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posted 3 Jun 2016, 07:27 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 3 Jun 2016, 07:50 ]

There is one business in T&T and though it is not formalized, structured and operated as such. It would be most appropriately called Trinidad and Tobago Incorporated (T&T Inc). All other businesses and indeed most other activities - directly or indirectly - depend on the earnings and cash flow of T&T Inc.

These earnings are obtained from a range of petrochemical industries all of which “feed” off the oil and gas. Oil and Gas exists naturally in our twin islands and therefore are the birth right and patrimony of all sons and daughters of this place we call home. Needless to add, and contrary to the belief of Farrell and others on the Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB), it belongs to each of us in equal proportions and so do all proceeds earned by the State from transacting these two primary products and/or their derivatives.

The position of those on the EDAB is argued for reasons that allow those in the public sector to secretly and corruptly transact our birth right and patrimony and/or the proceeds therefrom. This of course allows for the corruption in its myriad forms, incompetence, waste and oppression of the public to proliferate. These public sector officials, their appointees and their surrogates have to be disabused of these false notions if we are to salvage what is left of this country.

Most of the foreign currency that flows into and within the country comes from transactions involving our primary products of oil and gas and their derivatives. There are also other organisations in the country that earn foreign exchange, but most of these either do not return such earnings to T&T or keep it in US accounts locally for the use of the Banks and themselves exclusively.

We all therefore live off the “fat of the land” but this fat, although it belongs to each of us equally, is disproportionately accessed by a few who exist in “financial symbiosis” with those in the Cabinet. The transactions with these few are secretly done by way of several “processes” all of which are a corruption of what can be considered fair, just, equitable, right, patriotic and intelligent.

The control and distribution of our foreign exchange is solely in the hands of the politicians, their appointees/cronies and other public officials. They direct the flow coming into the country, the flow within the country and the outflow from the country; with no input from the rest of us who are co-owners of this foreign exchange. They do so through the Central Bank and in collusion with financial institutions which they select.

The oppression, collusion and control extends to the point of making it illegal for persons receiving foreign currency from family abroad to sell it to another member of their family living in the same house or to do any similar transaction privately. Such foreign currency has to be sold to an institution approved by the Central Bank which then resells it at a profit to members of the public and all of this is allowed in Law.

Politicians and other senior public officials literally function as “sole traders” or executives in Corporations. They run Ministries that are comparable in scale to the biggest local and even regional corporations and control budgets that are bigger than those of many countries in the Caribbean. They seldom if ever get fired, have no performance criteria, have no oversight to their activities, have no training or expertise in running organisations, account to no one, cannot be fired or disciplined, set their own hours of work, ignore the Freedom of Information Act with impunity and are virtually immune from prosecution for corrupt practices as the record of the Integrity Commission indicates.  

An economy such as ours functions very simply. It is about i) maximising earnings of foreign exchange from our petrochemical sector, ii) conserving this foreign exchange and iii) redirecting it to areas and organisations that can earn us more foreign exchange.

Our dilemma today is we are failing miserably in all of these three. These failures are compounded by the following i) the public is denied access to information relevant to these matters and others ii) the Press is too corrupt/cowed/compromised/incompetent to even attempt educating and informing the public on the reality so we can learn truth and act on it. iii) the sectors referenced are hopelessly managed by political appointees and public officials whose learning, standards and experience were acquired in public sector institutions and academia.

All we do know for sure is there is a massive drain on our patrimony of forex earnings and it is being argued by Terrence Farrell and others that we do not have a right to know the details as to how our forex gets transferred from our SERVANTS and TRUSTEES in the Central Bank and Cabinet to the foreign accounts of the nameless, faceless and privileged persons they select.

We are even being told that we the public are responsible for this massive transfer of forex to the overseas accounts of public officials and their cronies by our buying habits. To me this sounds very much like a drug dealer who creates addicts by his addictive and deadly offerings, telling his cultivated customer base of addicts that he wouldn’t have to be a pusher earning the vast sums of money he does, if they stopped buying his stuff.

In that scenario, as in all dealings involving forex, there is a chain of selected persons who secretly benefit from the many transactions. The only difference is that in the forex trade these beneficiaries are not hunted down and prosecuted.

In closing I should relate the story of the birds around my home that every morning at daybreak sit on the electrical/telecommunication wires and whistle. Their whistling only end after the sun comes up and then they start to “ramajay” as though they have achieved something.

I am firmly convinced that they believe it is their whistling that causes the sun to rise. Based on our science they are of course wrong but their learning/experience supported by generations of observation, and probably the genetic inscription of the habit, is that their whistling causes the sunrise.

Our leadership in T&T also sit whistling, waiting for our sun to rise (our sun being the price of oil/gas), despite the fact that their learning/experience alone over the decades should have told them that their whistling does not cause our sun to rise. Even the birds would have long ago stopped whistling if their learning/experience regarding their sun was the same as that of our leadership over the decades with regard to oil/gas.

The birds by their learning/experience, which is based simply on observation, have ushered in and will continue so to do over eons of time many sunrises by just whistling. Many more sunrises than our leadership will with their whistling for the repeated rise in the price of oil/gas and the birds have no science/technology, MBAs, PhDs, etc. to assist.

There are a lot of conclusions one can draw from this apologue of sorts and most of them, if stated explicitly, would be quite offensive to our parliamentary representatives and public officials who for decades have done little else but whistle while living off the depleting fat of our land.