THE EDITOR: At the risk of offending my fellow “Trinbagonian” citizens of Tobagonian origin, I must admit the almost four-hour long budget presentation by the Tobago House of Assembly’s Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance Farley Augustine leaves me not only a little baffled, but, quite honestly, more amused than confused.
His $4 billion proposal works out to be one hour’s talk for every billion dollars requested. With a population of 60,000-70,000 citizens, a revenue of $220 million and a party leader (now deputy chief secretary and secretary extraordinaire, a luxury few developed, far less developing countries, can afford), the Chief Secretary, with his overwhelming majority in the THA, in his ambitious effort to put right what in his administration’s opinion are all the perceived wrongs, appears to be extremely desperate to accelerate the ATM process without any serious consideration for the national balance sheet and/or the consequences of his administration’s generosity. And this at the expense of the other 1.4 million taxpayers, the national revenue, now way below the national expenditure, the economy, beneficiaries of welfare and social assistance, all of which are dependent on Government’s deficit budget.
The Chief Secretary, still enjoying his double honeymoon, appears to have invited all Tobagonians in Tobago to share in the celebrations. Nothing is wrong with that once it is affordable or at his own expense. Nothing is wrong with putting his party’s perceived wrongs right, as expeditiously as he may wish, to initiate those perceived corrections. But again, can Trinidad and Tobago afford his generous proposals on a deficit budget that continues to deprive over one million citizens at the local government level facilities that our Tobagonians are already enjoying?
Now don’t get me wrong, as a former marine superintendent in charge of the Inter-Island Ferry Service, I know only too well the problems encountered by my fellow “Trinbagonians” of Tobagonian origin. I also know only too well how they benefit from the almost $2.5 billion they receive annually; how well they benefit from the strategic political position they continue to use to their political advantage.
To date, not one single comment has emerged from the Opposition benches, or from the Government led by a “Trinbagonian” of Tobagonian origin, on the Chief Secretary’s highly questionable financial decisions, not only approving generous handouts, but significant increases and other social benefits to government employees and the private sector on the island without any consideration for (1) source of revenue; (2) consequential effect on the other side of our twin-island republic; and (3) increase of revenue and productivity on the island.
The Chief Secretary may be young and inexperienced, now in his mid-thirties, now assuming the responsibility for family life, a trained professional, self-proclaimed victim of political victimisation, but perfectly qualified to understand the difference between revenue and expenditure and the consequence, so eloquently and correctly expressed by eminent “Trinbagonian” scholar of Tobagonian origin, Vanus James: “So you ask yourself what are we doing here? This is about living way above our means and that is the definition of a failed economy.” (Newsday, July 3)
The political dice is heavily loaded in favour of Tobago, not St George East, the Diego Martin region, Caroni or the Penal/Debe regional council, yet not a word from the corporations on the Chief Secretary’s journey into Utopia at the expense of the rest of the nation. As a former prime minister once said, “Politics really has a morality of its own.”
Champagne taste with mauby pocket – $4 billion plus the other areas of national expenditure in Tobago. Tobago and Tobagonians must not be deprived of their fair share of the national cake, but how do we justify giving $4 billion plus to 60,000-70,000 consumers out of a population of 1.4 million? Regardless of geographical location, something is wrong here, and in the words of former prime minister George Chambers, and the current economic realities outlined by Vanus James, “This wrong must be put right.” “Money like mango, it has a season.”
I mean no offence to my fellow “Trinbagonian” citizens of Tobagonian origin, as the saying goes, “Mr Farley and his ubiquitous roving ambassador extraordinaire are entitled to their expectations,” their Utopian ambitions. But the facts speak for themselves.