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posted 23 Jul 2012, 04:35 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 23 Jul 2012, 04:46 by Dave Smith ]
On August 31, 2012, Trinidad and Tobago will celebrate fifty years of independence. In some circles, this is regarded as a great achievement, and the government is spending millions of dollars on cultural events and other forms of entertainment to mark this historic landmark.

In the light of this achievement, what are the realities of fifty years of independence? 

Reality one: From the late 60s to the early 80s, the PNM government created one of the largest State sectors in the English-speaking Caribbean. These businesses engaged in extractive, manufacturing, and tertiary production. It was an attempt to loosen the grip from “Massa” and give the country some space.

However, from 1986 to the present, the NAR, the UNC, the new PNM and the PP have signed memoranda of agreements with the IMF to dismantle the State enterprises and pursue a policy of privatization. In the midst of the celebration, the government, through its new Finance Minister Larry Howai, announced that 11 state-owned enterprises are earmarked for privatization through its Public Private Partnership initiative.

Targeted for PP are infrastructural developments, including highways, hospitals, medical services, ferry services, ports, and waste water facilities (see Janelle De Souza, “State-owned companies slated for transfer,” Newsday, July 21, 2012). 
Reality Two: From 1973 to 1981 the nation enjoyed “two oil shocks.” The first, from 1974 to 1978, saw the nation’s current receipts increased to TT$10, 661 million (See 1982 Budget Speech). From 1979 to 1981, “the second oil shock,” the country’s reserves stood at US$3.3 billion (See Richard Auty and Alan Gelb, “Oil Windfalls in a Small Parliamentary Democracy: Their Impact on Trinidad and Tobago). 
Under the Patrick Manning regime, the country experienced another energy boom stronger than the ones in the 1970s and 1980s (See IMF Working Paper/05/197). The report provided data that showed that oil and gas exploration and production earned the country TT$7,141 million in the period 2002/2003. 
Moreover, David Small, an official from the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago, noted that for the fiscal year 2003/2004, the country’s national budget was estimated to be in the vicinity of US$2.5 billion. Much of these estimated revenues came from the investment in the LNG project. (See Trinidad and Tobago: An Energy Sector Investment Story - paper delivered at the 19th World Energy Congress, Sydney, Australia, September 5-9, 2004). 
According to a Central Bank Report, the country earned US$2,866 million in revenue from the energy sector (See Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs: The Experience of Trinidad and Tobago in LNG: OLADE: Regional Energy Integration Forum (V FIER) October 2010). Despite this largesse the PP’s Minister of Finance is projecting that the country will face years of deficits. 
Reality Three: The trade union movement is celebrating seventy five years of existence. However, this movement is fractured and is in a very weak position to defend the working people. 
In particular, the OWTU, an organization that stoutly defended the working people in the George Weekes’ era, is but a shadow of itself and lacks the firepower that it once had. David Abdulah and Errol McLeod have become agents of the neo-liberal economic agenda. 
Moreover, the left movement including PPM, CLS, URO, the Communist Party of Trinidad and Tobago, NAMOTI, New Beginning, and MOTION, have all “bit the dust.” NJAC, an organization that once called for the creation of a new man and society has sold out to the PP government.   
MSJ, “a mocking pretender,” signed the Fyzabad Accord and tried to deceive the working class that it is a working class party. Furthermore, leading intellectuals are no longer willing to critique the current neo-liberal agenda, and their voices have become deafeningly silent. 

Reality Four: After fifty years of independence, the country’s economy is in the grips of the IMF, the World Bank, and IFC. The nation has failed to own and control its oil and gas resources and has given it over to the multinational oil and gas companies. Moreover, we have failed to create a National Petroleum Institute that would have enabled us to study all facets of the industry, given that Trinidad and Tobago has one of the oldest petroleum industries in the world. 
Failing to so do, we have left control of our energy security in the hands of multinational corporations. In reality, we have become dependent on foreign direct investment for our economic sustenance and we have fallen victim to the “Dutch Disease” and the “Neo-liberal Virus.” 
While we celebrate fifty years, the nation is mortgaged to foreign entities and with more Public Private Partnerships to come in the near future, the question of who owns Trinidad and Tobago and how the country moves forward will be of great significance. 

The people of Trinidad and Tobago should celebrate fifty years of independence with style. In each community, there should be celebrations and cultural shows. However, we should celebrate it with the consciousness that the present government is moving the country towards an era where there will be large doses of P AFTER P AFTER P AFTER P. 
We must not get caught up in nostalgia but must carefully examine this new policy and what it means for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We can sing “Forged from the Love of Liberty,” but beware of the P After P After P After P.