By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
October 11, 2021
Karen Tesheira, in an insightful presentation on the budget 2022 statement, said, “A budget is far more than a number of figures cobbled together. It speaks to the government priorities, its values, its vision and its imperatives—in other words, its strategic plan for its citizenry.”
She titled her remarks “Government for the Rich and Powerful”, and reminded us of one of the main conclusions in the European Bank’s “Economic Inclusion Strategy [EIS]” (2017–2021): “The opening up of economic opportunities to previously under-served social groups is integral to achieving a transition towards sustainable market economies.” (Express, October 6)
Tesheira may have added another observation the European Bank made in its “Executive Summary”. It noted that “well-functioning, sustainable market economies need to deliver fair access to economic opportunity for all, regardless of their circumstances”. Such a statement would have captured the central problem that faces our society today: the exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged from the economy.
As I read the budget statement, all I could think of were the words of the boys on the block when government officials and other economists offered learned dissertations on the worsening effects of unemployment on the society. They shrugged their shoulders and said: “It doesn’t really matter to we anyway, ’cause we ent wukking anyhow.”
This declaration sank home when Colm Imbert declared his Government reduced the rate of VAT “from 15 per cent to 12.5 per cent and also twice increased the Personal Allowance, first from $5,000 per month to $6,000 per month in 2016 and then from $6,000 per month to $7,000 per month in 2021, thus relieving hundreds of thousands of employed persons from the requirement to pay income tax”.
The boys on the block did not need to read the European Bank Report or listen to “Resilience in the Face of a Global Pandemic” (the title of Imbert’s presentation) to know that they are not included in Imbert’s vision of the future, although he included some of the qualities that the European Bank sees as being integral to a well-functioning, sustainable market economy: “competitive, well-governed, green, inclusive, resilient and integrated”.
Imbert also told us of the changes the Government made in the banking sector “to allow for relaxed and simplified know-your-customer (KYC) rules to make opening a bank account easier for individuals whom traditional requirements might otherwise exclude”. However, he said nothing about teaching financial literacy to the excluded groups or the youths, beginning at primary school.
Financial literacy, a programme that former Central Bank governor Ewart Williams initiated more than a decade ago, never featured in the debate. I am not even sure that it made it to the schools’ curriculum. Such education is much more important for today’s youth and disenfranchised people. US-based Italian economist Annamarie Lusardi, a world expert on financial literacy, tells us: “Younger people are facing a much more complicated financial situation than their parents… The need for widespread education on how to save and manage money is greater than ever… The explosion of online day trading and cryptocurrency speculation has meant that the young are more vulnerable to immolating their savings, or even getting into trading-related debt, than ever before.” (Financial Times, October 7)
I welcomed the Government’s “infrastructural projects”, which bode well for the society. However, I looked in vain for any mention of the initiation of any substantial economic project in places like Morvant, Sea Lots or Laventille. All I saw was the economic activity taking place in Couva, but nothing for those black disadvantaged communities throughout the country. I also wondered what happened to the Community Recovery Programme for underprivileged areas that the Prime Minister appointed to bring relief to those communities.
The improvement of sporting facilities and the continued funding of an enhanced “Elite Athlete Assistance Programme” are worthwhile endeavours. What I didn’t hear was the organisation/mobilisation of sports and athletic activities that engaged the energies of whole communities. I thought that was Darryl Smith’s function when he became the minister of sport. However, without the complete engagement and mobilisation of the people in the community, we will go nowhere in the sports world, as the Jamaican High School sports meetings have demonstrated.
I fondly remember 1996 when Keith Rowley drew enthusiastically on William Julius Wilson’s magnificent book, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, as he challenged Patrick Manning for the leadership of the PNM. Wilson argued: “The consequences of high neighbourhood joblessness are more devastating than those of high neighbourhood poverty. A neighbourhood in which people are poor but employed is different from a neighbourhood in which people are poor and jobless. Many of today’s problems in the inner-city ghetto neighbourhoods—crime, family, dissolution, welfare, low levels of social organisation, and so on—are fundamentally a consequence of the disappearance of work.”
We believed then that productive work was important for the liberation of our people. The nature of work has changed over the last two decades, but productive work is still fundamental to the advancement of the poor and disadvantaged. I wish I had seen an emphasis of this in the budget speech.
Imbert’s budget statement 2022 said little about the challenges the disadvantaged and the unemployed face today. I wish that he had talked a bit more about how his Government is assisting our citizens to become more responsible people.
I wonder how many youths and disadvantaged people listened to Imbert’s three-and-a-half-hour speech. Is that how one rolls in the digital age?
Other questions come to mind as we think about the budget presentation: did the Government do a good job with regards to the pandemic? Do we feel safer in our homes? Are we more optimistic about our future?
6 thoughts on “We Ent Wukking Anyhow”
The budget could be summed up as a “tax and tax more” budget. Nothing but more tax, property tax which means citizens have to give more to the government. If you own a business you pay property tax and then let your consumers cover the cost. It is indeed a “win win” situation for the ruling party. Who seems to be empty of any economic ideas.
As for the Revenue Authority of T&T (RATT) it is going to be the most ambitious project of the Rowley regime. It will be the sole tax grabbing, revenue generating mechanism of the future. All balisier waving PNMites are going to be like pigs savouring the rich mix of slop at the feeding trough.
The prime beneficiaries of this budget and all PNM budgets is the 1% and Tobagonians. Just like that $50 million is set aside to line the pockets of Tobago hoteliers. Tobagonians receive 4.5% of the national budget then the slop begins to flow in ernest. Rowley gave a $1 billion to help Magdalena and immediately upon winning election he increased the subventions to Tobago. Airport upgrades, Prime Minister residence and slew of contracts including the bus shed that cost over a $100,000 to build.
