Those of us who are familiar with the concepts outlined in Terry Lynn Karl’s: Paradox of Plenty will understand that Trinidad and Tobago is heading down a treacherous path under this PNM led administration.
Arising out of what I would call a botched pontification of governmental success; Minister Colm Imbert has shown that he is considerably less intelligent than he purports to be. Trinidad and Tobago is heavily reliant on the oil and gas industry.
Since 2014 the economy was dealt severe blows in light of the volatility of the oil prices and low domestic production levels. The PNM sought to earn revenue by heavy taxation which has birthed a disenchanted citizenry.
So when the Minister of Finance delivered his contribution to the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) (Financial Year 2018) Bill, 2018 citizens were flabbergasted by the news that Trinidad and Tobago has weathered the metaphorical storm and the economy in fact has turned around. Simply put “We have raised taxes astronomically and saved the economy.” The Minister went on to attack any economist or reputable source that dispelled his ludicrous claims.
I paid particular attention to the contribution of the Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. You see the PNM government is out of touch and clueless about the reality farmers face in Trinidad and Tobago since they have taken office.
Year after year, budget after budget, we have seen no positive improvements in the field of agriculture save the billions of dollars invested in this sector.
However the Minister just as his colleagues before him, opted to waste parliamentary time to focus on what the UNC, under the People’s Partnership would have done then when they were in office instead of talking about what the PNM should be doing to revitalize the agriculture sector.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries requested and received additional funding for two main purposes namely the Agriculture Incentive Programme and the Relief of Flooding which were $31,000,000 and $7,000,000 respectively. Conversely we have seen farmers complain about the non-issuance of agricultural incentives and inadequate compensation for lost produce post heavy flooding.
The Minister himself attested to his inability of do anything to help the sector because this additional funding would be utilized to clear debts from previous periods. One could surmise that the Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries serves as an accounts payable clerk while the rest of our CARICOM compatriots are expanding and diversifying their economies; in some instances at our expense.
A recent article in the Jamaica Gleaner stated that Jamaica intends to increase its exports of bananas to Trinidad from one container per week to three at the request of our locals. Why is Trinidad and Tobago further increasing its reliance on food imports when this issue has consistently been a grain of contention the PNM regime wishes to address?
The Minister of Agriculture laments that our foreign exchange is being ‘wasted’ yearly, because of the increase in food imports. Granted, trade with our regional partners is vital to our success we need to first put our affairs in order and empower our farmers who could easily produce a majority of the products we import. In fact, during the 1950’s Trinidad and Tobago once produced upwards of 4000 tonnes of bananas per week for export.
Thus, we should opt to move away from our fascination with serving as a poster child for the resource curse and treat agriculture with the respect it deserves.
Vidia Gayadeen- Gopeesingh
Dated: 14th May 2018.