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Sterile debate?

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Finance Minister Colm Imbert decided this week that he wasn’t going to engage in “sterile debate and discussion” at a post-Budget forum. His words were quickly interpreted as “condescending,” “belittling” and “dismissive.” His response: “I made myself clear.” There’s no doubt this minister is under a great deal of pressure attempting to manage the economy… and grace and tact have never been his strong points. However, to lash out at people seeking to be heard, those trying to get explanations and understand the rationale behind some of the decisions that were made, is not the best way to share knowledge or get buy-in.

Minister Imbert further entrenched himself in an air of impatience and near antagonism when he accused the country’s “private sector and business people” of “wanting the Government to pay for goods and services they import.” This generalised statement was unfortunate and startlingly inaccurate. The private sector and most good businesses are largely driven by a spirit of innovation and the kind of entrepreneurial ambition that demands resourcefulness. While incentives and measures to decrease bureaucratic business barriers are needed and appreciated, we are aware that it is not solely the job nor the duty of the Government to solve the economic problem alone. Public private partnerships have worked around the world, and T&T is no exception. The impulse, therefore, to lash out at those asking questions, should be managed better.

Cuts and conundrums

Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts will affect several agencies in the next fiscal year. Everything from CEPEP to the Police Service will see reduced allocations. The increases in the allocations which will support the inter-island sea bridge, however, are noteworthy. Recently, there have been significant increases in charter vessel expenditure and contractual arrangements for vessels to service the route on a long term, basis, have not yet been finalised. We hope the money allocated will be spent well. After the recent sea bridge contract fiasco and given the $4.7 billion deficit we are projected to incur, this allocation must yield sustainable solutions.

Say what?

We don’t usually recognise some of the social media senselessness that floods our feed every day. But the latest claim from an infamous self-proclaimed herbalist that spraying insecticide on the human body can prevent or cure a range of illnesses, is beyond reckless. Freedom of expression and entertainment are separate issues, but leading the naïve among us to possible physical harm is a serious matter. A press release from the Ministry of Health may not be enough.


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