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posted 3 Nov 2016, 00:00 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Nov 2016, 00:05 ]
On 2016-11-03 the National Workers Union (NWU) issued the following statement

It is not surprising that the government has adopted, just like the last government, a policy of wage suppression. It is ironic that the Finance minister let the cat out of the bag at an IMF conference in Port of Spain. 

It has been clear for those who have eyes to see, that the government has adopted the position, like many capitalist governments across the globe, that the working people must be made to pay for the persistent crisis of the global economy that has worsened since the financial collapse of 2008. 

Prime Minister Rowley has on several occasions claimed that government policy has been based on the need to avoid “going to the IMF” One news article (December 22nd 2015) states: “Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley wants to ensure his Government does not have to govern ­under ­International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionalities. Speaking during an interview with I95FM yesterday, Rowley said the Government wanted to avoid “the final option, where decisions are made for you by the lender of last resort. We don't want that at all”.

He told Parliament on April 8 2016: “I will do everything that is required to ensure that this country does not end up in the arms of the IMF again.” On April 10 2016, he is cited as saying “every citizen will have to sacrifice in some way, including becoming more fuel conscious, and this “medicine” was necessary to keep the country out of the “arms” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)...I have given a commitment to this country and I want to give it again to the population. As leader of this Government, as leader of Trinidad and Tobago’s business, I will do everything that is required to ensure that this country does not end up in the arms of the IMF.”

In September 2016 he stated: “priority number one is to ensure that we do not end up with an IMF programme, meaning we have mis-managed our affairs and we end up at the lender of last resort,”

Yet the IMF has been in the country since April, giving instructions to the government, according to the Finance Minister: “on a number of pressing matters” including to “determine an appropriate oil and gas fiscal regime in the current environment of low oil prices and declining production in our oil and gas fields.” The IMF, according to Imbert, is also assisting in disaggregating the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.

Therefore, the government in an effort to keep us away from an IMF standby programme is implementing all the measures the IMF would have imposed. An IMF programme is being implemented even though no loans have been made by the IMF

The wage suppression policy is part of a package of measures that is designed to ensure that the so-called burden of the economic crisis lies squarely on the shoulders of working people and the poor. It follows the extending of VAT on thousands of items, the increases in fuel prices, the job losses in the public sector, the reduction of social welfare programmes and the speeding up of divestment/privatisation of state enterprises.

Other measures propagated by the IMF include:

Fiscal policy discipline, with avoidance of large fiscal deficits relative to GDP;

Redirection of public spending away from subsidies directed toward pro-poor services like primary education, healthcare and infrastructure investment;

Competitive exchange rates (currency depreciation)

Liberalization of inward foreign direct investment;

Whether we are in an IMF standby programme or not, we are being force fed the bitter medicine with more to come.

The National Workers Union urges working people to be aware of the danger to their quality of life being posed by the austerity measures that have already been inflicted upon us and to make it clear to the political and economic elites that they will resist these measures including government’s attempt to suppress wages.

The National Workers Union calls upon unionised workers to insist that the leaders of the trade union movement abandon the policy of sucking up to the very politicians that are leading the attack on the standard of living of working people and the poor.