The national budget for fiscal period 2022–2023 was read on Monday, September 26 in our Parliament, and in the coming days and weeks, what Finance Minister Colm Imbert presented over the course of four hours in the chamber will be dissected, discussed, and debated.
For years, this annual political ritual has been criticised not only for the duration but more so, its apparent focus on the statistics, numbers, and figures of the T&T economy, and less so on the real day-to-day impact on citizens.
Within an hour of Parliament being adjourned to this Friday for the start of the debate, the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) hosted a media conference at the venue. Surrounded by other members of the THA, Chief Secretary Farley Chavez Augustine responded to the budgetary allocation for Tobago and other issues.
What he said to end the conference though was a critical message that should be considered, as we confront rising cost of living and the gradual chipping away of the fuel subsidy.
Augustine acknowledged some of the difficulties being faced were brought on by global factors – the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict to name just two – and the challenges were not unique to Trinidad & Tobago.
He did not go into specifics but called for citizens to recognise that the only way to weather these challenging storms is to sacrifice and work together.
That message is often heard but at times not completely imbued into our national psyche, especially lately as we come face to face with the cost of items at the supermarket and the increase at the pump and elsewhere. Then, it is almost every individual or family for themselves.
The value of sacrifice was one of the underlying themes at the closing of an event held two days prior to Budget Day. On September 24, Pope Francis signed a “pact” for a new economy with the participants of the third edition of The Economy of Francesco event, which brought together students, workers, young economists, entrepreneurs, and changemakers from around the world.
The gathering committed, individually and collectively, to ensuring that “the economy of today and tomorrow becomes an economy of the Gospel”.
Some of the key elements of this 12-point pact are the need to build
“… an economy that cares for creation and does not misuse it;
an economy at the service of the human person, the family and life, respectful of every woman, man, and child, the elderly, and especially those most frail and vulnerable;
an economy where care replaces rejection and indifference;
an economy that recognizes and protects secure and dignified work for everyone;
an economy that values and safeguards the cultures and traditions of peoples, all living things and the natural resources of the Earth;
an economy that fights poverty in all its forms, reduces inequality and knows how to say with Jesus and Francis, ‘Blessed are the poor.’”
Such an economy may be seen as utopian in a world of financial inequalities that ignores the needs of the average citizen but adopting an economy of the Gospel may ensure everyone gets a piece of the proverbial pie.
Together, we can sacrifice and survive these turbulent economic times.