ALMOST four months after the registration of Venezuelan migrants to TT, UWI economics lecturer Dr Marlene Attzs said the 2019/2020 budget should have addressed the cost of integrating them into society, given that the Central Bank had estimated the cost to be $620 million.
“After three-and-a-half hours, nothing was said about the Venezuelan migrants.”Addressing the Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors’ post-budget discussion at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) yesterday, Attzs said the issue is not the number of migrants, but the cost to society. (She later said she believes there are approximately 40,000 Venezuelans here).
“I think is 40,000 but that is not the issue. The issue is the Central Bank estimated that it will take $620 million for us to integrate them into our economic system, into our health care system, housing and education.
“There are lots of opportunities to be had from the Venezuelan migrants, but I think a budget that is presented in October 2019, cannot be silent, ought not to be silent on the issue and what are the plans particularly because of the central bank announcement about the cost to the economy.”
Attzs, who is also a founding member of the Sustainable Economic Development Unit (SEDU), at UWI, was in agreement with the $0.7 billion allocation to the agricultural sector.“As I said last year, I think they (the Finance Ministry) are absolutely right, I think they should get the lowest allocation because we don’t have an agriculture plan.”
“We continue to operate in a kind of schizophrenia pace where we talk about agriculture but yet still we have a food import bill and the incentives to have a change to have a more visionary approach to agriculture is still lacking.”
She said the tax free incentives would not benefit the vast majority of farmers as only a small minority are registered with the Agriculture ministry.
“We have to teat seriously with the food security issues, it’s not simply a financial issue in terms of 4 billion or 5 billion spent on imported food, it is the health and well-being, all of these things are connected, so what you eat, your health care systems, the well-being of the society, all of these things are connected.”
And regarding the wage increase to CEPEP and URP workers, she said these programs were never intended to become full time employment.
“You not supposed to become a cepeper for life, and that is the problem I have with the increase with the wages.”
And citing the Argentina model, she said the programs should be tied to “very concrete objectives” with workers encouraged to improve their education, or learn a trade or profession.