Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Budgetary mammaguy like peas: Who is fooling Whom?

Dr. Kwame Nantambu
August 22, 2007
Updated: August 26, 2007

Now that the TT$42.2b 2007-08 budget has been presented to the citizenry of TnT, the casual, albeit non-political observer is only forced to conclude that it was budgetary mamaguy like peas on the heels of an impending general election.

Indeed, "the Arithmetic of the budget" suggests that the 6,000 workers of the Community Environment Protection Enhancement Programme (CEPEP)/Unemployment Relief Programme (URP) and their families, the 26,000 new home owners and their families, and by extension, government ministers and their families are the only electoral entities who should vote for the PNM.

The sad, regrettable legacy of this budget debacle is that old-aged pensioners, who gave decades of public service to this country, are still left out in the cold as welfare beggars with a hand-out, albeit insulting "grant" from the State. This is the thanks/crumbs/pittance that this "ungrateful pastor" in his capacity as Minister of Finance has thrown on the ground to fellow Trinbagonians. "Big,Big, Big shame on you", Mr. Minister of Finance.

This is against the backdrop that CEPEP/URP workers have received a 15% increase in salary in this budget while government ministers and others previously received up to 60% increase in their salaries.

The fact of the matter is that the record shows that CEPEP/URP workers, who are nothing more than a disguised employed group/class of people, seem to be the only workers in TnT who did not have to protest, march and/or threaten the government to receive an increase in salary.

What's wrong with this picture, Mr. Minister of Finance? These CEPEP/URP workers "are (not) soca warriors too."

Let us recall that in August 2005, Prime Minister/Minister of Finance Patrick Manning publicly acknowledged that there were "criminal elements" in the URP and admonished the citizens of TnT that to increase the wages of these workers would be tantamount to "an increase in ghost gangs."

Let us also recall that in the non-election year of 2006, then acting Minister of Finance Conrad Enill "hinted at a reduction in the URP and CEPEP" prior to the presentation of the 4 October 2006 budget. Now, all of a sudden in a crucial election year of 2007, the reverse becomes true in regard to CEPEP/URP. Who are you fooling Mr. Enill and Mr. Manning? Enough is enough; the PNM has got to go, period. On the other hand, one finds that civil servants had to "rumble" with the Chief Personnel Officer (CPO) to get her, kicking and screaming, to agree to give them an increase in salary.

What's wrong with this picture, Mr. Minister of Finance? These civil servants "are soca warriors too."

Similarly, the T&T Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA) had to take analogous action on behalf of its teachers.

In addition, employers/workers of the National Agricultural Development Company (Namdevco), Telecommunication System of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT), Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission (T&TEC), sugar cane farmers, just to name a few, all had to go on the rampage (even in front of White Hall) to demand higher wages/prices from this anti-labor PNM government.

What's wrong with this picture, Mr. Minister of Finance? These government/public sector workers "are soca warriors too."

The fact of the matter is that this Manning PNM administration is the supreme vicious, vindictive and callous government against the labor movement since the colonial heydays of the 1930s.

The stark reality is that there is nothing in this budget that takes the thousands of casino, etc., workers out of the PNM's doghouse; there is also nothing in this budget to give prison officers, who work 44 hours a week without overtime pay, a sigh of relief when it comes to prison reform, on-the-job security protection and restorative policy programs.

What's wrong with this picture, Mr. Minister of Finance? Casino/gambling industry and prison workers/employees "are soca warriors too".

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Patrick Manning boasted that TnT's per capita income has doubled but this "ungrateful pastor" surreptitiously and deliberately left out the truism that the human misery index and personal/business/family insecurity have also doubled as a direct result of crime.

In addition, it is all well and good for Prime Minister Manning to boast about twenty-two and twenty-six stories buildings that would adorn the Port-of-Spain waterfront; however, on the flip side, whenever two to six inches of rain falls during the annual rainy season, downtown Port-of-Spain is transformed into a open-ended, magnanimous aquarium.

What's wrong with this picture, Mr. Minister of Finance?

The fact of the matter is that the police fraternity has had to wait "donkey years" for this PNM government to finally decide to build police stations and improve working conditions in the process, yet, "in less than a New York minute", it took the cabinet of the Manning administration to approve a TT$9million "grant" for the Prime Minister's son, Brian, to develop a putative basketball professional league in TnT.

What's wrong with this picture, Mr. Minister of Finance? Police officers, whose civic duty to this nation is "to protect and serve", "are soca warriors too."

Brian Manning "is (not) a soca warrior too."

Trinbagonians need to wake up to the reality check that the views of opponents of the establishment of smelter plants and trade union leaders in regard to the influx of foreign construction workers in TnT were summarily dismissed by the PNM government. Their views were subjected to the "exclusion principle". This action represents the zenith of the "arrogance of power" as displayed by the government.

This Manning-led PNM government seems totally immune to the human cries of the citizens of TnT, including residents of Moruga, Williamsville, Penal, Central Trinidad, Tarouba, Mayo, La Fillette, Oropouche East, Palmyra, Debe, Tableland and Bagatelle.

The fact of the matter is that the budget did not address the burning, intractable, thorny questions/issues/problems of school violence/indiscipline nor the death of innocent babies in the nation's health facilities.

Moreover, the Minister of Finance just spoke from a Xeroxed/triplicate copy of his government's utterly failed policies in regard to crime fighting proposals. There was nothing new here.

The stark reality is that this budget speaks volumes as to the disconnection between the ruling PNM government and the suffering "least of these" on the ground.

Trinbagonians need to wake up and realize that the last-minute attempts at public consultations were neither an exercise in democracy or popular democratic participation; on the contrary, they were nothing more than a slick, public relations-elections gimmick in popular hypocrisy.

However, the PNM government must heed the adage: "You can fool some of the people some time but you can't fool all the people all the time."

Any modicum of common sense should inform the government that the conscious, well-informed people of TnT have finally seen the light of this camouflaged, election-concession budget. The people no longer want to be "hoodwinked, bamboozled and took" by this anti-labor, anti-grassroots PNM government.

In the final analysis, the Minister of Finance needs to pay attention to the apocalyptic admonition of deceased, African-American, anti-slavery revolutionary, Frederick Douglass to the extent that: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. (But most importantly), the limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress." (1857).

The people of TnT have endured the tyrannical rule of the PNM since 1956. On election day 2007, We, the People, We, the Oppressed, will demand an end to this tyranny with our "voting finger."

PNM is the Problem
We, the People, must provide the Resolution
Magnum sunt populi---Great are the People; We, the People,
must and will
always prevail.

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Kwame Nantambu is a part-time lecturer at Cipriani College of Labour and Co-operative Studies and University of the West Indies.

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