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I FEAR FOR THIS COUNTRY by Tony Bedassie

posted 17 Jul 2018, 13:06 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 17 Jul 2018, 13:18 ]
When this PM announced early in his tenure that citizens would be weaned from reliance on the state, he was not joking.

I met a woman, widowed just last year, and her tale was one of such sadness. She had quit her job years ago to become a full time mother to her daughters. Her husband fell on some difficult times just as the last one was entering her teens. He could no longer afford to live where they were and, so, took his life's savings and spent it building up beneath a relative's house. Then he got a job and he was sure that things would turn around. One month after, he died of a sudden and massive heart attack. He was 45.

His wife was left with nothing, no income and a daughter to raise and send to school. Of course there are provisions for such needy cases. The state provides widow's grants and others which are of assistance. The lady decided not to sit and wait but go back out there into the job market in order to care for her family, she is after all qualified. So far no luck! While this was taking place, the state in its ongoing exercise to cut social spending, stopped the grant for her child. She now has to live on $800 per month. Imagine that! I didn't have time to get all the details but I can tell you this...

From the inception of this government, things have changed for the worst. The prices of Gasoline and Diesel have increased astronomically. Value added tax has been reintroduced on basic food items along with a number of others, which were, before, VAT free. Numerous private and state enterprises have been closed down. Job losses are being reported daily. The burden on the taxpayer has increased astronomically.

Your cost of living in now possibly twice what it was prior to 2015. Duties on online shopping and motor vehicles also went up and the list goes on and on. Utility rates are set to be increased; threats to move the retirement age upwards and threats to the NIS benefits have also been made.

I recently learned that the centre at Piparo which deals with drug rehab and the socially displaced is also being closed down. Staff there received letters of termination which took effect at the end of June; a premature move since there was no alternative accommodation or treatment for the persons housed at this facility. Staff has since been given a one month's extension. The disabled, and differently-abled are now all under threat, if they haven't already been affected.

All these measures which have been introduced and which are being considered, continue to place the burdens of structural adjustmen
Thousands of Petrotrin workers face retrenchment
t not only on the backs of the tax payers, but more so, on the most vulnerable within our society.
At the same time, our economy, ever reliant on oil and gas, is about to receive a further shock. Thousands of workers involved within this industry now face uncertainty as Petrotrin, the state's oil company, is now under threat. Talk of Privatisation continues to run like bush fires during the dry season.

Violent crime continues unabated, six shot on the Boardwalk, while valuable state resources were being utilised to find a cell phone. The sea bridge was basically crippled, seriously affecting the economy of the sister isle. How many properties were foreclosed on by the banks simply because their owners could not meet their mortgage payments? They rely upon the domestic tourist in most cases who in turn, rely upon the sea bridge.

We have the Magdalena Grand, a multi room five star hotel in Tobago, on average, 10% filled. Yet they are considering bringing in Sandals Resort, to share in the dwindling amount of tourists visiting the island. Sandals by the way is to be given a huge tax holiday, meaning that the state will not benefit from it. A few minimum wage jobs will be created in exchange for the destruction of a wondrous and beautiful eco-system situated at No Man's Land. Has anyone considered the impact such a development will have on the nearby Buccoo Reef and the beautiful Nylon Pool? I sincerely doubt it.

It's becoming clear to me that something is wrong. Every move being made seems not in the best interest of the country and citizens. We are not a true capitalist economy. Outside of oil and gas, we produce very little. We are an economy of consumers rather than producers. Such an economy must have at its core, significant social interventions. If you can't employ them, you must at least feed them.

Turmoil at the nation's hospitals, lack of beds and basic drugs, yet some are being given preferential treatment - being treated at foreign medical institutions at the taxpayers’ expense. They won't go to our local facilities. They value their lives too much. After all, they are important, you and I are just peons, subjects of a Monarchy rather than a Republic.

How much money was spent on bailing out CL Financial, a private entity which was mismanaged by its private owners and managers, yet we are the ones who were forced to foot that bill? So many reports of insider trading and fraudulent business practices came out of the investigation conducted, yet no one was held accountable.

Now we are hearing about a National Investment Fund being touted as a saviour, I doubt it. This I think is geared at the Power brokers getting their hands on Angostura and some of the more lucrative assets held by CL Financial. How many of us, average citizens can afford any substantial investments in such a fund? Is that then, really for us?

I put no water in my mouth to say that this country is being run in the worst manner I have ever seen. Daily our intelligence continues to be insulted while we sit back and say nothing.

I fear for this country, I truly do.
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