INDEPENDENT Senator Charrise Seepersad did not seem to be convinced that the 2022 budget would achieve its objective of economic resilience during the covid19 pandemic.
In her contribution to the budget debate in the Senate on Monday, Seepersad said regardless of anyone's perspective on covid19, one fact is that "the virus is not going away any time soon."
Against this background and the reality that the world has to learn to live with this virus, Seepersad said, "The entire country needs to buy into the need for transformation."
She wondered if the the budget drives home that point to the population. After estimating that 300,000 people in TT could be below the poverty line, Seepersad questioned the effect cash cards for the most vulnerable to access subsidies on fuel and utilities could have.
She said while it was a more targeted approach towards helping them access such subsidies, any increase in fuel prices or utility rates could erode any potential relief provided.
Referring to the $6.886 billion allocation in the budget for the Education Ministry, Seepersad said, "We need to radically reform the education system." She claimed the system does not prepare children for the realities they will face after leaving school. Seepersad also claimed the system as it exists now, favours “prestige” schools over other schools.
The current education system, she continued, does not foster literacy or teach appropriate life skills to children.
"Every child must be literate, find a place to grow and earn a livelihood."
Seepersad said the education system has not eliminated challenges such as drug abuse, indiscipline and violence. She added this is the reality today and, as a university student in 1979, it was also the reality that existed in schools in Trinidad at that time.
"This is a failed education system."
Seepersad also called for a comprehensive national energy policy. While the energy sector remains important to the economy, Seepersad wondered if enough was being done to shift to renewable energy.
In response to this issue later in the debate, Energy Minister Stuart Young said evidence from different countries in the world showed it is not possible to solely rely on renewable energy to satisfy all of any country's energy requirements.
He said Government understands the need to transition from non-renewable to renewable energy. But he explained this must be done strategically.
With coal, crude oil and natural gas being the three well-known non-renewable energy sources, Young said oil and gas have a longer horizon than coal does. He added, natural gas has been accepted as the energy source to bridge the gap between non-renewable and renewable energy.