The first budget of any administration is expected to set the tone for its approach to governance.
Accusatory words at the start of the budget presentation like “nepotism”, “immorality”, “betrayal” and “greed” to describe the UNC may appear to be good politics but do not engender the consensus necessary to solve the plethora of challenges many of which are external to our circumstances.
If the Budget Statement 2016 as presented by the Minister of Finance, the Honorable Colm Imbert, is meant to set the tone for the next 5 years, Trinidad and Tobago is in the unenviable position of the being led by a Government apparently without a plan.
Imbert’s budget was essentially an exercise in deceptive arithmetic and bookkeeping. Lloyd Best would say that it lacked an algebra, a trigonometry and a calculus. So instead of providing an architecture for taking us to the next level it was merely about the arithmetic of revenue and expenditures with a 2018 hope to achieve fiscal balance.
By contrast if one examines Singapore’s budget for 2015 one sees an overarching architecture based on: “Building our Future, Strengthening Social Security”. Sub heads of Singapore’s budget deals with: “Developing our people; Investing in innovation and internationalization, Assurance in retirement, Supporting families, Strengthening communities and preserving a fair and sustainable fiscal system”
The budget statement was a deliberate attempt to instill a sense of fear and trepidation in the minds and hearts of the population; to pave the way for the new Keith Rowley-led administration to get away with the fact that they do not actually have Singapore like policies to develop Trinidad and Tobago and make it a first world nation.
The absence of any developmental strategy is stark and worrying. The Minister prefaced his statement by making an excuse that three weeks was not sufficient time to get ready for the budget, however if the budget is merely a tool to implement their manifesto, this begs the question, why was there no consultation in the drafting of the manifesto?
The attempt to tell a well-educated and discerning population that the last three weeks was spent ascertaining the problems, and that the government requires an additional six months, until March 2016 to come up with essentially an IMF solution, reflects the rank disregard for the people of this great nation.
The Minister has repeatedly stated that the previous administration spent five years and three months in office. In that time, why was the then Opposition not consulting with the public and developing implementable plans? They went to the people and asked them to place their confidence in the People’s National Movement (PNM), citing a track record in preparedness to govern, yet the first budget clearly illustrates a lack of preparation, planning and thought.
The Government must be warned that the population will not stand for the “We are in charge of this House now” attitude. We demand more than vague promises of consultation and promises to implement appropriate policies.
Where are the specific policies? Where are the goals that we as a nation could measure ourselves against? Where are the plans?
Mr. Rodney Charles
Member of Parliament