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IT GOOD FOR WE! by Ken Howell

posted 14 Apr 2016, 06:01 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 14 Apr 2016, 06:13 ]
I am not aware of anyone who succeeded in taming a Crab or a Scorpion. These creatures do not know anything about gratitude or what it means to be ungrateful. The Minister of Health, Mr. Terrence Deyalsingh, for the second time, has demonstrated Crab and Scorpion behaviour.

In an article in the Sunday Guardian of April 10, 2016, at page A3 entitled: “Grow up, take responsibility” He was quoted as saying, that “It is time that nationals grow up and take responsibility for T&T” He went on, later down in the article to say: “We have grown up in T&T believing that everything is free but at the end of the day somebody has to pay for the subsidised water rates, subsidised healthcare.”

Well Mr. Minister, that somebody is the tax payer whose taxes pay for these services which the government is responsible for collecting. Therefore, it does not mean because they are called subsidies such facilities are free. Subsidies are instruments which governments use to pass on some of the profits earned from the rents collected from the oil companies and state owned companies, such as Petrotrin, the National Gas Company, Phoenix Park, First Citizens Bank and so on.

Therefore, it is not difficult for a child to understand that if the government is not earning the same level of income as was the case when the price of oil was at $100.00 per barrel, it would not be able to sustain the same level of spending. So that to tell us that we want everything free is insulting!

What you are now telling those same tax payers is that now that you have voted me and my fellow members of the government into office we are not there to serve the interest of the broad masses, who are tax payers, but just those of the wealthy. He is forgetting that it is the same tax payers who voted his government into office and are responsible for paying his salary. These tax payers comprise the middle and working class also. So that when he speaks, he must be conscious of this fact at all times.

Although I am tempted to harbour the view, that in his anxiety to impress the Prime Minister he is prepared to defend the cause of his government in the face of the probability that one false move could lead to social and political crisis, I am not doubting that the Minister believes that he is doing the right thing and that was the right thing to say.

We all grew up hearing those statements on many occasions in the past. But we never knew that when such statements were made, it represented a jumping off point for the state to relinquish its responsibility to the broad masses of the poor working class people. The question that we must ask is why is the Minister behaving in that way at this time?

Is it because, the situation which presents itself is one in which, the government's analysis of the thinking of the labour movement is that the leaders are in its corner on the question of privatization, divestment, and adjustment? And if it is able to stave off labour unrest by influencing the private sector into a position where it agrees to create some employment, for which it will receive additional incentives, it will be able to pull off the trick on the people.

Economic crises always present opportunities in capitalist democracies for the state to rob the middle and working class by transferring financial and other asset resources to the wealthy. What we are witnessing is that the government has already decided to do just that. The measures announced in the mid-year budget review represent the measures which will put flesh on the adjustment policies which the budget has announced.

What it meant is that the revenue which the government had passed on to the consumer in the form of subsidies is being reduced by the partial reduction of the expenditure in healthcare, education (Gate), the increase in the price of super gasoline and diesel and the additional taxes imposed on smokers, drug addicts, alcoholics, Carib and puncheon drinkers and those of us who like to shop on the internet. So that in addition to the food prices, which the consumer is already facing as a result of the removal of the zero ratings on a number of food items, and the restoration of VAT of 12.5 per cent on those items, we now have to add to food prices the additional cost of transportation, which will lead to inflation. But that is not all.

There is the question of the foreign exchange shortage, which the government intends to resolve by creating a facility for the private sector to borrow from the Export Import Bank - which is a Bank owned by the state – in US denominated dollars, with the state standing security. I used that phrase, because it is easy to understand. If we failed to realise what that meant, well, it really represents another classic method by which tax payers’ money is transferred to the private sector. What we must demand from the government is for them to tell us what the conditionalities are which it will attach to the disbursement of these loans.

How is it going to ensure that those who use the facility will not default on their loan payments or how is it going to ensure that money laundering will not find its way into the Bank. If it happened in the Vatican Bank, which was protected by the hand of God, how are they going to guarantee that the Exim Bank will escape a similar fate? Part of the problem with our society, is that we admire the smartman. As a result, we are all hooked on this smartman mentality, especially if elements of our clan are in government. In the instant case, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance seem to be in contention for that designation. This attitude seems to have embedded itself in the genes of some members of the society, especially, when it comes down to the politics that we practice.

