The Union frequently comments on events or receives news of general interest and these are documented on this page.
News & Comment
Following the coming into being of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in 1976, as testament to the severing of links with our colonial past, the process of replacing one type of capitalist constitutional structure by another, was initiated.Colonialism had already prepared the population, to accept the capitalist form of democracy as the preferred form. In the minds of the population, there could be no other form; this, notwithstanding all the bitter struggles fought in the past, from slavery to 1970. That being settled, the next stage was to begin to dismantle the structures of colonialism. We proclaimed to the world that we were an adult nation capable of standing on our own as a new capitalist country when we assumed republican status.
That meant that we were capable of deciding which brand of capitalism we would choose. As a result, we could not continue to have a colonial public sector structure, as one of the pillars on which a republican constitution must sit designed for a young capitalist state that has come of age.
One cannot, on the one hand, proclaim republican status which requires the establishment of new capitalist democratic structures and on the other continue to maintain the old structures. To continue to do so would be like pretending to be on your own while at the same time continuing to sponge on your parents.
The shift from colonialism to neo-colonialism meant that there also had to be a complete change in the way public goods were provided. Now, remember that the dominant view which drove political and economic thinking at that time and still does today is capitalist in content and form. Following the 1970 revolution and against the backdrop of the anti colonial/anti imperialist struggles, the PNM had the choice of taking the country in the direction of a type of political and economic system that was not capitalist. But that is another story.
You see, the process of colonizing a people is like sowing seeds in the ground. Colonialism was the nursery of capitalism and the seeds became plants and the plants became trees. Therefore, this shift in thinking and seeing ourselves as an adult capitalist nation had to be matched by a corresponding shift; by placing the responsibility for the provision of all public goods in the domain of the private sector.
Because capitalism is the domain of those who own and control capital, it is about “individual freedom” to own and control the heights of the economy and to let a few crumbs fall from the table when the natives revolt. It would appear that it was much easier to think the thought than to realize its material existence.
I say this because we witness the failure of successive governments in their efforts to achieve health sector reform, as well as public sector reform. Residing deep in the sub-consciousness of the public officers and the people are the seeds of past struggles for real democracy and independence.
While moves were being made to dismantle the colonial structures, civil service regulations which protected and still protect public servants from political discrimination appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle in the path of the advocates of public sector reform. The mushrooming of short-term contract employment in the public service, state enterprise and statutory authorities sector must be seen in that context.
By decentralising the system, it does not mean that the people who work in it are aligned to the new thinking and the new management structures which come with it and since the new system cannot function without people, the process of transformation becomes difficult.
Many of us, even today, still do not understand the significance of the revolt of 1970. That revolution was a major stumbling block in the path of the builders of capitalism in this country. It is the result of that revolt which stills haunt the policy makers who, I suspect, are annoyed because the process of dismantling the welfare state has become more difficult; the government being forced to implement the declaration of Chaguaramas which was in response to the call for the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy,
The PNM government of the day was forced into that position because of the failure of its second five year development plan, and because of the sharp increase in the price of oil in the mid 1970s resulting from the activity of OPEC. That is why it saddens me to see that the trade union movement still does not recognize its role as a defence against the state of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago abdicating its responsibility as the provider of public goods and as the initiator of major economic activity for the transformation of the economy.
In that context, the need to build and strengthen the unity in the movement becomes priority and cannot be achieved by joining in the bourgeois politics but by relying on the strength of the unions which can only be built through education, quality representation and militant action.
Donald...wait…wait!!! The darkest hour is NOT before the Trump, or the male strumpet. They say you illegally fondle 'pussy'' but I will show you how there is hope in grope.
Whom you need is an expert in this arena: Someone who has been there, done that and continued to do it while in high office. What do Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, Monica Lewinsky and Jennifer Flowers have in common? Sorry? Whom? That's right - Billary Jefferson Clinton. He is the Teflon don of sexual misconduct charges. He won cases of groping, exposing himself and sexual harassment. Next to him you are an acolyte Donald. He has even screwed Haiti.
How do we get him to switch sides? Somewhere in your seraglio of nannies there must be a nubile, under 25, star-struck intern who would love to see the inside of the White House and also of a 'Vice'/vice president. He will dump Killary at drone speed. On the campaign trail y'all can swap speeches. Besides he cannot lose. Even if Killary wins he is still her husband , at least on paper. She can't really put him out of the house/House.
