Analyst: Budget should focus on poor households, communities

POLITICAL analyst Dr Winford James said the upcoming budget should have a focus on poor households and disadvantaged communities.

He was speaking during the Co-Operative Credit Union League's virtual pre-budget forum on Friday.

His presentation was on disadvantaged young people aged 24 and younger who are from poor households which are mostly part of poor communities. He said these young people have low-quality schooling, and a low and limited range of job opportunities or business opportunities.

"There is an easy recourse to crime for those who choose that."

James said many of the 2020 budget solutions for disadvantaged communities, including the food support programme, mediation mobile unit and the increase inthe public assistance grant were a "wishful list" that did not see the light of day, and there was no distinction between depressed and disadvantaged communities and other communities.

"You ignore the needs of poor households when you do not involve the community in decision-making."

He said government's approach has been "top-down" and authoritarian and not "bottom-up."

"It has not solved and is not solving problems in these communities."

James called for three surveys to be done: annually on living conditions; annually on ex-inmates; and every three years on the income-generating-asset levels of poor households. He said these surveys can be used by policy-makers to make relevant decisions and added there needed to be collaboration between the government and the community on the principle that the community must govern and build itself.

He also called on the State to guarantee "good schools" for disadvantaged communities, properly trained and remunerated surrogate parents, guaranteed annual community funding and economic restructuring projects to provide good employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

"We cannot continue to allow the conditions that promote multi-generational poverty."

Former finance minister Karen Nunez-Tesheira said before covid19, TT was running consistent deficits, there had been 18 quarters of negative growth, forex reserves had fallen from 11.5 billion in 2014 to 6.8 billion in January, and plants at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate were being shut down .

"In many areas there were serious difficulties pre-covid."

She said every year the country runs a deficit and it is understated by the Finance Minister, but she predicted for the upcoming budget presentation, it will not be understated, as money will be coming from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.

She said what was even more concerning was the lack of implementation by the Government.In nearly every budget there is the promise of the national statistical institute, she said, but it is never implemented.

"You can't really manage what you can't measure. You can't really do any serious planning with the lack of data."

She said the International Monetary Fund and rating agencies have also spoken about the issue of a national statistical institute.

On the Revenue Authority, she said that was being discussed even during her time (she served as minister from November 2007-May 2010) but still had not come to pass. She also pointed out the "game-changer" projects of the Dragon Gas Field and the Sandals Hotel in Tobago were not implemented: the gas deal was still in limbo, and Sandals pulled out of the Tobago project.

She said if Government did not implement measures promised in the last four and half years, what is the assurance they would be done in these stringent covid19 times?

Tesheira suggested the country look at revaluing the TT dollar, look at high-end production in areas such as cocoa and coffee, produce steelpans and reduce the licences of people who bring in foreign fast-food franchises. "These eat up foreign exchange and have low-value jobs."

She said covid19 has given the Prime Minister the opportunity to show strong leadership and by and large the national community has been very supportive.

"The opportunity now lies for him to now do the necessary implementation."


"Analyst: Budget should focus on poor households, communities"

More in this section