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Daly Bread: What goes beyond the money? Where the Budget falls short

The Ortoire River meets the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to Point Radix on the south-east coast of Trinidad. Point Radix is a headland that separates the two renowned, but badly abused beaches of Manzanilla and Mayaro, which are of similar length, each said to be approximately 12 miles long.

As you cross the bridge over the Ortoire River, you enter Ortoire Village, in the county of Mayaro. That is where ‘Ducky’ operates his Organic Sea Food Grill, seasoned with authenticity and entrepreneurial verve—doing so, at the moment, well within the constraints of take-away only.

Photo: Ducky’s Ortoire Organic Roast Seafood.

I had intended to write exclusively this week about what Ducky does and how he does it, but many readers will expect some kind of comment on the annual Budget, presented on Monday last.

It may be possible to weave the two subjects together, because what Ducky does illustrates how disconnected our ministries are from facilitating further development of the treasures that we already have on the ground.

The question posed in today’s heading was asked by Ruqayyah Scott, one of three insightful young women who participated in a post-budget television discussion, with Dr Marlene Attz, a development economist and Kevin Ramnarine, a former minister of energy.

Within this discussion, there was consensus that, not for the first time, a government was stating goals and allocating funds for the accomplishment of those goals, without articulating a clear strategy for getting there.

This consensus resonated with me as I have repeatedly written that, without fundamental cultural and system changes, new or innovative socio-economic goals will not be achieved. That was the context of Ruqayyah’s question of what goes beyond the money.

Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert (right) walks to Parliament.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2020)

She was not in favour of ‘pushing a bunch of money into a sector’ without doing anything ‘to change the work culture’. Her youthful colleagues, Cindy Andrews and Shanta Seepersad, expressed similar reservations.

Dr Attz gave her usual admirable practical analyses, in contrast to some commentators who speak in words of ingratiating generalities. Regarding the digitisation of the economy, she focused on the imperative of ‘a commensurate investment in the human capital to realise the proposed outcomes’.

She stated that ‘education has to undergird all these policies’ and described the need to remove ‘the inequalities and inequities as to who has access to what we consider to be mainstream in the use of electronic devices’.

Cindy Andrews stressed that there was a learning curve for many who were not technologically literate ‘outside of social media’.

These comments underline the limitation of pelting money behind the purchase of laptops for the disadvantaged, without proper understanding of and empathy toward existing oppressive socio-economic inequalities.

Photo: A student engages in online learning.

The most important elucidation of this Budget is required from the minister of education—not only because of the digitisation objective and the cruelly unequal access to online learning, which the government says it is hastening to remedy.

As previously indicated in these columns, the education system is lacking in adequate technology and trade education options; and is one from which the students emerge with literacy problems and insufficient life skills. Moreover, a flawed education is being inflicted on many children, whose capacity to progress is impaired by abuse, cruelty and an absence of parental love. 

How is all of this to be remedied as a prelude to moving ahead with the touted objectives?

Similarly, the practice of ‘just pushing a bunch of money’ at the performing arts (the previous lack of accountability for our otherwise brilliant steelband Panorama being infamous) is not a substitute for a cultural development and funding policy.

One Sunday soon, we will look at a proposal to rebrand Carnival for 2021 as a first quarter festival—even as the newly aligned Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts is haltingly trying to find its way.

Photo: A young lady enjoys herself at the 2014 Caribana.

Our tourism product should of course embrace culinary arts, including the lucrative lure of street food. Ortoire Village contains the making of a sea food capital of Trinidad at the heart of which is Ducky’s Grill. 

Another time, we will look at what Ducky does and what beyond money is required to encourage his and similar entrepreneurship.

About Martin Daly

Martin Daly
Martin G Daly SC is a prominent attorney-at-law. He is a former Independent Senator and past president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. He is chairman of the Pat Bishop Foundation and a steelpan music enthusiast.

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