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October 24, 2019

The more things change…

What is it about our politicians that they cannot understand how to be completely honest with the people? I refer particularly to Finance Minister Colm Imbert mamaguying the population after he delivered the 2019–2020 Budget speech earlier this month. He said, “This is not an election budget.” Well if it wasn’t, I would hate to think what is?

Here was his defence when he spoke at the Breakfast Post Budget sponsored by the Trinidad & Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce at the Hyatt Hotel: “This year’s budget, we tried to balance. After three years of hardship, we had to do things to create the necessary revenue to keep the economy going and give it the boost that it needs to grow.”

He admits therefore, that in previous fiscal packages, people were ‘ketching hell’. So, with elections around the corner, it was time to give the people ‘a lil ting’.

He added, “We tried to deal with every sector in the country.” This was obviously a joke. The sectors which attract a certain majority, got goodies, but other sectors were dealt with unfairly.

But whether it was ‘sweet’ budget or a ‘condensed milk’ budget or even a ‘light bulb’ budget, it was written to garner votes, to appease their disenchanted base, because we must not forget there are three elections due just about a year apart.

We won’t talk about the unkept promises from a few budgets back. And why was the property tax, a decade in coming, still not finalised or the long-talked-about procurement legislation still in limbo somewhere out there, or self-government for Tobago not yet realised?

We can even ask why we are fully dependent on the energy sector. What is being done to stanch the outflow of our foreign reserves? When will State lands formerly belonging to Caroni be finally and justly settled?

A cry we hear every day is about the lack of ease of doing business in Trinidad and Tobago and it doesn’t only affect people (locals and foreigners) wanting to do business in the nation.

Check out the treatment meted out to our senior citizens at government ministries, banks and other places of service; obtaining medical reports from the health institutions; or the long wait at the various hospitals and health centres all over the country.

I have a good friend who is waiting more than two months for results of tests. I guess this is what the minister means when he speaks about efficiency in our health systems.

That’s not all, even in the Parliament itself there are constant signs of bias and partisanship when it comes to rulings in the Chamber. Whatever it is, the thing I can’t take is that we who put them there cannot pierce the veil of secrecy which hangs over so many national issues.

But what are we to do? Protest. That only brings more pressure. So, we just continue to exist under the old saying “The more things change, the more they remain the same”.

And until the populace decides to stand up against all injustices meted out to them by our so-called leaders, Trinidad and Tobago has no place to go, but down.

Another question that perplexes me is the announcement that Local Government elections will be held on December 2. It is quite puzzling, if not scary that such an important announcement was done in ‘Trumpian’ style by a press release just minutes into the Opposition Leader’s response to the finance minister’s budget speech.

Was this planned or did it just happen? Was it to hide the announcement and therefore catch the opposition parties with their proverbial “pants down”? Or hope that the budget debate would mask the importance of the election, which would serve as a thermometer of the government’s popularity among the population. You alone would decide that one.