Listening to Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s mid year review last week and then to his extraordinary attack the day after on several economists who had dared to say that they disagreed with him, got me to thinking. What exactly has changed in the two and a half years that Mr. Imbert and his Party have been in power? And are these changes for the better? Are we all better off now than we were in September 2015?
Well, I suppose that some people are better off now. I mean, Dr. Rowley, Stuart Young, Colm Imbert et al clearly are. They hold the reins of power, travel all over the world as far away as China and Australia, have the police clear the traffic out of the way so that they don’t have to put up with the long delays that we ordinary ‘plebs’ have to face on a daily basis, are able to take their children to army shooting ranges and allow them to handle high powered weapons in breach of the laws of this land without penalty, can fraternize with known gangsters … I’m sorry, I meant ‘community leaders’ … without anybody really raising an eyebrow, can buy boats with taxpayers’ money and not have to give the general public any real information as to the true cost of same or why they are doing things that don’t make sense. (For example, can anybody explain why the Galleons Passage is going to Cuba for extra toilets and a canopy to be installed at a cost of some US$300,000 and why that work could not have been done in Trinidad?) The list goes on, but you get the point: some people are better off.
But are the rest of us better off? Have things changed for the better or for the worse for the rest of us? Certainly, most people that I talk to say that the crime situation bothers them enormously. Everybody that I talk to says that they either know somebody or are related to somebody who has been the victim of a crime. The murder rate is up … by a lot! People have no faith in the police at all (but then , to be fair, I don’t think that this last comment reflects a change … just that things seem to have gotten worse).
Financially, most people seem to be worse off. The guy I buy my doubles from in St. James on a Saturday morning tells me that his business is down from a few years ago while his costs have gone up. A lot of people seem to have lost their jobs. Except for those lawyers lucky enough to get government work every lawyer that I talk to says that his business is down. (Okay, I know that a lot of people won’t cry about that one!) Doctors also complain that they are seeing less people in their waiting rooms as people are increasingly reluctant to seek medical attention in the hope that two asprins and bed rest will cure whatever ails them. Getting foreign exchange to pay legitimate bills has become a nightmare. One person I know tells me that she can’t get enough legitimate money to send for her son in university in Canada so she has to buy foreign exchange on the black market at TT$8 to US$1. This has made it much more expensive for her family and they have been forced to cut back on other things in order to keep their child in food and lodging in Canada. She wonders how all these companies like Starbucks, KFC etc. seem to have no problems in paying their royalties (which both she and I believe must run into millions) when she can’t get Canadian $1,000 a month to send for her son. I tend to agree with her. It doesn’t seem right. So I suppose that those big companies are better off?! Certainly, they don’t seem to have foreign exchange problems. My friend, though, certainly is not.
So? Despite all the rhetoric, can anybody tell me what exactly has changed in the last two and a half years? Because from my perspective the only changes that I can see are for the worse. And if Mr. Imbert can really see clearly now that the rain has finally gone, can he tell us exactly where he thinks that we will be this time next year? What are his bench marks for a better life? By what standards does he say that we should judge him? Because at some stage he and his gang have to take responsibility. And it is only fair that he should tell us by what standards we should judge him. After all, surely that is a reasonable request?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is only one reason for politics … one reason for government. To make life better for the people! Full Stop! There is no other reason!!