Mismanaging the economy

By Raffique Shah
July 05, 2015

Raffique ShahIN the pre-election polls conducted thus far, the issues that are of concern to the electorate are crime, unemployment, corruption, health care and rising prices, mostly in that order.

The state of the economy does not feature at all, although it impacts almost all these concerns.

Understandably, crime is the number one issue. Notwithstanding claims by both the Government and the police that there have been significant decreases in “serious crimes”, clearly, most people live in fear of being victims.

Developments like the explosion of gang-style violence in Central Trinidad, daily reports of shootings and killings elsewhere in the country, and the frequent spikes that see multiple murders mostly over weekends, engender deep fear among law-abiding citizens.

That unemployment is invariably the second-ranked issue at a time when the Government boasts of having achieved a three per cent unemployment rate does not sound right. What these rosy statistics hide is the large number of “employed” persons who are in fact under-employed, who earn less than $100 a day, and whose families can barely survive in the consumer-driven society that is modern Trinidad and Tobago.

Let me explain: for most people, priority-spending starts with the all-important smart-phone and phone-card (several in a typical family), followed invariably by increasingly expensive cigarettes and alcohol, then by a daily, deadly diet of fast foods…

In such scenarios that straddle the societal strata, and notwithstanding the now-ubiquitous “food card”, the poor will remain stuck in poverty, and the children and elderly, the two most vulnerable age groups, will suffer most.

Corruption, health care and other similar concerns, are important to those who feel affected, but they will hardly influence voting patterns. Regarding corruption, the feeling among most people is that all politicians are corrupt, the only difference being the degree.

Will ministers in Party B settle for five per cent kickbacks instead of the going rate of ten per cent in Party A?

It’s a hell of a place to be when you consider that over a five-year period, the money up for grabs (usually from capital projects, not recurrent expenditure, though nothing is sacrosanct for thieves) could amount to tens of billions of dollars divided on a 90-10 or 80-20 “split” between corrupt contractors, among them professionals who land lucrative briefs, and corrupt politicians and high party officials.

Little wonder when they are booted from office or fall from favour, such white-collar criminals boast that their families are “fixed” for generations.

They flaunt the loot in our faces knowing they will never be called to account, far less charged or jailed.

When the Partnership/UNC came to power in 2010, supporters swore that half of the PNM ministers and scores of contractors would end up in jail. Five years on, except for a few civil lawsuits that are before the courts, no minister or senior official has been charged with even petty theft.

We can therefore safely assume that for all the allegations of corruption against the incumbents, who built what mansions and who owns half of Trinidad, not one will be charged if the PNM were to win power in September.

That’s the tragic conundrum that faces us in 2015.

And it’s how they do it, eh—in our faces. Up to 2011, government’s annual expenditure was below $50 billion, with revenue more or less the same. Four years later, expenditure has rocketed past $60 billion and we can justifiably ask: what do we have to show for it?

For reasons only they can explain but not rationalise, governments seem to believe that they must increase expenditure every fiscal year. If revenues fall, meaning if oil, gas and petrochemicals’ prices fall, they resort to borrowing, which means increased debt and deficit budgeting.

If you question them, they tell you that almost every country incurs debt—which is true: ask Greece!

They will tell you that our debt to GDP ratio is well within bounds—again, true. And they will point to our healthy foreign reserves (around US$11 billion) and HSF savings (maybe US$6 billion).

What they will not tell you is that these savings have been healthy for many years, but that they could have been far better if we had cut out corruption and wastage, improved productivity and instituted measures to ensure that only the poor benefit from subsidies, not the wealthy as is now the case with fuels and a range of foods, electricity and water.

This must be the only country in the world (outside of filthy-rich Arab states) where the wealthy benefit from subsidies more than the poor.

And they will never ask you to look at how Norway manages its oil revenues through savings and investment in a sovereign wealth fund that stands at US$900 billion and counting.

That’s an example we should seek to emulate.

7 thoughts on “Mismanaging the economy”

