THE EDITOR: The presentation of our annual budget is perhaps the most anticipated event in the local parliamentary calendar. And with two elections constitutionally due in 14 months there was a certain air of expectancy that preceded this one which was premised on a certain price of oil and gas.
Since I am not an economist or any foreteller of the fortunes of the energy sector, I would not advance a view on the achievability of a $47.749 billion revenue prediction nor of the practicability and viability of some of the measures announced.
What captured my attention was not so much the fiscal measures announced during a presentation that spanned in excess of three hours, but what happened immediately after. For in the many years that I have been attentive to budget speeches, it was the first time I had witnessed such rapturous, elated and ecstatic celebrations following its presentation.
Without a doubt, the greatest fanfare that ever followed any statement of this country’s finances was budget 2019-2020. Never before was there such thunderous applause and desk-thumping by the members of the Government bench. There was jubilant laughter and wide grins. There were high-fives and handshakes.
For that moment the parliamentary chamber shook and rattled from desk-thumping so hard and loud that it may have destabilised the structural integrity of the woodwork of the hallowed house.
And then I wondered. What exactly was the Government bench celebrating? What victory had they scored? Or what hurdle of economic misfortune had they crossed?
I wondered whether they were simply celebrating their fourth consecutive budget with the thought of “one more to go.” And then I wondered more. Maybe they were celebrating 1,473 murders in three years and multiple adverse flight and travel warnings against this country.
I wondered if they were clapping at the hostile and murderous environment, which makes a patriotic Sunday stroll to the Brian Lara Academy to cheer after the Trinbago Knight Riders a nightmarish thought.
And I wondered if they were celebrating victories against perceived UNC corruption when they themselves were riding a precarious and hazardous wave of allegations of corruption and misbehaviour in public office.
And as wonderful as it was, I just had to wonder as well about the promise of no taxes for registered farmers when there were long lines of former sugar industry workers awaiting agricultural leases for land promised to them since 2003 when Caroni Ltd was shut down by a predecessor of the Minister of Finance.
Surely I thought, wouldn’t it have been a more wonderful thing and something to thump about if the budget had contained measures to regularise the legal land tenure of these farmers? And more wonderful to announce a holistic plan to integrate agriculture and food production into the diversification process?
And then of course I wondered too about the minister’s most illuminating idea yet. Maybe the desk-thumping was in support of the proposed LED light campaign. Surely the distribution of bulbs was something to cheer about in a land where a significant sector did not have access to electricity.
And just maybe that announcement represented an end to the darkness that surrounds us. And perhaps the celebrations erupted because, notwithstanding our constitutional right to life, liberty and happiness, someone believed we were also entitled to light, LED and brightness.
The objective of all human existence is to be happy but the unfortunate truth is that a vast majority of citizens in this land are simply unhappy.
Surely many like me are wondering what good stroke of economic fortune suddenly fell from the sky on this land, since in the last three years all we heard was a storyline of economic doom and gloom occasioned by the previous government.
Mysteriously and as sudden as a flash from a bulb, the economy is sufficiently on the rebound to allow for the distribution of goodies for all. And with Halloween around the corner and campaigning on the ground in full stream, I wondered if the thumping uproar was a celebration of a trick or a treat.