Confusing ‘Dookonomics’

By Raffique Shah
August 21, 2011

Raffique ShahMinister Winston Dookeran confuses me. He insists that the Budget deficit for fiscal 2010-2011 remains at around $8 billion, as he projected last year. Yet, he admits that Government collected $2 billion in unanticipated revenue from delinquent taxpayers who responded to the tax amnesty. He also admits that oil prices have been higher than budgeted, and prices of other downstream commodities (methanol, ammonia) have been buoyant.

Based on the above, one would assume that revenues for the year will have improved by at least $2 billion, or maybe $4 billion or so. Logically, therefore, unless the expenditure side of his balance sheet also increased, wiping out the gains made, the deficit should be substantially lower than was anticipated.

But watching “sad-face-Dooks” spelling out the country’s economic woes, it is easy to understand why so many people believe Trinidad and Tobago is on the brink of economic disaster. Targeting the unions that are demanding more than five per cent increase in wages and salaries for public sector workers, many people cry: “But dem greedy unionists ‘ent see wha happenin in de world? Dey want to bring down de govament…all ah dem is PNM stooges!”

Before I go further, let me offer a word of advice to my union comrades. If many of the very workers you are fighting for are prepared to accept Government’s five per cent, what’s the point in waging relentless war? Put the offer before your members, referendum style, and let them decide. If 60 per cent or more agree to accept it, bow to their decision.

The alternative is to soldier on, demanding what you see as decent increases (in keeping with the increase in the cost of living over the three-year period), taking industrial action — only to find the generals are on the frontline with no troops behind you! What happened when the Association representing police officers endorsed sickout action by its members was predictable. Few believed there would have been a shut down in law enforcement. And more believed it made little difference whether or not the police reported for duties. The crime rate, citizens are convinced, has little to do with policing.

By letting the membership decide, should they choose to accept Government’s offer, no one can blame you when, two months down the road, the very workers cry out, “Boy, we ketchin’ hell…we cyah even buy food to eat!” Or when they have no money to “top up” their many cell phones (very important items, these phones), or meet their rents or mortgage payments. You absolve yourselves by letting them decide. After all, you can lead a jackass to the market, but you cannot force it to bray. A word to the wise.

But back to Winston and his confusing “Dookonomics”. In one breath, the minister says we are sitting on the edge of disaster, hence the main reason Government cannot afford to engage in a spending spree. In another, he sees “blue skies” on the horizon. If ever there were mixed signals, Dookeran invented them.

In response to my last two columns that called for trimming some subsidies and implementing other measures to curb expenditure and raise revenue, critics said I am not an economist (hence, I guess, I have no basis to advance such proposals). Indeed, I am no economist, but I have more than enough experience, and I have studied global economies to the extent that I can accurately assess certain developments, sometimes before the experts do.

Last week, for example, I said that oil prices will rebound. They already have, albeit marginally. I criticised Standard & Poors for very poor judgment in downgrading the US credit rating. Fitch, another rating agency, concurred with that view, as did many world-renowned economists. Now, every-man-Jack, even some of my unionist comrades, is calling on government to address the glaring waste of the fuels subsidies.

Robert Mayers went a step further. On television last week, the financial and investment analyst accused governments (note plural) of not being serious in collecting revenues they ought to be adding to the coffers. Whereas the last government went overboard with its proposed property tax, this government has not collected the $300-$500 million available annually under the old system, for two successive years. That’s $1 billion in revenue shortfall. The business sector gets away with murder when it comes to collecting VAT payments, but not remitting huge sums to Inland Revenue.

In addition to these glaring examples of omission, there are thousands of motor vehicles on the roads without insurance or inspection certificates. Delinquency is rampant among people who fail to pay water rates (but are never disconnected), HDC rents and mortgages ($200 a month for decent apartments, yet some people have not paid for 20 years!), to name two that come to mind.

On the CL Financial “black hole”, why the hell does the government not sell some of the company’s valuable assets to recoup the $5 billion or whatever taxpayers forked out to keep that sinking ship afloat? Why does government dole out tens of millions of dollars for just about every cultural or religious affair, year after year? Why, “Dooks”, why this wanton waste?

