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Tuesday 12 November 2019
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Commentary

Certain death with a plantation economy

DOOL HANOMANSINGH

BUDGET 2019-2020 is an ample display of the arrogance and incompetence of the Keith Rowley PNM administration. I did not hear a single announcement of a strategy to kick-start this ailing economy from the Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert. Nevertheless, the comical demeanour of the minister continues to entertain and irritate simultaneously, a rare and unique ability I must say.

Outside oil and gas the PNM does not have a clue how to manage this economy. Crude oil has fallen to US$52 and the price of natural gas is declining. But more importantly is the reality that our oil and gas have depleted and, more so, there are greater opportunities for oil companies and young professionals in Guyana and the Middle East.

The lavishing of Tobago with goodies that it has not earned is not only an exercise in futility but one that is dangerous. This dependency is going to work against the people of Tobago. It is time for the PNM to take away the crutches and give the people of Tobago the chance to stand on their own feet. But Tobagonians are pawns. They are only valued as a vote bank.

It would be interesting to know how many entrepreneurs Tobago has produced over the last four years outside of CEPEP contractors? The PNM is certainly doing a good job at destroying the ambition and entrepreneurial spirit of the Tobagonian people.

Vasant Bharath said there is “not a single investment of note in the non-energy sector in the last four years.” This is a damning conclusion that the Minister of Finance would have to respond to. Despite failing to meet its oil and gas targets, the PNM continues to ignore diversification of the economy.

With a 24 per cent shortfall in the projected oil production target for 2019, the Government should have seen the writing on the wall and implemented plans and policies to diversify the economy, but this it continues to fail to do.

After spending $203 billion in four years with nothing to show, it would be foolish for the citizenry to expect that a further $53.06 billion is going to bring about some changes. The truth is the PNM has a parasitic approach to the economy. Its intent is to feed on the treasury without doing anything to replenish it in the short, medium or long term.

The PNM squandered an oil boom that resulted in the NAR coming to power after the electorate saw no light at the end of the tunnel. The same happened during the period 2002-2010. Again, it was wild spending and mismanagement of the economy. The reality is the PNM does not understand sustainable growth and development. It simply doesn’t have it.

As early as 1956 when the PNM came to power, Trinidadians/Tobagonians recognised the hopelessness of the government and migrated to the UK and the US for job opportunities. And this migration has continued throughout PNM reign.

What was even worse were the migrants that replaced these emigrants. The jetsam and the flotsam of the smaller islands, this illiterate and unskilled pool of humanity arrived with little or no desire to improve their social and economic position outside of CEPEP and URP.

The country has no economy. A vibrant economy is one that earns foreign exchange, generates employment and pays taxes to the treasury. Unfortunately, TT has a parasitic business class that depends on the treasury for handouts.

It would be better that the Ministry of Trade be disbanded and a new ministry be created to be called the ministry for disabled investors. It is my firm conviction that what passes for business – import, showcase, advertise and distribute – in this country is an insult to man’s intelligence.

The one hope for solving the high unemployment is agriculture but, again, this sector has been voted a meagre sum of $708 million to meet recurrent expenses. Why this repeated neglect of the agriculture sector?

The Minister of Finance spoke about the removal of taxes on agricultural inputs. Who stands to benefit from these incentives? The one per cent? However, Imbert ignored the plight of the small farmers such as land tenure, management of irrigation systems that would eliminate annual flooding, storage facilities, markets and protection of farms from theft and vandalism.

The proposed removal of taxes on agricultural equipment for processing is without doubt a move to provide incentives to the parasitic oligarchy who, after presiding over the destruction of the sector, now wants to move in and take charge.

Again, it’s the repeated favouring of a privileged group, the former slave drivers and overseers who took charge after the absentee planters advanced into banking and insurance and other aspects of the tertiary economy.

TT continues on the trajectory of a plantation economy. Such an economy is a misnomer to the current linkages of the global economy. The future is certain death. It’s coming soon.

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