What if he picks up or picks off where he left off? It would only be his second strike. You need 3 to be convicted for life, beside Cuban cigars are now legal since Obama's visit to Cuba. If Bill uses one to smoke or stroke or poke; if he is caught out again you won't have to divorce him and end up giving him half of Trump Towers in a settlement. Just remember to politely decline any cigars he may offer you. And you can say ''I never groped my Vice President''
The "Black vote?" You got that sewn up to too. Call Bill Cosby, Kobe Bryant and/or R. Kelly; with their histories and back ground in yours and Billary's preferences you all are home free. Beyond that they used to say Billary was the first ''Black President'' - seems you can fool some Black people all the time, after all. Regardless of what H. Rap Brown has been saying about Blacks running for President since 1967/68.
So here is the plan! Donald please don't duck out now. To the music of the Temps Ball of Confusion, our slogan will be "Grope with me and I'll set you free.' We will hand out Cuban cigars on the campaign trail. As the voting day approaches we will drop our bomb tune "Hold the pussy/Hold the pussy/ Hold the pussy cat'' by the inimitable Lord Blakie. That will take care of the naturalised West Indian vote.
What is in it for us down here in the Caribbean? Listen Donald: we want you to appoint former U.N.C politician Clifton De Couteau to your Cabinet as an adviser on hair. You see how your peacock tail flaps all over your head? Not once did Cliff's toupee ever shift in 5 years in Parliament. Just do not ask him to speak in public…ever. Your own Senate will impeach your ass overnight.
And when you open a Trump Towers in Trinidad, save a room for the JTUM to have a Judas supper before the next elections.
Hold the pussy!
Dead bodies are all around us; they come by land and sea. The man who drowned himself in a reservoir of oil tells a poignant story of this nation. The slow draining of the tank in order to salvage his remains provides profound imagery. Our women are shot, chopped, maimed, and killed, some running for their lives from men they love.
Sadly there is no safe hiding space, no protection, and no peace. For others kidnapped and trafficked, clues run cold. Over many years, at home and in the care of the state, our children have been exploited and abused in the worst ways. Their appointed defenders through delay tactics make money from their misfortune.
In our Parliament those s/elected to serve, they insult and demean us and each other, as they fight over the spoils of office. Caught up in promoting their self interest, hardly a thought is spared for the impact of their ugly behaviour on the national psyche. Even less concern is shown for the poor example they are exhibiting to our young people. The words are unkind, crude, disparaging, and brutal. The house provides a good training ground for potential bullies. To hide their ineptitude, they seize every opportunity to deviate from treating with the real problems as they affect people.
Hence the over the top responses to a random act of kindness exhibited by a young woman towards a citizen in need of assistance. As I commend Lillyann Williams for the care she gave so generously, I watch politicians and others as they suck the lifeblood out of her gesture of love and support. To them the beneficiary of her goodness, a man who uses a wheelchair is not even worthy of a dignified mention. Their lack of concern for persons with disabilities is manifest. One can only hope that after the glitter clears, meaningful work will be done to smooth the obstacle course that our society presents to persons who are disabled.
Just imagine that people were in awe when two students held a blind man as he crossed the street; then consider what it says about us. I think about Choc’late Allen the then 13 year old child activist who, in 2007, sought to bring awareness to pressing social issues which plagued the nation. The response then was much the same as today. Dignitaries including Prime Minister, Priest, Pundit and Public, all and sundry flocked to her. She was burdened with the tribulations and demands of grown men and women with little or no concern for her felt needs. They were too blinded then to recognize that in Trinidad and Tobago we live in a Choc’late factory, just as they are unaware now even as we stand in a field of Lillys.
It seems that Lilly’s grand gesture was a defining moment for many. I am sure that it would have been used for introspection and to remind us of our humanity and responsibility for each other’s well being. Such a moment must never be used as an opportunity to isolate or cancel out others. We must have failed at many levels when our response to a good deed is to question whether there are any other parents raising children who care. Where do our politicians live? Who do they talk to or spend time with? How do they not know young people who are kind and giving or those who keep on giving in the face of exceptional challenges?
As governments come and go they show themselves to be the enemies of the people. They fail to keep their promises; they talk down to us and handle simple matters in clumsy ways. Blaming and shaming as they go, they spew venom with ease and exhibit offensive and unkind behaviours towards us. At the same time they co-opt the overt kindness of one young person to prop up a nation.
How do politicians demonstrate and nurture compassion and caring when their decisions and pronouncements lack empathy and gratify their personal well being and that of their friends, family, and financial benefactors. The concept of learnt behaviour seems lost on them.
