Robinson-Regis and Fitzgerald Hinds.
Runaway crime continues to scare the daylight of citizens. Yet still the government has chosen to announce a 100% increase in licensing for firearms. If this government is serious about stemming the scourge of crime, it should give incentives to citizens to acquire firearms. Firearm training should be afforded to all citizens who are desirous of protecting themselves and families from bandits, robbers, rapists, and murderers.
The Minister of Finance dealt too much on Covid 19 and the changing global economy. While those had a direct impact on the local economy, the reality is that our economy must be so strengthened to withstand those forces. Unfortunately, we have failed to do so. Also, it is ludicrous that we must continue to be an energy-based economy because we have been so for the past 50 years. In fact, it is all the reason for us to diversify!
It would be good that our management students look at the rise of Singapore and Israel. These two nations were basket cases and yet their leaders have been successful in lifting them out of poverty. Our MBA students would be better equipped if they live and work in Singapore or Israel for two years rather than enrolling in any local institutions!
Our Ministry of Agriculture should develop a direct link with Israel if it is desirous of increasing food productivity. If the services of the Israelis are hired, our nation would enjoy food security with the potential of becoming a food exporter. Unfortunately, our business elites understand only two words-IMPORTATION AND DISTRIBUTION.
I am happy to listen to the Minister of Finance announcing plans to diversify energy with the cooperation of foreign companies. Twinning with foreign companies is a hopeful exercise. In fact, I believe that if foreigners are invited to manage our CEPEP and URP we would get greater production.
I was pleased to read that the debt to GDP ratio has been reduced from 91% to 70%. Debt is not bad. Any economist would tell you that debt used in developing assets is most welcoming; not to pay workers who are just going through the motion. Thankfully, artificial intelligence is going to make many such workers redundant. In fact, it would be better for the government to provide advance retraining to retool workers for the digital age. Thus, the incentive to facilitate electronic transfer of money is most welcomed.
I would like to appeal to the Minister of Finance to offer some incentives to harvest the energies that are shared and expressed in our talk shows, social media- what’s app, etc. These economists, politicians and bush doctors must be incorporated in this drive to rebuild the economy. If this outpouring of precious talents and intelligence is not harnessed, the nation would deeply regret it down the road. Mao Tse Tung was able to trap that ‘wasteful energy’ and turn them around to productive enterprises. Today the world is witness to the benefits of such an enterprise.
We also have the option to follow Lee Kaun Yew of Singapore who shut down companies where efforts were being made to establish representation by trade union.
As for Carnival, Lee Kaun Yew would have frown upon it. Carnival is a drain on the treasury and with the intent to have Carnival in Tobago, that would disturb the peace and calm that pervades that society.