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Too proud to learn from our neighbours?

Published: 
Monday, October 9, 2017

On the current burning issue of the Budget, I wanted to add my two cents worth. I am a retired Internal Auditor and worked at one of the major financial institutions for over 40 years, the last 20-plus-year period of which was in the Internal Audit Department.

Based on my experience, a budget is made up of logical assumptions of proposed income and expenditure. As an auditor I noticed that the Budget detailed a number of proposed methods which are intended to increase the revenue income, which may or may not be realised, and a similar detailed methodology was not applied to expenditure. That being so is not as essential as one may think. The goal should be to make your current expenditure more productive and contributing to increasing revenue.

Yes, the government can’t go cutting cost willy nilly and people are losing their jobs. The Government has to implement inventive ways to increase production in the public service (one of the main expenses) in areas of diversification which can increase revenue and reduce expenditure in the food import bill (another major expense). This is not as easy as it sounds.

I would like to give an example, which I believe can be easily implemented without any significant infrastructure expenditure. T&T can be basically divided into 10 counties/ cities which we all know. In each county there are Cepep and URP workers who are paid by the government and there are estates which have become overgrown with razor grass and which look like forests. This has happened as a result of the instituting of these two programmes. There was an exodus of employment from the estates to both. Now while I agree that “massa day done”, we have become a nation which imports most of its food due to previous oil wealth. The time has come to return to the estates which provide basic food requirements and can provide export income.

It is my suggestion that the government have the Ministry of Agriculture identify estates which require rehabilitation and have the Cepep and URP workers utilise their equipment to assist with the rehabilitation.

This was done in Grenada after Hurricane Ivan and still persists today. As a result the production and exports of nutmeg, cocoa and bananas in that country are at the highest level in the country’s history. It earns foreign exchange and the country is self-sufficient in these areas.

The lack of innovative ways to diversify the economy of my country, by successive governments, is amazing and I now believe the governments’ (past and present) aim is to maintain a dependency syndrome within the lower and middle income population. The above is an example of true diversification which proved beneficial to Grenada and we need to look at innovative ways to utilise and or reduce our expenditure for the benefit of our country.

If we continue to tax the working class into poverty there will be civil unrest when the population cannot take it any more. The comment by the Minister of Finance “well they haven’t rioted as yet” may just jump up and bite him.

Are we too proud to learn from our neighbours? Guyana is self-sufficient in seafood, rice, ground provisions, fruits and beef. Can we not seek to find out how? Their population is a half of ours but they produce twice maybe triple our production in these areas. Barbados and Jamaica’s tourism income helps them to survive but we Trinis are too proud to serve tourist, after all we have oil and gas. Eh heh, it finishing and we can’t produce plenty more and the current world position in these areas is predicted to further decline. I see we will be caught with our pants down if we do not act now in implementing a proper diversification plan.

Over to the governments, present and future, for innovative ways to improve our country.

IVAN GRIMES