As a society our concern for human well being ceded precedence to the financial bottom line. Ours is not a war on poverty but rather a war against the poor. We do not fight for our children and young people as much as we fight with them. The eaves of our buildings have been sacrificed and bus stop benches outfitted to deter street dwellers. A proper plan to take care of them requires not only consciousness but kindness.
Our state owned bank was one of, if not the first, to redesign its atrium (for homeless discomfort) retrofitted with jagged rocks and sharp metal prongs. The notion of caring and kindness seems absent from our systems of delivery for social services, health care , education, justice, child care, transport and everything in between. These are all areas of adult franchise.
We are entitled to live in a society where we care about each other and for all our citizens; and we have the ability to create it. We are entitled to a government that sees the population as a partner rather than a burden and that too we can make happen. We cannot continue to settle for governance that is arrogant and petty and the only good they see is in the mirror.
This country is ours and perhaps the greatest act of kindness we can give ourselves is to ensure that as we grow as a nation our best interests are served. One way or the other Parliamentarians as servants of the people must be compelled by us to do what is right and just. In doing so we must ask hard questions of ourselves and we must answer them honestly. Perhaps we can begin by asking what are we afraid of and why are we so afraid to take action. After all Lilly did.
These scholarship winners real bright! They are the brightest people in the country. I study so damn hard and I pray hard too but I did not win any scholarship. In fact I barely scraped a passing grade. So I listening real good to what they say. And they all say "Thank God."
So I strongly advise all students to concentrate on prayer. I, foolishly, thought that I should have been studying as much as I could. But based on what these brightest people are saying, I should have been concentrating on prostrating and beseeching God instead of 'beating books' (i.e. studying real hard).
Do not worry that your classmates will look at you strange when you kneeling and clasping beads while they foolishly sit and turn pages. God will answer YOUR prayers. Do not mind them and their prayers. Your God loves YOU. He loves them too, but He loves YOU more. Ha! They watching you with your head always in your books, thinking you are studying. What they do not know is that is pray you praying. And God is listening to YOU! He has chosen YOU, (as wealthy as your family already is), to win that scholarship.
The statistics clearly support my hypothesis too. The vast majority of the scholarships are awarded (by God, not government!) to religious schools. These schools are more devoted to their religion. At least they say so. And I believe them because they so bright. So, I recommend that all schools become religious schools so as to even out the praying field. I cannot see why government secondary school students should not be given equal opportunity to be awarded scholarships (by God) just because they not as bright. Are we not all equal in the sight of God? God sees all of us as equally bright.
But I have a problem - which God? In the seventies, God favoured Roman Catholics, but now he is swinging in favour of the Hindus. Is this a trend that will continue? Should parents now say pujas instead of mass? Maybe both. We are cosmopolitan after all. Start early. I recommend giving children a Hindu first name and a Christian middle name. Get the pundits and priests to bless them (because God favours them too). Forget those extra lessons, go and praise God instead. You know how endearing four extra hours of worship will be. And do not forget that puja and mass just before exams! God loves that! But wait! I not so sure about the mass...I think that God sticking to his guns. He prefers Presbyterian girls to Roman Catholic boys. He is not listening to the priests so much anymore.
My next observation was made by listening to government ministers. I used to think that they were real lying, greedy, deceitful, conceited, conniving, thieving, corrupt people. But I may be wrong. After all, they are 'Dr. The Honourable So & So (#%*! & #%*!). So now I have to believe them. And they always telling the nation to pray…except for that blaspheming Minister of Education. I heard him saying that it is the government who is giving scholarships. Did he win a scholarship? Why is he not listening to these bright scholarship winners? Blasphemer!
And I do not understand why God giving all these science students scholarships. Why? They are the first ones to turn atheists. The ingrates! I recommend that we rid ourselves of Communication Studies and Caribbean Studies and replace them with Theology. Maybe then God will listen to everyone's prayers and all students will win scholarships. Imagine that! Then they can all say, "We thank God for making the government increase taxes to pay for our scholarships."
Not one of these bright ingrates ever thank me (taxpayer) yet.
There is a popular belief that a certain sector of this society brings nothing to the table and is comfortable; depending on governmental handouts for their very survival. This has been said over and over for such a long period of time that people, in and out of that grouping, believe it to be true.
The people who have built this country from the ground to the towers are the ones being accused of liking too much hand outs and freeness, and are always gimme gimme. That may sound good and justifying to those ignorant of our historical development and those enjoying mischief. The people referred to did not invent the “dependency syndrome” system, they inherited it. Although they have not been able to benefit in any positive way, they are always made to appear as if they lack ambition, are lazy, uncreative and unproductive and are the ones who look to the government for everything. What utter rubbish!
