THE EDITOR: Many are the pictures of a beaming minister in Tuesday’s dailies, all marking, it would seem, a measure of self-satisfaction, indeed self-congratulation, over his claim in his mid-year review of “stability and growth” in the economy, and this seemingly with some justification for the figures appear to say so, at least according to him, as they are much disputed from several circles.
But having said that, is there a contradiction in this self-congratulation considering the word on the ground about the real challenges ordinary people must face on a day-to-day basis? For what are stability and growth for the average layman, if not the contentment of the people as they live their daily lives?
But can that be said of the thousands of workers now on the breadline resulting from the closure of Petrotrin, unable to get jobs to feed their families, and the others in the environs whose lives would have revolved around a functioning Petrotrin?
And is there any comfort over the prospect of the impending closure of Atlantic LNG Train 1 arising from BPTT’s announcement of depressed gas production? Where are the stability and growth in all this?
Continuing employment is the lifeblood of any stable economy and job loss is its antithesis, and the latter is not only restricted to oil and gas, as CNC3’s Akash Samaroo’s interview with a group of students clearly show.
It also applies to that critical group of young people out of university lamenting the dearth of jobs to suit their education and training, many still having to live with parents with no prospect to achieving the basic manifestations of a thriving economy, which is to have a good job, own a house and a car and grow a family.
And this is what we know of. What of the many now having to live extremely challenging lives because of such a depressed employment situation, with no breadwinners in the household? And as for small business people, with consumers not being able to buy as much as they did, there is no more glaring example than the mall people with their kiosks and their fledgling businesses, many having to close down according to a newspaper article last week, one pathetic case being a woman who would have claimed to make only $300 for the entire month.
But this is at the level of the individual family. What of these other symptoms which detract significantly from a stable economy experiencing real growth, such as the scarcity of foreign exchange, or having to dip into the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, or the need for transfers to fulfil pension and gratuity obligations as with Petrotrin, of the over-reliance on a gas regime which seems under siege to the neglect of meaningful diversification with an emphasis on agriculture and manufacturing, inter alia?
And I can go on and on but space does not allow me. But there is a foreboding sense of our leaders fiddling as Rome burns, out of touch with the reality on the ground, for how can there be so much dissent about the reliability of the figures? To be sure, there is some growth as is being claimed, but how encouraging is that when such growth is pinned to only a miniscule profit from gas sales, soon to dissipate it would seem, and not to a comprehensive plan of development pointing to the future?
With this, does the minister have real reason to smile? I leave that judgment to you.
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN via e-mail