THE EDITOR: Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat recently chided citizens for eating doubles made from imported ingredients.
A few days ago, he was back at it again, telling citizens to cut back on consumption of mayonnaise, ketchup and maraschino cherries because they were draining the country's foreign exchange resources.
Is the Agriculture Minister going to cut back on eating imported lobster thermidor, Iranian beluga caviar, escargot and foie gras?
Is he also willing to cut back on drinking Dom Pérignon Rosé Champagne, Hennessy Timeless Cognac, Mendis Coconut Brandy and D'Amalfi Limoncello Supreme?
What about new luxury boats like Silverton yachts and new luxury cars like Ford Mustangs, Porsche Cayennes, Prados and Range Rovers?
Is he going to tell his colleagues to ban the importation of those items because they are a drain on our foreign exchange? It is highly doubtful because they all enjoy the fancy lifestyles that comes from being parliamentarians, ministers and senators.
It seems that access to foreign exchange is not a problem when it comes to buying exclusive, luxury goods.
There are over 20 US-headquartered foreign fast food franchises in TT. These require significant US dollars – and they repatriate their profits. It is amazing that he has nothing to say about what they sell and whether they are a drain on our foreign reserves.
What about all the foreign banks? Do they not have to repatriate their hundreds of million of dollars in profits back to their home countries – in US and Canadian dollars? Is this not a drain on our foreign reserves?
His utterances show a man belonging to a government that is out of touch with the people it governs.
One must assume that the consumption of doubles, ketchup and mayonnaise, by poor people, is preventing the Government from carrying out its policy of allowing the rich to get richer so they can employ the poor.
What is Rambharat and his government doing to expand agricultural food production and curb the food import bill?
In the 2020 budget, $708 million was allocated to agriculture and the Finance Minister proposed "to remove all taxes and all duties on all inputs and resources for farmers registered for agricultural purposes and make agriculture in all its facets, including processing of local agricultural products, a tax-free industry."
Was this done? I do not recollect any legislation being passed to enact this. I am subject to correction.
In the 2021 budget, $1.198 billion was allocated to agriculture. The Finance Minister said that was a 70 per cent increase over the previous year. But as is common with this government, the devil is in the details.
An additional $500 million was earmarked as an agriculture stimulus package. This is good. Has anyone done an assessment of the agricultural value chain in TT? If no, that stimulus package and much of the 70 per cent increase will end up in the hands of friends of the Government.
It is time that Rambharat and his fellow government ministers lead by example.
LINUS F DIDIER