May I remind you that after these lands were stolen from its rightful owners, the first set of Europeans invited to populate and develop these lands were given large parcels, slaves, money and soft loans as they went along. This continues to be the trend to this day. Every investor coming to this country looks to the government for handouts. Check out the details of the latest Sandals hotel deal! Free land, cheap labor and years of tax breaks! Nothing has changed.
What has become of the ex slaves? What am I speaking about you ask: those who worked for years without pay to build this country and still working hard with nothing to pass on to their off spring. We who built the Oil industry and the Sugar industry and the Seaports and the Airports and the Roads and Bridges, the Railways; we who cut down the forests and planted the sugar cane. You name it we built it and were denied the opportunity for bank loans, because the system was and still is, stacked against us.
Chief Servant Tubal Uriah Buzz Butler, Pee Gee George Weekes, Bro. Makandal Daaga, and many others, - may their souls find peace amongst the ancestors - placed their lives on the line in the struggle for change. Yet they are still being denied their recognition as productive and constructive contributors who built this country from ground zero. Robbed of the land and money and mules (in the US) promised as part payment for our contributions. We are still squatters on the land our foreparents worked through blood, sweat and tears.
Those who got some lands were robbed and are still being robbed of them. Check out the lands at Chaguaramas and the robbery that is still taking place, unabated, as we speak. Even the Steelband movement was robbed of lands at Williams Bay, given to them by the late Dr. Eric Williams: lands for which they were paying water rates up to a few years ago.
Who can we turn to, for the protection of our interest? Not the politicians! Deception is the order of the day. We are being referred to as the working poor, who have to listen to the same mantra chanted by the politicians year after year: “There is a shortfall this year, but things are looking promising down the road. All you have to do is put your shoulders to the wheel and work harder.”
Yet, those dishonest politicians who cream the fat off the top continue to live the good life with their friends and families, making a mockery of the democracy and we keep asking why crime keeps skyrocketing out of control.
“You can no longer rely on the government to provide the basics”, is an added line to the mantra. WHAT? The same people we voted into office? Those who came begging for the job, saying that they can make it better for us? If we can’t turn to them, then who? Rudder knew what he was saying when he sang “this is not a fete in here, this is madness.”
They pushing this thing too far. But, politicians are master gamblers. They take chances and get through every time. Slowly, the people are coming to terms with what’s going on and wondering, when will be our time? When will we be able to enjoy a brighter day? The cost of goods and services continue to rise, and at no time within the last fifty years was there a season of high productivity, so prices could be frozen or reduced to ease the burden of the working poor.
The working poor are always accused of not producing enough and need to improve on their performance for things to get better. When will this betterment come? As far back as I could recall, is one set of people planting the corn, and another set raiding the barn. It is said that these people have a carnival mentality, but even carnival brings significant revenue to the country with no real benefits to the producers.
The working poor operate as an abused wife who is made to believe that she is at fault, and always trying to improve to no end. And the politicians, who are the abusers, continue to put them through the guilt trip, by accusing them of not giving all their blood. This mindset is changing and the abused are coming to their senses, deciding enough is enough. We will take no more.
Given the kind of privileges the members of Parliament enjoy, they should all be receiving minimum wages. If their nature is not of service to mankind, they should find another job. Until then, the saga continues. But, politicians must bear in mind that pigmy want his manhood money. He wants his place in the sun and no amount of fancy speech and robber talk will suffice. They are answerable to no one for their rape of our treasury and their many acts of corruption. But, as the old people would say, long rope for maga dog! We must be given land, as everyone else, for peace to reign in this country. The pledge that was made after the abolition of shackle slavery must be fulfilled.
Thursday before the budget, while avoiding the heavy, abrupt rains in downtown Port of Spain (no, not Hurricane Matthew rains. God is a Trini and would not give us a hurricane and the Budget so closely. Colm Imbert and a hurricane in one week? We go dead!), I
Yes our media department had covered the event but what many folks do not realise is that when you are covering an event you cannot be a spectator or listener. You are busy setting up a shot. Sometimes friends ask after a Panorama "How this or that band sound?" You cannot give an answer. In much the same way one sees Richard Thompson or Michelle Ahye cross the line through one's lens. West Indian cricket today? You could stay home and write the story while looking at "Bazoodee" and still get the scores right.