  1. Shah we are the outstanding copy cats of the USA system for years now. We who are as bright as anybody else MUST CHANGE THIS. However. our white collar crime is far more striking than theirs and this is hurting us now. Instead, their snitching crime containing process to keep crime down works for them. We on the other hand work all the cons jobs from Valmon Jones time ( with skills learnt from abroad ) to now keeping the hard working public poor until thy kingdom come as we used to say. The big nations that have their hands helping themselves like in our tiny country love the sweet returns as their leaders turn a blind eye to what their subjects are doing to these vulnerable third world countries. But despite all I have said God still works for us. He have no hand in all the world disasters we face. That is Man’s doing big time. God is the opposite of everything that is evil and from evil doers. As with Greece we need to live simple learn to love the islands God gave us, forget all the useless material goods that the world use to distract us with and live simple lives as back in our early days. God makes us strong in all our weaknesses. He will always provide for our needs. All we need to do is accept as Obama says his graces and we are good to go. But yes we do need to stain our finger for a government who does not steal from the public purse. I remember being told by my elders long ago…easy come easy go. Forget the bribe or grease hand. It is clear that the PPP has mismanaged our economy. Yes we do not see the $50 billion expenditure. And you would think persons like Cadiz would not be part of that and of course the crime he lobbied against in PM Manning time. But Shah the truth all shows itself and Cadiz lied to us. We also know what the COP leader parents think about the Afro Trinis. He also lies and his falsehood also shows. And yes JAW’s money was used to put their Ministers in power and fund the UNC just like Ish monies was used to fund the same UNC in Panday’s time ( was it God’s doing in 2002 – Robbie was just the conduit ) and then came section 34 and EmailGate. Yes Shah your sins follow you until you confess and atone for them or leave this earth. And to put some positiveness to your article above, we need to stay believing in God. He works. I remember as a young boy we had little and enjoyed plenty. Yes there was prejudice by the whites, lightcoloreds among us, the bourge Afro trinis, the fair skinned Indo trinis, the Syrians, Lebonnese, even the Chinese but we enjoyed our country nevertheless. When we heard the stories about the skeletons in their closets we would have a good laugh. All the money and wealth they enjoyed from exploiting our labour and skill sets they never enjoyed mainly due to the in-fighting among their own. And this still occurs in the present time. As they say money corrupts. You did mention Norway as in Tringen 11. Shah you would not believe how corrupt their leaders are and how dread life in Norway is. Most of their young are drug affected. Inflation there is worse than in Trinidad. But yes some of their people live like Kings and Queens – the country’s wealth is for them alone. And yes Yara Trinidad is run to the ground so that they can maximize their returns. But as to Trinidad I always repeat myself. Shah if you were to look at needs in Trinidad and put some costs to paper and place a value ( most of needs come from foreign pegged goods to the 6.33 multiplier ) and relate that back to our earnings you will know why nothing can change in Trinidad. We receive lower than 40% of the wages required to purchase these goods. Housing and vehicles are far worse so that our sons and daughters are forced to live elsewhere. With GATE our tax dollars are wasted. This problem is not unique to Trinidad. China has the same problem even though their economy has progressed throughout the years. I used to travel quite a bit as an engineer and I remember going to one of the biggest mails in the USA in Austin Texas USA. And I got really tired walking and looking as I shopped for a leather product made in USA and all I could see were products made in China. And I asked a Texan why and he just laughed. And I pressed him for an answer. Then he said to me the store buys these products from China for less than 20% of the price I was willing to pay for it. The poor Chinese people for years were exploited. I was also told the ones who helped in the exploitation process in the system in China would eventually run from China as they used their exploited gains to leave China, leaving the exploited back there in poverty. Hence Capitalism was allowed to grow at an immense pace all over the world from the 1950s to now. What we are seeing in Trinidad, as in Russia, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Equador, Peru, India, China, Middle East, Syria, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, Portugal, etc is bankruptcy, mayhem, poverty just like the rest of the African Continent. Some of these countries are still in civil war. In the ISIL situation another ingredient was added…..all out WAR AND ENDLESS REFUGEES. And of course the G8s have immigration curtailments. THEY MUST NOT SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR ACTIONS. Both Desert Storm and the young Bush President war that followed that outed Saddam Hussein along with endless death and suffering…..Lest we forget, the CIA giving birth to Osama bin Laden and breastfed his organisation during the 1980s. Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that Al-Qaeda was unquestionably a product of Western intelligence agencies. In this Capitalistic effort ISIS has now become the main USA threat. This can be put simply that your sins will always come back to haunt you. Likewise in all countries from World War 1 through Vietnam, and now the Middle East all warfare was ignited by USA the real war monger in the wide world. But it is their system of widespread exploitation of people in each society that supported the USA economy over the years. Now beginning with Greece (once an ancient power) the poor of the world is prepared to stand up and be counted and want to be part of a new system that works for them too ( NOT THE HOG WASH THAT WAS PROPAGANDERED OVER THE LAST 60-70 YEARS ). Are we aware that the same is happening in Trinidad. Who gets the bigger part of the pie ..THE WHITE FRENCH CREOLE, THE SYRIANS AND NOW THE LICK ARSE INDO TRINIS. We the rest need to now stand up and be counted. No more back room deals MUST take place. No more false papers be supporting huge salaried jobs that leave trails of our money poorly spent by non performances in duty to country. Capitalism is a failed system and the countries that will suffer the most are the third world countries. WE MUST STAND UP NOW.

  2. I suggest that you write about the Norway approach to managing their oil revenues to enlighten our people. Hopefully, some wise person or persons will advocate for this approach to be used in here T&T.

    1. Chong sing just you concentrate on all the dog and cat you want trinis to eat ….ok.

    2. We used to compare ourselves with the Singapore model until we found out now that Singapore is one of the most expensive places in the world to live. So much for development with most important resource being it’s people and not petroleum. I believe the Norway approach is a good suggestion since there is a lot of State interests involved in most aspects of that society. Highlights can be sourced from the attached. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/no.html


  3. Hi Jerry, I enjoyed the joke. For your infomation, I am Trini not “chinee.” Don’t be fooled by my name.

    1. Name always says things about the genes. I am mixed in 7 different races and know seven different prejudices and cultures where no one prejudice or culture stands out. My name suggest one religion yet I practise a totally different religion. Sheik Hussain (IRAN) my grandfather on my father’s side was a devout Muslim and let his name in T&T’s history. I certainly has his genes in me as he feared no one for most men/women are weak and are hopeless beings and they hide behind “walls” while they drink themselves to death like your PM. On my mother’s side was Charles Newallo a major land owner (NEWALLOVILLE in San Juan), Herbalist and doctor and businessman who was greatly involved in our rail system many years ago. But to the johnny come latelies who boast about planting rice in a Lagoon etc., what do they really achieve in life. They are just wanna bes. Why they would not stand up and be counted beats me. I worked tirelessly in our industry saving it multiple times from self destruction from bad decisions about my head. Nevertheless our so called industries that are our bread winners are owned and controlled by no good, non patriots of T&T. Most suck up to them just as you would notice in these blogs. I do not joke much about life as it is precious gift given to us by God. In T&T in the least, we need to care for the lowly, the sick, the elderly and the babes. We do not do that as most, especially the leaders are egoistic, selfish, arrogant, and just plain dottish to understand what life should be all about. In plain sight we are led by fools who are going no where very fast. So I am not fooled by your name and certainly NOT YOUR TACK.

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