There are two economies in TT—one on paper and the reality, sociologist David Muhammad said in his analysis of the 2019 budget, and they are both wildly divergent in representing how people feel.
“You have an economy on paper and in theory but another economy in practicality and reality. You cannot judge the budget by what is written on paper. You have to judge it based on what is happening in real life and the truth of the matter is right now the people are feeling pain,” Muhammad said in his presentation at yesterday’s budget review at the Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies (CCLCS).
Muhammad, a lecturer at the CCLCS, criticised the tone of last Monday’s budget presentation, bashing the government’s rhetoric that assumed the people of TT accepted and understood its economic ideology “as if they are happy and then after you say that, people are in the streets protesting that they don’t have enough money for food.”
“We have Members of Parliament who have never walked the streets in their constituencies. How could you even get to Parliament in the first place if you don’t even know the conditions of the people? You’re supposed to know that first and then we can elect you. How can we elect you and then hope that one day you would get in touch with us. So don’t start off a budget presentation telling us that we are happy. No we are not,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad also criticised the government’s handling of certain polices, especially the Government Assistance for Tertiary Education (GATE) programme, from which he benefitted as an undergraduate student. Making lower income students take a means test is “a step back,” he said, because people in poverty usually try hard to hide the fact that they are poor.
He also questioned the validity of Sandals, the government’s public-private hotel partnership touted as the centre of a vibrant tourism market. “Again that looks good on paper but for whom? So when the government announces they’re opening a bigger hotel what does that mean for me? I’m going to get to mop the floor (in reference to the jobs that will be created) and you want me to rejoice for that?” he said.
He accused the government of closing down indigenous businesses at the expense of these foreign owners and operators. He also slammed the treatment of crime and criminality in the country, calling it a functionalist purpose of society, where one class is getting wealthier off the oppression of another. “They’re getting rich off our ignorance and when you speak out against it they call you unpatriotic,” he said.