Next door in the main atrium on the first floor is an exhibition on the PNM’s 50th anniversary. The displays are proximate. Please note that I did not say 'in close proximity' or that they were almost 'joined together'. To me proximity infers 'closeness' as joined suggests 'together/togetherness'. Guess I will never work as a morning talk show host. People would call the station and say that I was/am old and forgetful, leaving out redundancies. MATT might not even come near me.
I could not tell when the PNM exhibition was launched or for how long it will run? 50 years? Oh gawd man! We were not invited although ''some of my best friends are P.N.M''. (Remember that old adage about white folk speaking of 'Negroes'?)
The Cuban and Venezuelan delegations graciously invite us to events as do the kind staff at NALIS. We even get invitations from the Ministry of Labour and the Industrial Court. Conditions apply though in the case of the latter/s. ''Could you send us a photo please?" We do not mind since the staff are overwhelmingly courteous and good looking, leaving much of the JTUM far behind in both respects…by LEAPs and bounds.
I saw this letter on display: "Someone recently lamented the fact that the government hadn't the money to satisfy our educational needs. This is just a truth half spoken. The other truth is that Government have got to find the money. We simply cannot afford not to find it.''
The document is a draft of a speech typed and presented to the then Minister of Education, Mr. John Donaldson senior, who died soon after in a vehicular accident on the Mc Bean stretch. There are corrections in pen. Mr. Donaldson was speaking at the formal opening of the Moravian school, Gloster Lodge Road, Tuesday 12th November 1957.
Sat's father- in-law. Bhadase Sagan Maraj, as leader of the Maha Sabha, would have been making similar efforts on behalf of the Hindu community, no doubt, and not thinking of 'panty lines'. Barbara B. was probably learning to jump rope and wrap heads. Comrades in the labour movement had already been infected by the virus of communism.
Hell, in those days we walked to school and took Phensic for everything from toothache to running nose. Panadol had not been invented yet and George Weekes and Joe Young would ride the bus to San Fernando and plot against John Rojas. Those were the days of voluminous 'can-cans' and 'crinolines' and cotton 'bloomers' so nobody was going to see much anyway. No matter how much or hard they looked.
Like you, I thought that this Minister, whose youthful looking photo appears in the exhibition, would not have lasted a day in the present Cabinet espousing such heresy. It is important to note, dear reader, that there were many progressive nationalist minded people in the PNM leadership then who sought to make everyday life better in educational and employment spheres. That was the era when Mr. Carlton Comma developed library services, John Donaldson Senior developed education and Isabel Teshea expanded housing..
A few months ago a veteran political activist told us it was primarily Ms. Teshea who moved the ordinary working folk 'from latrines to indoor plumbing'. Please please, let us focus: What you mean "Thank God her first name was Isabel and not Marlene or Jearlean?"
I may have missed them but I did not see much of the leading PNM women featured, though the Women's League, or "Fat Ass Brigade'' as journalist Chokolingo called them, was a powerful arm of the organisation. Not surprisingly, there was little of C.L.R. James. I saw 2 books by him re PNM but no prominent photos. To speak of PNM in those days and overlook the contributions of Nello is akin to leaving out VIv Richards’s or Gordon Greenidge's contributions to West Indian cricket between 1975 and 1990.
But James always knew and said his legacy was not going to rest upon the PNM. In his book, "PNM go forward'' he foresaw/forewarned where petty bourgeoisie politics would take the PNM and divorce it from the people.
There is a collection of speeches or body of work outlining the history of the organisation's history in nation building. To illustrate: Butler's legacy is the development and consolidation of organised labour. Bhadase Sagan Maraj's was the efforts towards upliftment of the Hindu community. Audrey Jeffers is associated with social work for the benefit of the under-privileged. To speak of Frank Worrell is to speak of the link between West Indian nationalism and cricket. NJAC and the soldiers who mutinied under Raffique Shah's and Rex La Salle's leadership saved us from becoming a banana military republic
History seems to suggest that the People's National Movement made far too much effort to put time back in a bottle and hold the
progressive forces back as it settled into a neo-colonial mode. Missing also were heroic portraits of Kamaluddin Mohammed, Dr. Winston Mahabir and Errol Mahabir. These were East Indians who were front line leaders in the PNM, a predominantly African led and based organisation..'Charch' as Kamal was called was seen as Eric Williams's alter everything.