Look, I organised a major sporting event (the international marathon) for 25 years. I secured sponsorship, paid out hefty prizes, the event was highly successful—and I never asked government for a dollar! The one thing I requested of them—closure of the course to vehicular traffic—I never got.

Now, anyone wants to teach me self-reliance? Or economics? Ah gorne!

4 Responses to “Confusing ‘Dookonomics’”


  • Splended article!
    This is a clear, vibrant and thought provoking article on what government ought to be doing and if I may I’d like to add using law enforcement to increase revenue. In the case of vehicles and vehicular law breakers there are plenty to go around. The government can institue summary fines by way of tickets to pay for summary offenses such as illegal parking, driving on the shoulders of the highway, uninsured motor vehicles etc. Dookeran, from the day he became Finance Minister has always been conflicting in his messages brecause there was always conflict in what he wanted to tell the public and what the actual situation was in respect of the country’s finances. For example, he wanted people to believe that the treasury was empty when he assumed office but the facts did not support his theory. This government operates at different levels in terms of what they want people to believe about them. At the highest level they appear to want people to believe that they care about people first and foremost. In so doing, there is a high degree of expenditure and care-giving using a huge amount of taxpayers money. At another level they want people to believe that they are pursuing corruption and no amount of money is too much to use in the pursuit of wrongdoers, in the meantime, judging from the antics of the AG, one can safely assume that his budget has exceeded that of any previous office holder (AG) in the history of T&T. This too can be looked at in many ways, with his constant outcry of investigations, prosecutions, commissions of inquiry, priviy council decisions and the constant outreach for expensive foreign (English) law professionals we are as yet to get the feel that the expenses are worth the propaganda. In this area I believe that there is a feeding frenzy of lawyers becoming rich from state professed witch hunts. Then there is the Ministry of the People. There is absolutely no income coming from this exercise,only expenditure and it can be used discretionately and the budget is huge. There is also an increased use of government involvement in matters of religion and religious affairs where there is plenty of influences and plenty of funds being imparted, most of it over the top which makes Manning’s Church on the hill look like a joke. Then we have the non-essential projects like an airport in Couva, the expansions of the University, expensive road projects the giving of huge cash funds for various and inclusive categories of carnival related activities. On the level of crime fighting the government sends mixed messages again; it cancels the previous government’s procurement of state of the art crime fighting equipment which it labelled as expensive while at the same time it was careless in the naming of personnel to man the security aparatus of the nation. We need not remind that the great Reshmi would have been our Security Chief had it not been for caring parliamentarians and people who can discern this kind of foolishness. Statements from international security agencies have consistently told us that our problems of drugs gets worse in Chaguaramas, Piarco, PLIPDECO, Moruga, Morne Diablo, Erin, Cedros, Blanchissuese and the islands off the coast, yet the security agencies CANNOT identify ONE transshipper! The Spanish Agencies know the American DEA knows the British know, yet locally nobody knows (wink eye)? There is the level of Contracts – government contracts, this area appears to be reserved for few and special people. One only needs to watch who benefits from these special contracts – nuff said. To summarize, there is little or no coherrency in the running of this government that would bring about sound policy to generate income and facilitate expenditure. We are a nation of TAKERS…Takers……takers (as in land distribution, giving of contracts), while at the same time crying down the gimme, gimme croud.

  • “Dookeran wanted people to believe that the treasury was empty when he assumed office but the facts did not support his theory.” (KIAN)

    The PP government on taking office expected the revenues in the treasury to be much more substantial, considering the boom years of the Manning administration and the extent of Manning’s spending spree. Dookeran’s exclamations of less than expected revenue conveyed the impression that the treasury was empty, relatively speaking.

    “Judging from the antics of the AG, one can safely assume that his budget has exceeded that of any previous office holder (AG) in the history of T&T.” (KIAN)

    The writer obviously does not have the facts to support this politically biased opinion, but disguises his language to convey the impression that he is stating a truism. This is typical partisan politicking designed to embrace a certain constituency.

