THE EDITOR: Well, it’s that time of the year again when the breeze begins to feel a little chilly, the days begin to get shorter and when this government despite being in power for eight years, starts blaming the UNC for everything. Yes, its budget time again.
Over the past eight years Minister of Finance Colm Imbert’s budget presentations have truly become a cherished tradition, akin to unwrapping a present that you know is empty but which the sheer degree of emptiness still surprises you.
As citizens look forward to Minister Imbert’s Monday budget presentation, with all the excitement of bracing for a home invasion by bandits, I can't help but marvel at how consistently underwhelming Minister Imbert’s eight previous budgets have been. Minister Imbert truly excels at crafting a budget that is a lengthy 100-plus pages and takes three hours to read, yet still falls woefully short of original ideas, intellectual rigour and basic economic principles.
First and foremost, let us appreciate Imbert’s masterful art of recycling vacuous expressions such as “stabilising the economy,” “restarting the economy” and “growing the economy.”
English students will know that words ending with “ing” are known as present participles. And every citizen of the country will know that the only present participle which accurately describes what the PNM has been doing to the economy for the past eight years cannot be fully written in this letter.
Budget 2024 will also undoubtedly feature the resurrection of numerous promises from previous budgets. There will be talk of helping the vulnerable, providing students with more opportunities and more promises to pay small and medium size businesses (SMEs) their VAT refunds. Yes, those same promises that you thought were dead since the last budget will make a triumphant return, like Michael Myers in a Halloween movie sequel.
The one issue I don’t expect to hear about is the current foreign exchange crisis, because as we know the best way the PNM solves a crisis is to pretend it is not happening. In that regard I don’t expect to hear anything about reducing crime, fixing water shortages or safe-guarding our borders.
Then there's Minister Imbert’s eloquent use of buzzwords and vague statements that leave us in awe of his sheer audacity. "Economic growth," "fiscal responsibility," and "investment in the future" will undoubtedly be thrown around liberally, at the same time Minister Imbert will be outlining his plans to continue his borrowing spree racking up billions in debt which future generations of Trinidadians and Tobagonians will have to pay back. It’s like taking financial advice from an engineer. Oh, wait.
Of course, we can't forget the obligatory references to "tightening our belts" and "making tough choices." These phrases are essential in any budget speech, especially if you need taxpayers monies to hold a fancy crime symposium at the Hyatt in which you come to the conclusion that you don’t have enough money to fight crime.
In conclusion, as we eagerly await budget 2024, I am filled with a sense of nostalgia for the predictability that Minister Imbert brings to this annual event. It's a reassuring reminder that some things never change, and in the world of increasing economic uncertainty, that seems to be the only certainty we can count on.
Chaguanas West MP