The annual reading of the Budget is a ritual. It is real only in that it determines what will be the cost of living in the short and medium term. This year it imposed additional taxes intended to replace evaporated energy sector revenue in order to prop up a lifestyle, frequently dissolute, which the country can no longer afford.
The rest of the Budget statement pretends to be a statement of Government policy but it is fluff and puff. This has been so for at least three decades.
It is just another thing we continue to do, even though it doesn’t really work. It doesn’t inspire anybody to consolidate, to diversify, to transform, or to follow whatever inspirational word is used in the title of the Budget statement.
During this annual ritual, fundamental questions are rarely asked. This week, therefore, I have a few questions by reference to things, which have recently appeared in the media and in other sources and which reflect what we are repeatedly doing wrong or condoning.
They are also reflective of the reality that Budget allocations alone can’t solve our problems. The quotes and questions cover typical headings, such as national security, education and the public sector.
“Relatives screamed as the body of Ria Indarsingh was removed from her home on Saturday night. Indarsingh, a 41 year-old mother of two, was beaten to death, police believe. It was the second killing in the family.”
Express, 1 October 2017.
Why was the first killing not solved? How did the person of interest disappear, Uncle Khalid-style? Why were no bourgeois voices raised and vigils held for Ria Indarsingh? Does murder only count when committed at the finer addresses or when the victims have high-grade occupations or good connections?
“86 percent of perpetrators get away with murder. Deterrence is not working in TT. There is a lack of urgency on the part of law enforcement.”
Newsday, 25 September 2017, quoting criminologist Renee Cummings.
Is the only policy to induce urgency on the part of law enforcement a mammoth national security budget? Has any political party to date shown itself capable of putting forward a new management structure for the Police Service?
“Nonetheless we must never forget our core purpose—the education of our youth. University must encourage student activism, discourse on the issues of the day and freedom to develop their minds outside of the strict confines of their studies. In my humble opinion, social skills, empathy, social consciousness and a concern for equity are as equally important to success as is technical competence.”
Inaugural address of Robert Bermudez as Sixth Chancellor of the University of the West Indies on 16 September 2017.
Where is the proposal for the “transformation” of the certification mill? Are our rulers aware how many certified young persons find out that the certification is not a clear pathway to gainful employment? Are they aware of the lack of social skills?
“I am seeing a level of dysfunctionality in that previous Board. I am seeing a level of dysfunctionality in the management. There is absolutely no discipline, no governance. It’s a whole mish-mash of foolishness going on there.”
Guardian, 5 September 2017, quoting Minister Franklin Khan in the course of Joint Select Committee hearings into the procurement process of the Port Authority.
Do Minister Khan and other ministerial office-holders, past and present, from both major political parties not know that dysfunctionality in that part of the Public Sector is the norm, not the exception?
Which Government in living memory has tried to rein in the statutory authorities and State Enterprises?
Will our rulers finally confess to the true condition and use of statutory bodies and State Enterprises set out by my fellow commentator Winford James in the Express newspaper on 29 September 2017: “Every Government we have had, but especially the PNM and UNC/PP once, has so rigged the award of contracts that it is their financiers, their friends, and their families that get them.
“Every self-righteous one of them! They do so by rigging the composition of the Boards of State Enterprises, companies, and Statutory bodies. It has been happening with every change of Government.”
I would add that a few worthwhile persons get lick up if they resist the rigging. There is also the infamous fete tickets freeness.
In his letter of resignation as Chairman of the Board of TSTT, dated 19 September 2017, published in the Express, Emile Elias referred to the cancellation of “millions of dollars spent by the last Board on All-Inclusive Carnival luxury fetes for family and friends” and additional millions in “Carnival Sponsorship of certain private sector events.”
Budget debates are largely irrelevant. It is the drought of leadership at all levels and the bloodsucking of the status quo that has driven us into the ground. Are we expected to treat these debates and forums as credible?
We chupidee, ent?