THIS MONTH’S mid-year review should not be an exercise in fiddling with statistics, electioneering, slander, or playing the blame game. It should be a level-headed exercise committed to the fullest degree of transparency, in which both the Government and the Opposition spell out their plans to take the country forward.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert must address lingering questions over the state of the economy; CL Financial and its subsidiaries; recent issues that emerged in relation to a major regional takeover; the status of the new procurement regime; Petrotrin’s successor entities; foreign exchange; employment, and the fuel subsidy.
His presentation on May 13 should account for the last six months in a meaningful and honest way and avoid the glossing-over of the realities faced by ordinary Trinidadians, many of whom are still feeling the pinch.
The fact is, whether in a statistical recession or not, there is the perception the economy needs serious revitalisation. It is little use focusing on indicators like GDP and export cover when people are living in a society where basic things like water seem hard to come by.
The truth is, no matter how encouraging the signs of economic recovery, we have a long way to go as a society because of longstanding patterns of spending which remain largely unchanged.
The grants, subsidies and transfers to make-work programmes are a good example. These programmes continue to distort employment statistics as well as the overall assessment of the economy.
We have had many cutbacks, some of them have been harsh. At the same time, we continue to pump millions into programmes that do little for our economic productivity despite promises of reform.
The Opposition, too, should view the mid-term as an opportunity to lay its cards on the table. The first item on the agenda is an elaboration of how the promise of 50,000 jobs is to be achieved.
Additionally, how would the Opposition approach be any different from that of the Government when it comes to issues that the Dr Keith Rowley administration has been tackling? Many of those issues date back to the PP Government.
There needs to be robust scrutiny by both sides of the measures adopted to kick-start the economy. Have they been enough?
With elections approaching, temptation to use this mid-year review as an opportunity to campaign is high. There is nothing wrong with having an eye to the future and advising the population of your plans. But using the organ of Parliament to simply attack and vilify, to obfuscate and confuse, to offend and inflame – that is not within the spirit of how nation-building should be approached.