Punishing Pensioners

By Raffique Shah
April 09, 2017

Raffique ShahMy friend Pablo (not his real name) is on the brink of bankruptcy. In fact, he has been teetering on the edge for six, seven years or so, managing somehow to stave off the banks, which is in itself an achievement, given the heartlessness of the decision-makers at financial institutions. But for a man who has worked hard to afford the little luxuries that many middle-income earners enjoy only in their latter years, he is facing uncertainties over whether he will survive to see his 70th birthday.

You are forgiven if you mistakenly believe that the Pablo I write about is a drug dealer whose only hard work was evading the police or paying them off, and who, as he gets older, cannot cope with the rigors of peddling dope. Or that he lived the life of a registered “locho”, hustling money here and there, sources that have dried up over the years. You might even write off his financial fate to the current economic recession that has pauperised lots of retirees, among them professionals who, in their active years, lived exemplary lives.

No, Pablo falls into none of the above categories. His cardinal sin was responding to the calls by politicians, especially when they are or were in government, and to the injunctions of economists who authoritatively pronounce on everything they know nothing about, to start his own business. Worse for him, he decided that armed with a degree in management, he would get into con

After all, the gurus preached that too many tertiary-level graduates depended on finding employment with government or established businesses when they should instead be creating employment for others by investing in their own ventures. The big mistake Pablo made was to tailor his construction business to handle small government contracts.

Initially, he did well. He recruited a small workforce from retirees from WASA and skilled and unskilled workers who had had experience in repairing broken water mains, restoring roads, constructing buildings and other infrastructure. He raised the capital he needed to establish an office and buy a few pieces of equipment. With his own experience at different levels of management in several enterprises, he was ready to bid for contracts.

So he did-and he won some small ones, performed well, so much so he boasted to his friends, inviting them to inspect the projects he had completed. He even got paid on a reasonably timely basis. But within a decade or so, the small contractors’ sub-sector got somewhat crowded, the rationale for awarding contracts shifted more towards who you knew rather than what you could do, and before Pablo knew it, senior officials at ministries and agencies like WASA who were empowered to authorise payment for work completed and verified became tyrants who frustrated rather than facilitated the process.

In essence, soon Pablo (and hundreds like him) was waiting for as long as years to receive payments from the Ministry of Works and WASA. The attitudes of those in charge were: take we to court, nah! Knowing well that was not an option because of the cost and additional time. And, if you did, it meant no more contracts for you.

Although he landed a few jobs since for which he was paid, all of his revenues went towards paying punishing overdraft interest to the bank, with little left to meet his living expenses. Luckily, his wife gets NIS pension. He hardly uses air-conditioning at home because of the cost, and the family has no social life-they can’t afford it.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Works, WASA and an NGO owe him approximately $1 million, and his overdraft charges at the bank are increasing daily.

Now, I know Pablo’s story is not unique: hundreds of other small contractors are suffering similarly at the cruel hands of government and its agencies. In fact, overall, construction contractors are owed some $4 billion, although large firms will get by because of their resources. I should add to this sea of misery public sector retirees, many of whom wait for years before they receive their gratuities and pensions.

This cruel punishment has nothing to do with the current recession: in Pablo’s case, he was owed money since Patrick Manning was in power. The PP Government did not pay him, although they generously rewarded their box-drain millionaires. And the current administration is pleading “no money” even as Colm Imbert boasts of “saving” $10 billion in fiscal 2016, and reports surface of the Ministry of Education sending an official and a small contractor to a bank with a $2 million cheque, demanding immediate payment to the latter.

Government must be condemned for punishing people in the ways I outlined above. Pensioners and senior citizens who have served the nation, and who are entitled to their just dues, be it fees for work done or retirement benefits, must be accorded priority-consideration.

Or is it that they are hastening the geezers’ deaths so they won’t have to pay up?

9 thoughts on “Punishing Pensioners”