Even Eric Williams's legendary hearing aid was on display. Is it working? Don't know. It is grey and about the size of a half pack of cigarettes. There are 4 briefcases, 2 belonging to Williams and one each to Donaldson and George Chambers. There is also a pair of Patrick Manning's glasses. I could not tell the
significance of this item. False teeth? Nope, sorry or if they are/were displayed I missed them as I did photos of Johnny O'Halloran or any of his gamecocks
But the exhibition is still open and as with any exhibition one cannot see all in one day, even one as small as this which is supposed to represent 50 years of existence. Maybe it is because of belt tightening and the recession?
It is not often that the government, the private sector, and the University of the West Indies (UWI) speak in unison against the labor movement and the wider working class. Normally, these three entities take diametrically opposite positions on issues affecting the labor movement, the working class and the working poor.
However, these are not normal times. We are living in the era of neo-liberal globalization when “everything is for sale,” when the state has become the auctioneer for the assets that belong to the people; when the private sector seeks to purchase state assets at “giveaway prices,” and when the education system promotes the philosophy that it has to teach students for the job market rather than becoming critical thinkers.
Therefore, when the Prime Minister opined that the citizens should not depend on the government, he is promoting the IMF’s philosophy that government should not regulate the economy to benefit the masses but regulate it to benefit the 1%.
Moreover, when Nigel Baptiste calls for the complete removal of government subsidies and transfer payments that benefit the masses, he has become the voice for the philosophy of “Thatcherism” that calls for the total dismantling of the “Welfare state” and the promotion of the unfettered free market.
Furthermore, when Dr. Daren Conrad attacks the trade union movement and doubles down on the workers’ lack of productivity, he has become the standard bearer for the doctrine of the USA right to work states, payment of minimum wages, and removal of severance pay and all related benefits.
All in all, these gentlemen subscribe to the Washington Consensus, a set of economic policy prescriptions backed by the IMF, and the World Bank. These policy recommendations include:
· Fiscal policy discipline, with avoidance of large fiscal deficits relative to GDP;
· Redirection of public spending away from subsidies ("especially indiscriminate subsidies") directed toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services like primary education, healthcare and infrastructure investment;
· Tax reform, broadening the tax base and adopting moderate marginal tax rates;
· Interest rates that are market determined and positive (but moderate) in real terms;
· Competitive exchange rates;
· Trade liberalization: liberalization of imports, with particular emphasis on elimination of quantitative restrictions (licensing, etc.) any trade protection to be provided by low and relatively uniform tariffs;
· Liberalization of inward foreign direct investment;
· Privatization of state enterprises;
· Deregulation: abolition of regulations that impede market entry or restrict competition, except for those justified on safety, environmental and consumer protection grounds, and prudential oversight of financial institutions;
· Legal security for property rights.
Therefore, my friends don’t holler, cuss, fuss, and get your blood pressure up for the positions these men have advanced and with whom the IMF must be well pleased. Instead, educate yourself on the issues and understand that the 1% and their allies in government, the private sector, and the educational system are working in tandem to pauperize the masses.
Dear Mr. Editor
Can anyone tell me where have all the “Comrades” gone? Take for example Vincent Cabrera, president of the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union who was marching up and down, and threatening the last Government because they sold 20% of the FCB shares. He even condemned media journalist Anthony Wilson for supporting the sale of the FCB shares.
Today the Government proposes to sell 20% more of the FCB shares and the silence from the Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) is deafening. I am sure that “there must be more in the mortar than the pestle”.
How could Cabrera say that it was not a budget that really came down on the people when they now have to pay 7% online tax for buying clothes and food stuff that are cheaper? On top of that we now have to pay 15% increase in diesel and property tax. Why was he looking “at the Minister’s position in the context of the financial gap” and not ours. We are the ones who will have to pay the increase in water and electricity rates because Imbert complained about their “large deficits”. When these rates go up there will no longer be any light bill below $300.00 dollars.
Why should we be called upon to pay more money while big business will now get “50% tax relief” to provide public infrastructure? What on earth was Cabrera thinking about? It could only be payback time.
Recession: So 20 pieces of silver not 30! After all, the Government raked in $7b from our pockets in VAT for 2016. Now they propose to take $7.8b in vat from us. That is an extra $800m that we have to pay.
Thanks Cabrera/JTUM thanks! According to Imbert the: “JTUM played a key role in the deliberations”. Now for your reward!
“…economics has become either a series of theoretical mathematical equations, or a practical study of how some people push others around.”
"The choice exercised by the government is conditioned by their class perspective and the interests of the financiers of their political campaigns. The so-called guardians of the nation’s interests are really only interested in their own corporate well being."
