For quite a few weeks now the new Minister of Finance has been attempting to warm the country up to the idea of banding we belly, drinking bush tea and sucking salt through a wooden spoon. Yes folks, after two fiscal years of blue skies ahead; after the PM waved two beakers of crude oil at us in March this year and gaily announced that "God is ah Trini" and that better times were indeed ahead and that the people of Trinidad and Tobago would be reaping the reward of this new fuel find in about a year's time, we have Mr Howai, the golden handshake man, telling us that we have to face an austerity budget for 2012/13.
Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against thrift or austerity. In fact, when you consider how often Mrs Persad-Bissessar accused Manning and the PNM of squandermania, when you consider too how they warned us about the emptiness of the treasury, you'd think that this lot would have been far more careful in how they managed OUR money. We hired them to spend the money better, not so?
Every single cent that has been spent by the People's Partnership doesn't belong to them, it belongs to the state, it comes from our taxes and our fuel revenue. Yet this lot seems to think that the treasury is their own petty cash till and they can squander it as they like.
Why do I have to submit to thrift? How exactly are citizens of this country overspending and squandering state funds? Can Mr Howai clarify that for me? We just went through a three-month traffic plan wherein new signs were made and roads had to be re-painted, all at cost to the state purse, and then have it all be scrapped ; and we are told that the plan has been scrapped as a gift to the nation because we asked for it. When last you had to pay for a gift to yourself? Ponder that for a second. Ponder too that this traffic plan was probably done without a proper civil engineering survey to consider costs, traffic flow and impact; then quickly implemented and just as hastily scrapped at our expense. Consider all the other areas of squandering money: a failed SOE; paying the PM's sister to be her minder on state trips; renting a crop duster to fight crime; overspending on Government credit cards; underselling our fast ferries; use of National Security helicopters as a taxi for the PM at state expense; $2million extra given to food card holders; exorbitant independence celebrations complete with daily caravans toting the PM and her entourage...and now $10m per MP for the next 3 years with no explanation for how the money is to be managed and IPads for Ministers who probably already have government issued technology!
Mr Howai, am I beginning to sound just a tad bit incredulous yet? This government is overspending, not the citizens, and nothing that I have listed there redounds to the benefit of the citizenry. When an organisation as large as your Cabinet is overspending and underperforming, usually staff cuts help with the austerity measure. So here are my suggestions.
We are 2.5 years into your term in office and are yet to smell a crime plan, far less see one be implemented and I am wondering what is the Minister of National Security receiving a salary for? Considering how he is underperforming, can't we just fire him and save all the money he is costing us? When I think about the constant promise of mega farms to help with rising food prices over the last two years and still we aren't benefitting from these farms can't we just fire both the past and present Ministers of Food Production and save some money there? And while you're at it, since fuel bunkering is becoming so problematic and Kevin Ramnarine's answers leave me feeling unconfident, can't we fire him too?
While you are printing their pink slips, can you also look into what the PM is doing? There are numerous reports of her running the country from south Trinidad, which means that tax payers have to maintain her home and the diplomatic centre. It also means security for both places, again at our expense. it means too that sensitive documents related to state matters end up in someone's private home where the PMs friends and relatives congregate. Since the country seems to be running on auto-pilot, and the Treasury seems to be spending itself, can't we just lay off the PM and Minister of Finance? Yes, I do realise that I am asking you to give up your job, but you see Mr Minister, when I face the groceries and vegetable markets; when I open my monthly utility bills; when I look at my payslip and see how much tax comes out and how little I get for it in return in terms of quality of life from this government, well, I get angry. When a small group of people who living high off the hog, so to speak, turning around to tell an entire country about austerity measures, I get upset.
Pensioners and public servants suffering, while private business and friends and family members of the Cabinet getting fat and sleek. Careful, Mr Howai, careful, a hungry man does get blasted vex eventually, eh. And then is pressure in the kutiyah!