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STREET VIBES: Empty treasuries make the most noise, empty ministers too

Repeat after me: “The Treasury is empty.”

“The Treasury is empty.”

“Again!”

In psychology, there is something called the “illusory truth effect.”  Essentially, it says that a lie repeated often enough becomes believable, not only by persons hearing it but also by the people repeating it.

Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.
(Courtesy Power102)

The term only gained popular currency around 1977 but the idea had been around for a while before that; Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels was making essentially the very same point when he wrote this in the 1930’s:  “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

I am convinced that the current Minister of Finance expects the whole country to swallow—to Goebbel down?—his claim about the emptiness of the Treasury.

Since coming into office in 2015, the current regime, with Colm “Construction Genius” Imbert holding tight to the Finance portfolio, has been singing that song about  the empty Treasury; the refrain was that the previous regime “stole all the money.”

But those of us whose memories can still be trusted recall that, up until early December of the election year, 2015, Imbutt was promising to pay government employees their back-pay and was even telling them that they would receive it before year’s end. Then came the middle of December, at which time the construction guru changed his tune and broke into a new song-and-dance routine whose chorus was “The Treasury is empty.”  He has since consistently cited low oil and gas prices and constantly chorused that “The Treasury is empty.”

Photo: Falling oil prices have damaged the Trinidad and Tobago economy.
(Copyright CommodityOnline)

Those of us who have no red eye had seen through him even before his recent, arrogant, true-to-form performance at the Chamber of Commerce seminar where he declared for all to hear that  “Who vex lorse.” That merely underlined for all to see that his true stature matches the size of his mind.

Repeat after me: “The Treasury is empty—and so am I!”

“The Treasury is empty—and so are you!”

Imbutt has joked publicly about how he has raised gasoline and diesel without provoking any public riot. For me, that merely demonstrates the extent of his arrogance and the degree to which he and the Rowley regime are out of touch with the people they were elected to serve. It is quite clear to me that these little, self-anointed, self-righteous public servants have forgotten their real roles and forgotten whom they have to thank for their lofty positions; they have evidently forgotten that it is they who are in the service of the citizens and not the other way around.

It is easy too, when office rather than service becomes one’s primary focus, to forget that it is not what your country has done for you but what you have done for your country in general and in particular for the constituency that elected you to serve that gets you (re-)elected.

Photo: Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left), Finance Minister Colm Imbert (centre) and former Trinidad and Tobago international hockey goalkeeper Joey Lewis at a sod turning event.
(Courtesy DMRCTT)

But instead of serving the people, for two years, this dysfunctional regime, with a financially illiterate Minister of Finance and Corporation Sole leading a politically illiterate Cabinet of souls, has sought to hoodwink the populace into believing that the nation has no money—or, more accurately, no money left. Left, right or centre! Kamla and she band ah tief, the refrain goes, eh leave nutten in the Treasury.

And the chorus adds—but not for anyone to hear—fuh we to tief.

It is easy, ready, upfront justification for having done absolutely nothing for the past two years in spite of enjoying the perks and privileges which come with holding office.  Nor are they obligated to do anything—except apparently talk. And spend the money they do not have in the empty Treasury.

Repeat after me: “The Treasury is empty. Blame Kamla and she band ah tief.”

“The Treasury is empty—and so are your promises/threats.”

Which promises/threats? The promises/threats to bring to justice those responsible for the endemic corruption, etc., that has left the public  coffers bare and their and their friends’ pockets well-lined.

To date, with the exception of former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, no one has seen the inside of a courtroom. And we have to wait and see whether that arrest was mere distraction from the then persistent ferry fiasco. There are those who are predicting that, after he gets through suing the State in six to ten years or so if the current regime are lucky (because they will by then be history), Ramlogan’s bank account will be positively obese as taxpayers get stuck with another multi-million dollar payment.

Photo: Former Attorney General Anand Ramlogan.

To conclude, then: reminding the nation every step along the way that the Treasury is empty while building unnecessary stadiums, highways and hospitals, and upgrading a golf course and renting empty buildings and leasing leaky boats at exorbitant rates defies common sense, logic and science.

But then again,  given who and what we are dealing with, virtually anything is possible;  logic, common sense and science seen to matter little.

Perhaps we should put the Riot Squad on standby….

…and have you repeat after me: “The Minister is empty…”

AboutRudy Chato Paul Sr

Rudy Chato Paul, Sr, is passionate about gardening, music and writing and boasts post-graduate certification in Anthropology, Criminology and Sociology. He also studied Theology, which is why he is actively seeking to make Trinidad a better place rather than waiting for divine intervention. 

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5 comments

  1. Not to your usual high standards Wired868. Unfortunately the treasury is empty and we’ve maxed out the credit card.

    • There is no possibility whatever of the Treasury being empty –
      there never was. And the limit of Central Bank lending to GORTT is not fixed in stone. The money problem is when you do not have discretionary funds for your preferences and you use your liquidity for that instead of paying over-due bills and you have to borrow big time. That was the case in 1987 when the phrase was invented and that is the case now.

      • Earl Best

        You, sir, are talking economics; my sense is that the Vibes man is talking politics.
        You two may well be on the same page, you in a book about John Maynard Keynes and he in a book about Machiavelli.

    • Hi Gerry. Not sure what you are saying here. The only way the central bank can be an unlimited source of funds is to print money. And that never ends well.

  2. The treasury is empty is an old refrain…In the period 86 – 91, the NAR were saying the same…A PNM opposition leader (Mr Patrick Manning) said ”the treasury is not a biscuit pan” ….I believe Imbert is using the same strategy but he should remember what his leader said then.