Hmmm I end here but take note as Rowley concludes his term billions will be heading to the sister isle and will mysteriously disappear, just like the $1 billion that remains unaccounted for in 2005……
Perhaps Couva is thriving because people are industrious and have drive and ambition. Laventille not so much. Perhaps in that report – they should cover groups that value hard work – much like immigrants in usa that struggle yet in a generation reach middle class. Can only be a victim for so long.
Selwyn writes about his concern with the “boys on the block” and the fact that in spite of the learned dissertations on the worsening effects of unemployment on the society” it doesn’t matter anyway because “we ent wukking anyhow”. That is of course an important and necessary concern, but then Selwyn brings in the Economic Inclusion Strategy ( EIS) of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as something that should have been considered, the question is – what exactly is the EBRD recommending and does not the budget proposals deal with those type of recommendations? The EIS is of course a welcomed idea for marginalized. “The guiding vision of the Economic Inclusion Strategy is to accelerate the transition of countries across the EBRD region towards inclusive market economies by harnessing the power of the private sector to create equitable access to equal economic opportunity and thereby foster the political and social sustainability of market economies…Promoting an inclusive market-based system is therefore about efficient human resource allocation…” The strategies of the EIS to bring this about are: (1) access to employment and skills, (2) entrepreneurship and access to finance, and (3) access to services that enhance economic opportunities…
When we read the report we see that the EIS is about promoting the matching of human resources in marginalized communities with economic opportunities. When it comes right down to it, we see that it is a matter of skills development and skills assessing of neglected communities and matching those skills with opportunities in the job market. It involves “Improved national skills standards and equitable access to jobs and skills … Access to quality local training and work based learning”. Participants in the consultative process were very much concerned with, “in particular the Bank’s engagement with its clients and policy stakeholders on vocational training, work based learning (such as apprenticeships), life-long learning and partnerships with schools and universities.” I think the budget includes skill training and development (education gets the biggest slice of the budget), and goes further than that. The idea of programs such as Cepep, URP, and other make work programs go further than skills matching, they are about actually providing work without reference to skills matching. These programs belong to the tradition of a society that is even more concerned with providing employment to the marginalized than the important market based reform idea of the EBRD. In other words, we can ask – is the EBRD now catching up with the economic ideas of Dr. Eric Williams and the PNM?
The collapse of democracy:
Any Trinbagonian who is a patriot will be appalled at the collapse of democracy in the honorable republic. It is no secret that Presidency has been brought into disrepute regarding the handling of the selection of the CoP. This leader has created one of the worst Constitutional crisis in the history of TnT. And yet the media is veritably silent on the issue.
“Imbert’s budget statement 2022 said little about the challenges the disadvantaged and the unemployed face today.”
Can anyone find readily available statistics as to unemployment numbers and where these numbers are demographically. The Science for dealing with unemployment is not at the fingertips of the greatest PNM leader in the country. Imbert decides where money is to be spent and yet the data for the most vulnerable deludes him.
Imbert knows the mind of the Blackman is to eat, drink and be Merry, forget about the rest. If you think I am being a bit off here look at areas across the nation. There has been several days of protest in Barrackpore for the basic needs of good roads and water. What does the PNM minister of National Security do? He told the acting illegal CoP to lock them up. About 30 police officers go into homes and start seizing any recording equipment without a warrant. The PNM operates as a dictatorship and without accountability to anyone. Potholes all over the nation.
Imbert will send the highest budgetary allocations to Port of Spain, Diego Martin Cooperations. Fairness in wealth distribution is anathema to the PNM. They believe the treasury is their’s to pillage. Since 2015 they spent over $300 billion and nothing to show. The UNC spent a similar amount but you could identify the projects where the money was spent, aquatic Center, cycling velodrome, Tennis Center in Targarigua, couva hospital, El Dorrado Nursing Academy, Sando Teaching Hospital, Diego Martin Highway extension, over a dozen police stations built and refurbished, 106 schools, Carenage Health Center, Galeota Port Camden Airport, NESC centers, Caroni Lincensing Office, plus miles and miles of paved roads to name a few.
Name me one blasted flagship project that the PNM could boast about in the last 6 years of office! These bunch of blood suckers are good at thiefing from the empty treasury…
The UNC has begun its campaign for the Tobago House of Assembly elections. It has a proxy leader Watson Duke leading a proxy political party the PDP. A puppet leader with a party that is controlled by the UNC. And what is the nature of this campaign that the UNC is embarking on? Well you see the protests in Barrackpore, Siparia and down near the opposition leader’s constituency, protests and anarchy. The rolling coup of the UNC, which started a long time ago and probably never stopped, is rolling on. Anarchy in the streets during Covid, the UNC is really mimicking the right wing crazies in the US, the white supremacists in the US. That’s the gist of their campaign. Some of their allies are doing their best to sabotage the vaccine operation. Did you ever hear a TTUTA president talk such dotishness? Then for some strange conspiracy theory, worthy of QAnon, they are attacking the President. I don’t know if they are confusing the President of the US with our President but it seems hilarious. Pretty soon they may be saying that KPB is the real President, she was the one elected to be President. I mean it’s downright crazy, it’s loony. There is a movie “Idiocracy” about some crazies who are also morons, or maybe morons who are crazies, gaining power in the US of A. I think that is what is happening here, a movement of crazies and morons. In any case, the UNC has started its campaign for the Tobago House of Assembly, pretty soon they may have Watson Duke howling like a dingo, walking on his head and speaking in strange tongues. Tobago people may have to wonder what the hell is going on. Have no fear, it’s not a bunch of lunatics escaped from an asylum, it the UNC campaign for the Tobago House of Assembly elections.
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