Kamla: Budget was the final rites to bury the economy

While Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar yes­ter­day ex­pressed de­light with Fi­nance Min­is­ter Colm Im­bert’s pro­pos­al to in­crease the min­i­mum wage from $15 to $17.50 an hour for 194,000 low in­come work­ers across the coun­try, she feels the pay hike was in­suf­fi­cient as it should have been $20 an hour in­stead.

This was how Per­sad-Bisses­sar re­spond­ed at a press con­fer­ence at the Par­lia­ment Build­ing, Port-of-Spain, min­utes af­ter Im­bert de­liv­ered his $53 bil­lion 2019/20120 bud­get pre­sen­ta­tion in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.


Hav­ing lis­tened to Im­bert’s three hours 21 min­utes bud­get, PersaBisses­sar de­scribed it as a re­peat of promis­es from pre­vi­ous bud­gets he had de­liv­ered.

“This was a mish­mash, hudge pudge of his same poli­cies com­ing from sev­er­al bud­gets be­fore. It is clear that he demon­strat­ed in a very bor­ing man­ner the cu­mu­la­tive fail­ures of four years.”

In­sist­ing that the econ­o­my was dead, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said Im­bert’s pre­sen­ta­tion showed ex­act­ly that.

“The ho­n­ourable min­is­ter per­formed the fi­nal rites to bury the econ­o­my. I don’t think the pop­u­la­tion is go­ing to be fooled by the gim­mick­ry or the PR gim­micks or stunts. It is like Hansel and Gre­tel pol­i­tics....you know...you throw­ing crumbs. They throw­ing crumbs with these pur­port­ed in­creas­es when the ma­jor­i­ty don’t have jobs.”


She said the ma­jor­i­ty of peo­ple who have been feel­ing the pinch was the most vul­ner­a­ble.

“They throw­ing out crumbs...telling them to take that! take that! 15 per cent here. “

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said many re­mained bored to tears, while Im­bert came across like “a snake oil sales­man with his smooth talk” to soothe aches and pains.

She said Im­bert showed no new ini­tia­tives to cre­ate rev­enues streams and jobs.

In­stead, he spoke about in­creas­ing ex­pen­di­ture to the tune of $3 bil­lion.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said it was ob­vi­ous that af­ter spend­ing $223 bil­lion since as­sum­ing of­fice, the Gov­ern­ment showed they have no plan, pol­i­cy or idea to man­age the coun­try as they con­tin­ue to bor­row mas­sive­ly and con­sume re­serves.

“The bud­get is like the bread the dev­il knead. It is a con­tin­u­a­tion of a bit­ter pill that the coun­try was asked to swal­low. It is clear more than ever Gov­ern­ment is not in­ter­est­ed in or is in­ca­pable of restor­ing or res­ur­rect­ing our coun­try.”

In Im­bert’s usu­al style, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said he con­tin­ued to blame the UNC for his Gov­ern­ment’s lack of per­for­mance.

“You can’t come in your last year to blame Kam­la. That blame game will not work.”

As cit­i­zens pre­pare to face the polls for this year’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion and next year’s gen­er­al elec­tions, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said Im­bert added a “spoon­fuls of sug­ar, spice and con­densed milk” by in­creas­ing the stipends for 8,000 On the Job Train­ing (OJT) trainees by ten per cent, rais­ing the min­i­mum wage for 194,000 work­ers from $15 to $17.50 an hour and hik­ing the wages of Cepep and Un­em­ploy­ment Re­lief (URP) pro­gramme work­ers by 15 per cent which all go in­to ef­fect from De­cem­ber 1.

While she was hap­py with the ini­tia­tives, she said the min­i­mum wage should have been in­creased to $20 an hour, giv­en the ris­ing cost of liv­ing.

The Op­po­si­tion Leader pre­dict­ed that lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tion would be called in De­cem­ber, that same time the in­creas­es for Cepep and URP work­er would re­ceive their in­creas­es.

“Com­ing soon, com­ing soon, stay tuned in a cin­e­ma close to you. This has been a screen­play brought from Bal­isi­er House. It was not a bud­get. It was ba­si­cal­ly an elec­tion ad­ver­tise­ment. Man, you were there four years. You had no plan. And you come at the end of it now to tell us here is my great plan. Re­peat, re­peat, re­peat.”

The good out of the bud­get, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said was the in­crease of salaries for the low in­come work­ers.

How­ev­er, she said per­sons col­lect­ing the new $17.50 min­i­mum wage would be re­ceiv­ing more than Cepep and URP work­ers.

This, she said does not make sense.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said last year Im­bert quot­ed from Frank Sina­tra’s song “I did it my way”

This year, Im­bert pulled a line from one Bob Mar­ley’s song “Get up, stand up for what is right.”

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said in that very song, Bob Mar­ley warned that “all that glit­ters is not gold. There is no gold in there for the or­di­nary cit­i­zen. They want jobs they don’t want bulbs. They don’t want light bulbs.”

She asked if this was the “bright­est idea” the PNM Gov­ern­ment could have come with.

“Are you for re­al?”

Im­bert pro­posed to re­move tax­es from LED light bulbs for the next five years.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said she has em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence that over 63,000 peo­ple were put on the bread­line since the PNM came in­to of­fice in 2015.

“Anec­do­tal­ly we know (job loss­es) have been more. I don’t think the pub­lic is go­ing to be fooled by this, It’s an elec­tion­eer­ing bud­get. But you know what hap­pened? When is enough..enough?

They ba­si­cal­ly ad­mit­ted they haven’t done enough to deal with health­care...they have not done enough to deal with cre­at­ing em­ploy­ment and cre­at­ing new rev­enue streams. That is what we should have heard to­day...how to cre­ate jobs and new rev­enue streams and foreign ex­change. They have hid­den once and for all the un­em­ploy­ment da­ta.”

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the year 2020 seemed like the mag­ic year as Im­bert promised to open this, that and the oth­er by paint­ing a rosy pic­ture of the econ­o­my un­der their Gov­ern­ment, when the truth is peo­ple are no longer safer in their homes, dai­ly there are hor­ror sto­ries at pub­lic hos­pi­tals and peo­ple can no longer buy food.

“Hey, lis­ten! what you could not do in four years? 2020 is just three months away.

There is no more....there is no way that you are go­ing to get all of this done. What you are do­ing here is what you should have done in your first year and you would have had five years to make it hap­pen.”

Per­sad-Biss­esar said Im­bert could not fool her.

“In fact, some of the projects he told us about he did not even give a date as to when it would hap­pen. So we wait to see.”

She said T&T was not a re­al place, de­scrib­ing it as Fan­ta­sy Is­land.

Af­ter four years of promis­ing to con­tin­ue the San Fer­nan­do to Point Fortin High­way which start­ed un­der the UNC regime, Per­sad-Bisses­sar this was an­oth­er promise of “com­ing soon.”

She said while Im­bert urged the coun­try that we should nev­er let a good cri­sis go to waste, Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the biggest cri­sis fac­ing T&T is the PNM Gov­ern­ment.

“The Row­ley Gov­ern­ment that is the biggest cri­sis in Trinidad and To­ba­go.”

Reporter: Khamal Georges

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