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MSJ: Workers and poor people can’t afford to pay more for transport, withdraw fuel hike

“[…] Minister Colm Imbert said that the $1 increase is so that the burden of adjustment can be equally shared between the Government and people. This is utter rubbish. 

“The real issue is how is the burden of adjustment to be shared between the rich and the poor—between those who have millions and those who don’t have enough money to last to the next pay day…”

The following is a media statement from Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah on the announced rise in fuel prices:

Photo: Minister of Finance Colm Imbert.

The Minister of Finance earlier today announced that the price per litre of super and premium gasoline and diesel will be increased by $1.00 per litre effective 19 April—that is the day after Easter Monday. The MSJ strongly condemns this decision and calls on citizens to take action to protest against this latest attack on the lives of the ordinary man and woman by the Dr Keith Rowley-led PNM Government.

Minister Colm Imbert said that the $1 increase is so that the burden of adjustment can be equally shared between the Government and people. This is utter rubbish. The real issue is how is the burden of adjustment to be shared between the rich and the poor—between those who have millions and those who don’t have enough money to last to the next pay day. 

Rowley and Imbert don’t care about this. They don’t care about how poor people and workers are going to survive.

There is no proper public transport system. This means that hundreds of thousands of people have to travel by maxi and by taxi every day. The increase in the price of fuel will see yet another increase in maxi and taxi fares. 

Photo: A commuter waits for a maxi taxi on the Bus Route in D’Abadie.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Remember, these fares went up during Covid because of the reduced passenger loads, but have not come down since. Workers and poor people just cannot afford to pay more for transport.

Food prices have been going up every Monday morning. And all the information points to things getting worse, not better. With the war in Ukraine, sanctions against Russia, and fertiliser prices going up like crazy, there is no end in sight of rising food prices. 

Last week it was egg prices, before that flour and in between everything else. With diesel prices to go up, the cost of transporting goods, including food, will increase.

And who will pay? Consumers! For the rich and wealthy, this won’t be a problem. But for the vast majority of workers, the unemployed, the mothers who are single parents, this will mean more hell.  

Remember, most people have not had a wage or salary increase since 2013 or 2014. Your dollar then is worth less than 75 cents today.

Image: A satirical take on food prices.

We are now learning just how much of an economic crime the closure of the refinery was. Before Petrotrin was closed, the subsidy on fuels was not being paid by the Government for years. Petrotrin carried that burden. 

In this time of high oil and fuel prices, the country would not have had to find scarce foreign exchange to purchase fuels and, secondly, the subsidy costs could have been managed between Petrotrin and the government for a period to allow citizens to breathe—especially when people are still suffering from the loss of jobs, income and business due to the Covid pandemic.

On top of that, Rowley has now admitted something that we warned about when he decided to shut down Petrotrin. The refinery produced bitumen which is vitally important for road paving. So we have a million potholes all over the country that can’t be properly repaired—thanks to the foolish decision to close the refinery. 

The potholes are on you, Dr Rowley. And to cover this up, he wants to restructure Lake Asphalt. Read more job losses and suffering for workers.

Photo: Petrotrin workers listen to union representatives.
(via OWTU)

In the face of rising food prices, the Rowley Government has done nothing. No plan for agriculture. No effort to produce alternatives to imported food. No effort to join with other Caricom countries to produce more food. 

They are just sitting on their hands and saying it’s out of our control. Well, maybe it’s time for others to be in control in the interest of the ordinary people.

People of Trinidad and Tobago, it’s time to demonstrate that we are not a nation of sheep. We must demonstrate our very strong rejection of these neo-liberal policies that are causing misery for the majority of citizens—workers and the poor. 

This is about fuel and food! It’s about life! The MSJ demands that the Rowley Government withdraws this decision before Easter Monday.

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  1. Ok, that is the short-term solution. When are we going to get to issues such as lack of productivity, the myriad number of instances where the citizens of TNT enjoy the benefits of subsidies when the very products that help to provide these (even in a time when prices are rising we stand to benefit minimally–if at all) we are producing less of.
    As it stands right now, we are running away from some major issues that are confronting us and are not likely to go away, not going to go away anytime soon.
    The question is when are we going to man up and face up to the challenges that lie ahead of us.