Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget is predicting that Government’s mid-year review will not stimulate the economy but lead to increased unemployment.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert has stated that the economy is “turning the corner,” as several large local companies have reported better earnings in the first quarter (January-March) of 2018.
However, Roget scoffed at Imbert’s statements saying he had presented three “stagnation“ budgets since the PNM was returned to power following the 2015 general election.
“They have failed to manage the economy. How much budgets they have produced? Three – 2015, 2016 and 2017 – and we have seen absolutely no indication of them taking the economy in a positive direction,” he said.
“And to say the country has no money is a reason for that. We do not accept that! We reject that because they did not take the joint trade union plan to stimulate the economy. We foresee more of the same continuing to happen– increased taxes, more unemployment, and a lot of excuses for their mal-performance,” Roget said.
His observations were supported by All Trinidad General Workers Trade Union (ATGWU) president general Nirvan Maharaj who said Imbert had to address such issues as the lack of medication at hospitals, the “savagery and brutality” of crime and the unemployed.
“In addition to addressing these issues by further allocations and perhaps reallocations to several key ministries, the Minister of Finance must also ensure that proper allocations are made to fulfil outstanding legal obligations to workers and former workers. Policies and programmes should be put in place to ameliorate any continuing negative effects on the general population,” Maharaj said.
The review should also focus on developing other aspects of the economy such as manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and culture along with measures for the development of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in order to “assist in servicing an economy held to ransom by an almost insurmountable dependency on oil and natural gas.”
Maharaj recommended Government establish an indemnity fund to which local and foreign-based companies “must contribute in order to alleviate any hardship to workers in the event of any wind-up of the foreign-based company and/or any judgments made against the said companies by our legal jurisdiction.”
Allocations should also be given for the refurbishment and maintenance of heritage and tourist sites, including eco-tourism destinations to encourage both foreign and local tourists.
Subsidies and tax incentives should be given to local manufacturers, he said, together with the “necessary access” to foreign currency for the expansion of the sector.
“It is hoped that the Finance Minister will see the necessity of using the agricultural and manufacturing sectors as the foundation upon which true diversification of the economy can begin,” Maharaj said, adding that State run agricultural farms should be geared towards the production of organically grown produce and not compete with private farmers and/or the creation of an unnatural surplus on the market.