Because of this we are so blinded by our racism that we fail to see that there is no difference in the philosophy of the Peoples Partnership government and that of the Peoples National Movement. They both believe that the capitalist system provides opportunities for the economic development of the country. What amazes me is how could this PNM government be still holding on to the belief that privatization is the way to go in the face of all the available evidence of the financial disasters of 2008, when the collapse of the international financial system occurred, and the evidence of the blatant criminal action committed by the financial executives of Morgan Stanley, H.S.B.C, Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac went unpunished.

Are they not aware of the damage which is being done by those who are the beneficiaries of this corrupt system? What do they think
the invasion of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, the war in Syria, the sanctions against Iran and Russia are all about? Don't they understand, that it is a strategy whereby disasters of unimaginable magnitude are created which could eventually lead to the re-division of the countries of the middle east, thereby creating the opportunity for the United States of America to do exactly what the British did when they were the leading imperial power in the world.

What this government should learn from the overwhelming evidence before it, is that it should resist any attempts to implement the neo-liberal policies which the NAR government led by Prime Minister Arthur Napoleon Raymond Robinson had given the undertaking to implement, in accordance with the conditionality which the International Monetary Fund had imposed on this country in the 1980s.

What is required at this time is not privatization, but the implementation of more efficient management systems in the public and state owned sectors of the economy; ensuring transparency in the employment processes by resisting the temptation to submit to the practice of nepotism and patronage; which has been the legacy of the PNM and which became the inheritance of the PP government.

Do not believe that you can fool all of the people by imposing a partial or phased-in divestment programme, through the use of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) mechanism. We have already learnt that the offering of shares to employees of state entities such as First Citizens Bank and Phoenix Park is really a screen behind which it is intended to hide in order to blunt any attack from the labour movement. We also know that when the time is right, elements from the private sector, who are themselves shareholders in these entities, will offer these employees a price for their shares which they cannot refuse. In so doing the ownership of these profitable state entities will pass to the private sector.

Did anyone notice that hardly anything was said about agriculture in this mid-year Budget review? It would seem that the government expects that by making CEPEP employees available to owners of Estates in the agriculture sector, this will suddenly cause an upsurge in activity in that sector. What is the government planning to do about access roads which collapsed as a result of the neglect which was visited on that sector over the years? What are the kinds of incentives it is prepared to introduce, in order to repair the damage done to the agriculture sector? What steps has it decided to take to cause our Scientists at the University of the West Indies (UWI) to set about creating our own seed bank, consistent with our intellectual property laws, thereby protecting plant species peculiar to our region only?

While planting a kitchen garden is to be encouraged, agriculture is not only about short crops. It is also about restoring the confidence of that sector in its ability to earn foreign exchange through the export of cocoa, coffee and bananas, and other products as it once used to do and by also ensuring that the country can reduce its food import bill by creating downstream industries, which can convert the primary products into the type of finished products for our use and also for export.

That must be the medium to long term strategy of any government when it comes to how it intends to treat with the agriculture sector. The government must also take a stand and tell the wholesale importers of food and agriculture products that it intends to stop subsidising foreign farmers with the foreign exchange which we earned from our oil and gas.

What they must be told is that they must be prepared to reverse the process. They must be prepared to become involved in the development of our agriculture sector by investing in the rehabilitation of that sector and by involving themselves aggressively in the export of our agriculture products. If they are not tied hand and foot to the multinational companies who dominate agriculture internationally, they should be prepared to take up that challenge. Did somebody say: Fat chance!

Some people may ask if not the PNM is there any other political party which we should trust enough to vote into government? The answer is yes. That political party is the one which we the workers must build from the ground up. It must be your party to which all patriotic Trinbagonians must belong. It is a party which must be able to plant its roots deep in the communities and in the hearts and minds of the ordinary worker, the middle class, the farmers and small business people. It must be a party which the people must be prepared to fight for; a party, which will fight with and for the people; one which will be with the people in happy times and in times of trouble; working in the communities; building self reliance and community spiritedness.

What I just described is hard work. What we must build is not a party which will have as its only reason for existence is to be interested only running for political office around election time. We have to build a party which belongs to the broad masses of ordinary people who, when the time is right, will call on that party to contest an election so that we can stop blaming ourselves, by saying, that “It good for we.”