Bukka Rennie

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Exploding the myths Pt 2

November 09, 2002
By Bukka Rennie

Myth No. 3: The oil dollars of the last boom simply "disappeared". Time and time again this issue has been raised and no matter how explicit relevant governments have been in elucidating how the petro-dollars were spent, certain forces for political mileage will continue pretending not to hear, see nor understand.

What happens therefore is that nothing fundamental is ever discussed whenever the matter is raised, emotions are kept running almost to the point of hysterics, so much so that today we can have one commentator even warning the nation not to allow these "monkeys" to get their hands on the proceeds of the impending gas boom.

The sheer audacity of some people is unbelievable. Nevertheless, it says something about the level of tolerance in this place.

Officially there have been documents such as "Accounting for the Petrodollars: 1973-1983" which have spelt it all out but apparently to no avail.

It is necessary that we restate some of what is contained in those documents in order to disabuse those sick minds that exist among us.

There are clear-cut headings under which expenditures were classified, for example: "Funds for long-term development", "Tax relief for citizens", "Loans", "Measures to reduce cost of living", "Grants", "Aid to Caricom", etc.

At that time the State either owned fully or participated in some 62 companies and equity, loans, advances and subventions in these companies totalled some $7.3 billion.

Tax rebates amounted to $83 million; subsidies to farmers and fishermen in that period (1973-1983) were $80 million; the Agricultural Development Bank got $53 million; National Housing Authority got $28 million; subsidies on petroleum products totalled $1.6 billion; cement products $241 million; social welfare subsidies were $790 million, etc.

Aid to the Caricom region was also enhanced by the petrodollars. The total value under this heading amounted to $1.6 billion, of which $520 million went to the University of the West Indies and $181 million went to the Caricom Oil Facility.

Other loans and grants to Caricom members for development projects as well as relief totalled some $27 million, while a whopping $177.2 million facility was extended to Guyana then out of necessity.

This is only part of the picture but any rational thinking person will understand clearly how the "monkeys" spent the petrodollars in the interest of all and sundry and in the interest of the region as a whole.

If there was any random wastage in this period it surely came from T&T citizens' foreign travel and joy rides abroad which totalled some $2.6 billion.

Of course some percentage of this represented authentic business and educational expense, but much of it was pure ostentatiousness or "gallery" as we are wont to describe in local parlance.

This prompted a column by yours truly in October 1998 titled "Blame nationals" in which the following is stated:

"...Professor Kari Levitt of Canada, at a lecture in UWI, expressed amazement that people here could still be asking, 'where have the petro-dollars of the boom-time gone?' According to her, all they have to do is to open their eyes and look around at the infrastructure and the level of administration of social amenities that in fact are the best in the Caribbean and second to none in the whole of Latin America..."

The column continued: "...In all the nationalised situations in sugar, oil and energy, telecommunications, banking, manufacturing, etc, plant and equipment had to be refurbished, eating severely into the petro-dollars windfall and forcing external borrowings.

"Caroni, BWIA, etc had to be subsidised to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In addition, annual subsidies in the agricultural sector, rice, short-crops, etc also ran into the millions.

"The question is in whose hands went that portion of the State expenditure that accrued to the domestic situation? It went into the hands of every Tom, Dick and Harrylal... We were then called the 'Arabs of the Carib-bean' and the US Embassy suddenly began to dispense multiple indefinite visas willy-nilly to facilitate T&T citizens going to the US to shop and return with the 'goodies'..."

In retrospect , who really were the "monkeys" with gadgets, like new-found toys, in hand? Eh?

Exploding myths Pt 1 | Exploding myths Pt 2 | Coming under 'bap' Pt 3
Exploding myths: responses

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