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A Perfumed Bubble Bath Budget
Posted: Thursday, October 6, 2005

By Stephen Kangal

I have dubbed the 2005/06 Budget Statement read by the Honourable Prime Minister Manning a perfumed bubble bath budget because it is a fragile bubble geared to raise hopes and unsustainable expectations of the good life. It is perfumed because there are some election-based sweeteners built into the fiscal measures. It is a bath because there are some soothing promissory notes. An oil/gas price decline will burst this Breeze bubble.

The Budget is, like previous promissory notes Budgets, full of talk and rhetoric but woefully short on the scope for the walk and implementing mechanisms. It is intended to generate unfulfilling expectations for creating political optimism, euphoria and false images of the return of the bonanza eras of the late 1970ís and early 1980ís. Those measures are intended to divert our attention from the real threats to our personal safety, security of our property as well as the security of our families and friends. Let us see how Mr. Manning down plays the crime pandemic by saying that lack of safety is a perception- not reality:

"There can be no doubt as to the debilitating effect of kidnapping on the law-abiding majority, (not the families concerned) the fear and anxiety it creates and the extent to which it contributes to the perception that our country is not safe..."

T&T is a natural resource-based economy with dwindling hydrocarbon resources. There is a need to re-invest our abundant oil revenues in further revenue-earning activities to achieve food security, sustainable employment, a knowledge-based truly diversified economy and the employment-generating services industry to cushion against future economic downturns and depressions triggered by declining world energy prices.

The current economic environment in which the Budget was presented is characterised by:

High Liquidity in the Financial system

Low Interest rates

Rising inflationary pressures

Escalating Food Prices

Skilled Labour and Building materials shortages and increase in prices

High consumer spending and confidence

These constitute the combustible elements for the over-heating of the economy and promoting the inflation spiral resulting from the fiscal measures in the budget.

Spend! spend! Spend is the modus operandi of the political culture of PNM administrations past and present. While politics is the art of compromise and of the possible the PNM has transformed this art into the art of deception that is aided by an expensive cadre of spin doctors, being economical with the truth and inspiring optimism based on pie-in- the sky expectations.

A Budget PNM-style is and has always been a fiscal and economic management statement and plan geared to achieve a package of politically-motivated objectives and aspirations and to share the rewards and resources of the State in a politically-skewed predominantly among its support base. That is the expression of the self-induced and deceptive lie that its supporters have a divine prescriptive right and monopolistic control and ownership of the resources of the State.

The imperative of sharing and allocating the abundant resources that constitute the common heritage of the people of multicultural T&T in an equitable and balanced manner in a society where geography coincides with ethnicity is foreign to the operating culture of the PNM. It is this since 1956 more than any other factor of our country that has and will continue to divide and polarise the society because large segments of T&T feel excluded and alienated from the feeding trough.

Unless and until equity, distributive and social justice, equal opportunity for all and ethnic fairness prevails, T&T will continue to the cannibalised and vandalised by the PNM in the interest of preserving, expanding and re-locating its ethnic support ( in the 11 marginals via NHA Housing) base geared to achieve electoral security and perpetuate itself in the corridors of power at all costs.

This Budget also appears to be a contingency arrangement/measure. It can potentially act as a sweetener (perfumed) in the likely event that the Manning Administration were to decide to call an election to capitalise on the apparent division and declining electoral fortunes of the UNC opposition. It can serve as a political tool to embark on pre-emptive election strategy to stem the massive tide of political support that can propel the emergence of Winston Dookeran as a credible and populist political force.

There is ample evidence that the disenchanted, beleaguered and disenchanted electorate would rally to any credible alternative to effect a regime change because the Manning Administration would appear to be at sea, daily proven to be hopeless and inept in managing the country. The country seems to be operating on autopilot without the strategic and results-oriented interventions being made to reconfigure the way forward owing to a bankruptcy of ideas for delivering effective and caring governance.

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