    “I believe that there is a feeding frenzy of lawyers becoming rich from state professed witch hunts.” (KIAN)

    The millions spent by Manning and Jeremie in their determined vendetta against CJ Sharma and their politically motivated prosecution of the airport group yielded no results of wrongdoing. To date we are only involved in preliminary hearings involving Ish and Steve and the CJ matter was thrown out. The public does not realize that no formal charges have been laid by the DPP. Besides the pursuit of corruption in T&T, by any government is priceless, considering that bobol has become a cultural trait.

    “There is also an increased use of government involvement in matters of religion and religious affairs where there is plenty of influences and plenty of funds being imparted, most of it over the top which makes Manning’s Church on the hill look like a joke.” (KIAN)

    Governments in T&T, especially PNM governments, have always been involved in dispensing huge sums to religion and religious affairs. Also, carnival and other festivals have always been funded by governments. The present government is simply following a tradition to meet the expectations of those involved. To compare funding of this type to Manning’s church is really reaching into the absurd. Manning’s project was secret, and involved the misuse of state funds and institutions.

    Kian’s piece is intelligently written to present a point of view which could be considered favorable to the PNM and in doing so he plays loose with the facts. There is a certain amount of fear mongering in T&T designed to discredit the PM and the PP. Although he does not openly state it, there are times in his writing when he implies that race is a deciding factor. PNM supporters, mainly Africans are afraid that somehow their entitlements would be taken away by this government. They have lived under PNM rule for so long that this new regime makes them uncomfortable and that is understandable. Indians, on the other hand, have progressed without fear, no matter which government is in power. The media as well as the PNM supporters often confuse political appointments with racial preference in making these appointments. When the PM makes a political appointment, that person comes from her coalition and the chance of that person being of Indian ancestry is very high. Hopefully this government, by their actions, will earn the trust of PNM supporters in time.

  • TMan, based on your writing it has become obvious to me that if you and I look at the same situation and derive two different opinions you would conclude that it is because of RACE. Maybe we can look at that for a moment to examine why we see things differently. I am sure that there are issues which a high majority of “Indians” (which you quoted above) might express very similar impressions, while there are others in which concensus might be more varying. One (Indian) of HINDU/conservative/brahmin might see things differently from lets say One of HINDU/dalit, or Indian/muslim or Indian/christian. Point here is that because of our experiences we see things differently. By your references you are also saying that anything this government does you are in support of it. If you are political in nature and has a definite like for the present government and in like fashion has a dislike for the PNM, that is fine with me, but do NOT assume that my trending on the same matter conveys that because I find fault with them is because I am PNM. I have never in my life allowed myself to be PARTY oriented. My opinions are derived from facts. For example you said “Kian’s piece is intelligently written to present a point of view which could be considered favorable to the PNM”. I can remember no such expressed intentions in any of my writings, to suggest that I support or defend a political party. I love politics, but I derive my views based on what is done, written, expressed or professed. In this case for one to support or express favour with the AG’s outburst with regard to the piano is political absurdity. You said that “There is a certain amount of fear mongering in T&T designed to discredit the PM & PP”. That is your op[inion and you can express that freely if you like. But do not deny me to state the facts which might have a negative effect on my will to survive or progress in our country. You also said “Indians, on the other hand, have progressed without fear, no matter which government is in power”. I take that to mean that even with thye PNM in power they did nothing to stifle your growth as a citizen of T&T. My take is that you are in fact speaking well of the PNM. You ended up by saying “Hopefully this government, by their actions, will earn the trust of PNM supporters in time”, well I dont know about “PNM supporters” but if you are asking me as a non-indian to feal comfortable with the likes of Devant Maharaj, then you are being dishonest. Why? Because this man has openly and thoughtfully expressed his hate for non-indian, non-hindu and racially supportive of all things hindu, while loathing Muslims and Africans. This is the context in which you will have me write about race. I reserve the right to write about any matter of concern to me as a Trinidadian. If the person or persons happen to be of a different race it should NOT be termed “racial”.

  • Raff is not a critical thinker so he cannot figure out Dookernomics. Dookeran is managing the economy well, for the first time since 1999, the actual budget has gone down. The budget climb from 15 billion to 52 billion under the PNM. Where was Raff at the time of such excesses.

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