The annual sound and fury accompanying the reading of the budget in parliament reveals clearly the class antagonisms which lie at the heart of capitalist society. All the invocations of “putting country before self”, sacrificing in the “national interest” and “sharing the burden equitably”, on closer examination, reveal themselves to be nothing but fig leaves used by the economic and political elites to cover up the nakedness of their pursuit of economic and political advantage at the expense of working people and the poor
There is a guy called Nigel Baptiste. He is the CEO of Republic Bank. In 2011-2012 according to HRC Associates, CEO’s in the banking sector received the highest compensation in the country with an average of $2,365,567 per year.
This CEO, who lives off the fat extracted from depositors and borrowers and who, every Monday morning, finds new ways to make you pay all kinds of fantastic bank charges for the use of your money is bold face enough to make the following statement (as quoted in Sunday Express of October 2nd 2016): “Soft targets are once again in focus such as the wealthy…whereas areas requiring tough decisions such as the complete removal of the subsidy on diesel and further cuts to many of the welfare programmes remain out of scope.” Take a deep breath and read it again! This modern day Shylock insists that he must get his pound of flesh and leave us with just skin and bones.
This soft target (the wealthy) has been rolling in paisa for decades by avoiding and evading tax. Minister Imbert claims that the 30% tax rate on incremental income over $1 million should bring in an additional $560 million in additional revenue, yet estimates of uncollected taxes vary between $6 and $11 billion per year!
Before the marginal tax increase, there was widespread tax evasion, what in heaven’s name would make one believe that with the tax increase evasion would not increase. Those who shout the loudest about love of country and protecting the national interest are really concerned with maintaining their wealth and their social power. Their patriotism in Samuel Johnson’s famous words “is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
This spokesperson of the new bourgeoisie is unhappy that the entire fuel subsidy has not yet been removed and that more cuts have not been made to social programmes. Remember GATE has already been gutted and Imbert has stated: “we are committed to restoring and returning all major social programmes, including URP and CEPEP to their original policy moorings, taking into consideration new funding constraints.” This is gibberish for saying the governmental gilpin is going to be slashing social programmes left, right and centre. There are more than 11,000 workers in CEPEP and countless thousands more in URP. CDAP is in a chaotic state.
One economist estimated that in 2014 there were more than 190,000 persons employed in that segment of the labour market classified as community, social and personal (CSP). Of that figure another economist calculated ‘around 100,000 were being absorbed, not only by programmes like URP, CEPEP and the like, but On the Job Training (OJT) and other professional programmes as well. “I would have to say about 20 per cent of the employment in this country is generated by those programmes, between 16-20 per cent and I am sure that is an understatement.” ‘
The $2 million dollar man is quite upset that the government has not (yet) thrown these tens of thousands on the breadline, but then, if Trinidad bu’n dong, he certainly won’t be living in the ashes. Although programmes like Civilian Conservation Corps have had their allocation cut by half, Baptiste is calling for “further cuts.”
ECCE’s allocation has been slashed from $26million to $15 million, School feeding from $250m to $150m, YTEPP from $111m to $45m. We can go on and on, but the point has been made. Despite the heavy cuts the government has already made, it doesn’t seem to be enough for this leading bankster. His view is that the poor born to ketch dey nennen, so let dem ketch dey nennen!
There is another character called Dr. Daren Conrad, who is described as being an economics lecturer at UWI. Here is a person whose income is derived from the surplus value produced by the labour of working people. Hear what he says: “The Government made no effort to repeal transfers and subsidies on several make-work programmes which should be significantly reduced...”
This neemakharam goes on to say: “At the tertiary level, I think the Government should have gone even further in scaling back expenditure.” He thinks that GATE should have been even more gutted that it has already been as if to say - I done get my education, all yuh to ketch!
This ivory tower intellectual, who doesn’t seem to have a clue about the real world, makes the astonishing recommendation: “As a matter of fiscal prudence I think the Government should put a freeze on all union negotiations. The Government finds itself in a position where it is continuously making overtures to unions and backpay arrangements and not getting any commensurate increases in productivity associated with these negotiations and payments. Our country currently ranks very low in terms of global competitiveness and much of this can be attributed to poor worker productivity tied to union agreements.”
So, the gospel according to Conrad is that government should ignore the industrial relations laws, weak as they are, that have been put on the books due to decades of hard and often bloody struggles by working people and their unions; tell the unions to take a hike and impose upon organised workers whatever Conrad and his pardners deem to be in the interest of...what? International competitiveness?
