Imbert's economy vs yours

Paolo Kernahan -
Paolo Kernahan -


A DOCTOR walks into a waiting room to brief an anxiety-stricken wife on the status of her gravely ill husband.

"I have some good news. No more will your husband have to live with the threat of terminal illness hanging over his head."

The wife collapses into a heap of relief on the floor and the doctor returns to his rounds. Before he gets far, a nurse confronts him angrily: "How could you tell such cruel lies?" "What lies?" the befuddled doctor asks.

"You told her husband is going to make it...that he's in the clear! The man is dead!"

The doctor looks at the nurse and said, "I never said he's going to make it. I just told her a version of truth – one that serves me better than the actual truth would serve her; and what is death if not freedom from suffering?"

The idea of truth as a matter of perspective came to mind when I measured the Finance Minister's diagnosis of our economic performance as "not too bad."

Imbert also said – and this isn't a direct quote – the TT economy had fully recovered from the pandemic.

The self-aggrandising remarks were meant to convince the public that some imagined recovery was the result of the astute piloting of the economy.

Actors in this administration and its varied sinecure outposts are in the habit of grading themselves, so you can't expect the minister to give himself a more deserving report card.

Nearer to the broken streets, and a good day's travel from Imbert's Lazarus story, the picture is far from Insta-perfect.

In grocery aisles, average shoppers swing between cautious and ultra-conservative in choosing what goes into the basket.

Some folks do quick calculations on their phones to avoid embarrassment at the cash register. Asthmatics, have your inhalers at the ready! These prices will take your breath away.

Crowding once seen at some street-corner doubles boxes has thinned considerably – with even moments of dead calm in between. Shopping centres have many vacant spaces, even as new, hopeful businesses pop up here and there.

The anticipated decline in food prices post-pandemic, certainly expected by Minister of Trade Paula Gopee-Scoon, never materialised. Costs have continued climbing.

Food, internet, gas (soon, electricity), ground transport costs, taxi fares, other goods and services – they're all headed north. Rising costs of living further erode already paltry incomes.

The Finance Minister recently boasted on Twitter that our GDP in 2022 had risen by 30 per cent, whereas Jamaica's went up by 21 per cent and Barbados's by 26 per cent.

Comparing TT to our Caribbean neighbours doesn't seem particularly insightful here. We've had more than a century of oil exploration; access to natural resources and wealth other countries in the region could only dream of.

Much of that wealth was flared off in spectacular feats of corruption and villainous mismanagement. Those facts put an entirely different complexion on Imbert's Twitter flex. Still, on economic concerns, this administration habitually cherry-picks statistics and highlights flattering excerpts from IMF "reports" to support a sunny narrative.

This works to an extent as it's difficult to get granular data on the true state of the economy. As such, ordinary citizens put together bits and pieces to come up with some kind of understanding; one usually skewed by their politics. There's another Staa-bocks! People ha morney!

On the CSO website, the average monthly household income is listed at roughly $9,100. How many people, though, are in that household? How many income-earners? How many dependents?

The CSO does make an attempt at getting more detailed figures, but, unless you're a mathematician with an inexhaustible supply of LSD, making sense of those tables and charts is challenging.

At any rate, that household income figure is from a 2009 survey.

One survey puts the unemployment figure at 4.7 per cent, but that isn't the full picture. Much of this information is reported by the Ministry of Labour. Many people who lose their jobs, though, won't report it – nor is there a readily available number of the underemployed.

If the economy is truly on the mend, no one would have to go to the bank brandishing a plane ticket to get a meagre US$200.

If the economy is as healthy, or at least on the rebound, as the minister would have people believe, why is there such untreated, albeit geographically disproportionate, infrastructural decay?

Even if you're inclined to swallow Imbert's "truth," you still have to live in yours.


"Imbert's economy vs yours"

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