  1. And I bet when he has to pay the property tax they will try to take his home if he doesn’t.

  2. Yes Shah I am only another one at age 66, was medically boarded after given a job far below my engineering ability and fell in a tower 200 ft high on trays and was injured for life back in 2003 in the Yara Tringen 11 Regen tower. I am certified 60% PPD by our High Court. I was supposed to die in that Tower but survived because God wanted me to talk about the corruption in Fedchem/HydroAgri and now Yara….yes Shah crooked Norwegians who has perjured my Civil Matter in our courts and got away. These Norwegians knew nothing about anhydrous ammonia production in 1991 when they came to Trinidad. Send me an email address to jerrychuss@gmail.com and I will email you some of their corruptions starting with section 34. In the 1980s, I sure the 250 million USD dollar loan to build Tringen 11 went to 180 USD million during the plant construction with 70 million USD missing after the plant took all of 1988 to commission with UNC forming from club 88. I was targeted for death from what I know. PNM started the corruption in 1984 before the NAR won the election. Both UNC and PNM played all of us. Ish under Northern Construction was the major contractor controlling the building of the plant. I know he will not make a jail when either one of PNM or UNC is in ppwer. Yes Shah we were played. I lost over 500,000 of my retirement funds fighting NIS for injury benefits, Yara for my severance of 1.3 million, and The Labour Ministry of a drug I was given by the plant doctor was supposed to die. I learnt throughout the years as they victimised me that The Judges and Lawyers are mostly on the take in our Judicial system. Newsday got an email of my car on the port 8 months now but they are controlled I am told. I know of what is to fight corruption in our land. The black bourge hate their own and the Indian hiarchy hate their own and the rest of us must always face their might. The French creoles and the Syrians enjoy untouchable power. But Shah the day will come when we will be free of them. I was supervisor to Loquan …he never learnt engineering. Fitz cannot run Petrotrin…he was another waste of time. I worked on a Gas to liquids Natural gas Plant in South for BG. NGC has been producing gas for years that is not 100% CH4 and forced to sell it cheap because of contract terms. Phoenix Park was meant to be a PNM quick to remove liquids fix back in the last century but the liquids continue to destroy even our electricity system today as the natural gas contains heavy hydrocarbon valving causing choking.

  3. On average Government pensioners who own homes will pay a full month of their pensions in property tax if carried out in its current incarnation at 3% of the Annual Rateable Value and their WASA Bills could also treble or quadrupule because now thta their children have left home pensioners are saddled with large homes in which they occupy one room. Taking the home of a pensioner for his failure to pay the property tax is indeed the violation to his right to the possession and enjoyment of his property that is protected under the Constitution and the proposal contained therein inn the Property Tax Act at Section 41 cannot stand up to judicial review as we shall see on the 31st of May irrespective of the mendacious and fallacious statements being spewed by Al Rawi and Imbert & Co.

  4. Sparrow calypso in 1958 responds to the fury over P.A.Y.E.
    Is history repeating itself with the property tax?
    This too shall pass.

    Is a shame, is a shame
    But we have we self to blame
    But we have we self to blame
    Because we ask for new Government
    Now they’re taking every cent
    Cost of living is the same
    It is really a burning shame
    The doctor say to pay as you earn
    And Sparrow say you paying to learn
    But meh father say he sharpening he axe
    For when the collector come to pay off the income tax
    Plenty people is in misery
    But this tax aint bothering me
    Well I am not working anywhere
    So I have no income to share
    But Mr. this and Mr. that
    Who accustom with they payroll fat
    Is to see them shedding tears
    Men like De Freitas and Fernandez
    The doctor say to pay as you earn
    And Sparrow say you paying to learn
    But meh father say he sharpening he axe
    For when the collector come to pay off the income tax
    Plenty people want to cry
    They miss the water, the well run dry
    But they can’t do a thing about it
    The money ain’t going in the Doctor pocket
    First of all we want better schools
    So your children doh grow up as fools
    Then work for you and me
    That is what plenty of them cyah see
    The doctor say to pay as you earn
    And Sparrow say you paying to learn
    But meh father say he sharpening he axe
    For when the collector come to pay off the income tax
    When the Doctor went up to England
    They bluntly refuse to support his plan
    So there is nothing more he can do
    Than to get it from me and you
    That’s the law now in Trinidad
    If you don’t like it well that’s too bad
    Take your things and get out today
    For all who working must pay
    The doctor say to pay as you earn
    And Sparrow say you paying to learn
    But meh father say he selling he axe
    For when the collector come to pay off the income tax

  5. There appears to be a consensus by the population that there is very little objection by home owners in paying property tax. Immediately, the question arises why can’t the government get a database for commercial and industrial enterprises and execute the same ratable collections? Like most metropolitan counties the average citizen can see within their respective municipalities where the money goes e.g., Education, hospitals, garbage collection, general utilities infrastructure, environmental protection etc. In T&T this ‘would-be national collections’ should be disbursed to regional councils on a pro-rated basis; based on collections. The onus is on the government to place emphasis on educating the public on the explanations of payment of land tax, water rates, electricity bills etc. and the difference as to the purpose of payment of property tax.

    1. I am with you on that but we happen to be a nation of naysayers. The government has eloquently stated that there is going to be a new dispensation in how local government is run. I believe that property tax would be part of that scenario, but the politicians would prefer us not remember that.

    2. Arse hole….rent controls went out a long time ago. The so called Father of our nation allowed the 1948 Property Tax (PT)or L&B Tax go to pit as they Francis Prevatt and the PNM boys also Rowley & Imbert were building all over the place making lots of money. Poor by Rowley became a millionaire overnight. When Imbert snitched on him and Manning called him in…..Manning said he comes at you like a RAGING BULL. Back in the 70s all ah dem tief so said Minister Cartey. The PT went to pit. Our earnings were kept low so low Manning doubled his raised the exchange rate from 1.25 to 6.33. And now we need the foreign exchange are given preferably to PNMites. So you continue to remain done see or just plain dumb or are keeping low to catch corbeau alive. You and yours will never change even when you are up here in North America

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