Conrad seems to believe that if workers are robbed of the wages that they have already worked for our international competitiveness would be improved. What is this international competitiveness he is talking about? This may be defined as “a measure of the relative cost of goods/services from a country. Countries which can produce the same quality of goods at a lower cost are said to be more competitive.”
Trinidad and Tobago mainly exports natural gas, oil and petrochemicals. The Manufacturers’ Association claims “Non-energy exports account for approximately 15 percent of total exports. Between January and September 2015, total exports of locally manufactured goods declined by 30.7 percent to TT$5,016.7 million, from $7,241.5 million in the corresponding period for the previous year. Exports to CARICOM countries accelerated by 30.5 percent to $1,255.5 million; however, this was not enough to offset the steep decline in exports to Non-CARICOM territories. Manufacturing exports to Non-CARICOM countries declined by 40.1 percent to $3,761.2 million in this review period, as economic activity was subdued in major export markets like the United States of America”.
Dr. Conrad claims that much of our low rank in “global competitiveness” stems from “poor worker productivity tied to union agreements.” He does not explain how union agreements foster low productivity and how abandoning the system of collective bargaining is going to raise productivity. More than 80% of our workforce toil and slave without the benefit of collective bargaining.
“These workers are paid scandalously low wages; are denied basic facilities to carry out their jobs (pregnant women standing on their feet for 8 hours); are denied legal entitlements according to the minimum wages orders; are subject to sexual harassment, bullying and discriminatory practices; are subject to unhealthy and dangerous working conditions; have very little job security (contract, casual, temporary); have their NIS contributions stolen by the employers and many of them are denied the minimal redress available in the industrial relations system because they are not considered workers according to the Industrial Relations Act.
In sum: the vast majority of the labour force operates in a master-servant relationship with their employers. Yet these workers are expected to display a high work ethic, to bow, scrape, grin and say: yes Massa, we will not take sick leave; we will work overtime and public holidays at straight time; you can feel me up anytime you want, after all you are the boss; we don’t mind having to hustle transport after leaving your fast food job after ten in the night, we does pray and the Lord will protect us against bandits and raper men. Work ethic? Gimme a break!” (THE PRODUCTIVITY SCAM by Gerry Kangalee)
So even if Conrad’s preposterous claim about union agreements fostering low productivity was true how would the abandonment of collective bargaining raise productivity in the non-unionised sector?
Dr. Conrad seems to believe that productivity (output per unit of labour) is dependent on workers’ attitudes Workers have no control over the configuration of production; what technology is used, how much units of output are to be produced, what is the state of the market and most important of all what is the optimal level of profit. It is the depth of dotishness to think that exhorting workers to improve their “work ethic” or punishing unionised workers by abandoning collective bargaining is going to increase productivity and raise the level of “international competitiveness.”
Workers need to understand that their survival does not depend upon striking bargains with parasites who live off the fruits of their labour, but with organising themselves, by all means possible, to defend the little turf they have carved out for themselves by relying upon their power over production and the power of their numbers.
When it seemed that the wait would be endless, Allan said, “My client Lieutenant Lassalle is excellent at managing violence.” These were the opening remarks of Allan at the Commonwealth Court Martial at the Port of Spain town hall in October 1970.
Here was Senior Counsel Allan Alexander aligning himself with the visions and raison d'être of the mutiny at the Teteron Barracks on April 21st 1970. “Mih Lud,” with that Trini twist to it, was Allan addressing Judge Advocate Mills-Odoi’s Colonial aping, and also addressing those uptight third-world army officers, all still holding grimly to their Colonial strings, as that was where they sought approval.
Then his barrister’s wig was tilted, like a sailor’s cap, yet here he was carrying all the dignity and gravitas of a master barrister. The wig and its hallowed, upright position in the Colonial mind-set of success, was in no way how Allan wore it. The tilt of that wig on his head was a clear statement: “This is not part of my identity”. It was also a clear statement of a Caribbean man, with that provocative rebelliousness in the way it sat on his head.
Allan was a lawyer who knew all his rules and regulations and the protocols of the courtroom. He had done his homework, and was a doyen at what he did, and now on the Colonial stage of this Court Martial he played his Mas with elegance, with honour, offering to all of us the inspiration and guidance that we can master the ways of the Colonial mindset and transform it into our own way of being: a Caribbean people.
He had accomplished the transformation that Frantz Fanon pointed to in his writings from the Colonial clone, which he had kicked into the bin of history, to being his own Caribbean man.
He was saying it loud and clear: “Look Mih, ah here, Mih Lud” R.I.P Allan, you showed a glorious path for us all to emulate!