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Is T&T Above World Economic Crisis?

September 16, 2008

Twin Towers 
EDITOR: I sometimes wonder if my information sources of media, internet etc. are defective. My information suggests that most of the developed economies in the world are in deep crisis, major US corporations e.g. Bears and Sterns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Bros. etc had to be bailed out by the Federal Authorities. (They are baulking at bailing out Lehman Bros.). The housing market is at its lowest point in decades and unemployment is at its highest in many years. The UK and Canada are awaiting statistical confirmation that their economies are in recession but their populations know full well. Indeed in the UK the prediction is that thousands will have to choose between food and heat in their upcoming winter. India's stock market plunged some forty (40%) percent within recent months, Japan has had its economic output decline in its latest review. From what I gather, most of the strong economies from the developed world and the robust new emerging ones are either in crisis or have drastically cut back their growth projections and have taken decisive measures that they hope will deal with this new reality that is sweeping this globalised world.

Somehow in Trinidad and Tobago it is business as usual as the authorities seem to have unflinching faith in our tiny, open, mono-crop economy, notwithstanding the fact that our cash crop has declined by over twenty-five percent (25%) within recent weeks. Our Prime Minister persists with his penchant for private jet travel, whizzing around the Caribbean delivering mail to unwilling integration coalition "partners"; his palatial residence and diplomatic centre have racked up $175 million and counting; he is actively seeking workers from El Salvador to supplement the shortage in the country.

He is focused on the success of the two international conferences scheduled for next year and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent building and renovating hotels for our foreign guests. Meanwhile UTT, Udecott and Eteck seem to be runaway horses engaging in a feeding frenzy reminiscent of the one at the airport. The construction of the Brian Lara stadium bears no resemblance to the efficiency with which batsman performed; the Scarborough Hospital will probably cost three times its original estimate by the time of its completion. We are talking about billions for the Rapid Rail Project and how many ever desalination plants, all premised upon the fallacy of never-ending Government surpluses. Additionally, the Government is increasing its borrowing limits, mortgaging our future generations once again so that this madness can continue.

Nowhere within officialdom does it seem that anyone is taking notice of the fact that the country should be under hurricane warning of an economic storm with gale force winds of category five intensity. How do we expect that T&T can escape unscathed in a global meltdown? Is our economic outlook also predicated on the local myth that God is a Trinbagonian? Are we going to raid the little pittance which has been belatedly set aside for the unborn owners of this God-given wealth? This will be particularly immoral given the hugely disproportionate piece of the pie this generation has consumed.

Do we dare hope that this situation is seriously addressed in the upcoming budget and the Government takes the leadership role and immediately stops this wild spending spree? That serious "when will" analyses (not "what if") be done on drastic reductions in Government's revenue and implement whatever pre-emptive measures that can be taken now, even at this late stage. I also hope that there is no capitulation to the strike waged by the upstream producers of oil and gas. All of the major transnational oil companies have recorded super profits from the high oil prices within recent years, yet they are insisting on tax concessions before they invest in their own business. Whatever happened to risk and re-investment of profits? There should be a windfall tax imposed instead of a tax break.

Sylvan N. Wilson
St. Margaret's

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