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The reality check

Published: 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Our politicians, and the people who adore and worship them, are going to find out someday that we badly need to sit down as adults and seriously settle important issues of national development.

If we ever do so, we would need to realise that while bussing mark and picong and “grooming” have great and effective entertainment value, they do not have the potential to influence chronic deficit budgeting; a shocking food import bill; a dramatic decline in energy sector rents over an absurdly short space of time, and a current incapacity in virtually all our productive endeavours, including food production, to ever be able to catch up with developmental imperatives in the foreseeable future.

Among the more criminal of assertions in recent years, for instance, has been that the economic challenge was being exaggerated out of political spite. We haven’t only heard this in 2017. We have been hearing it since 1973, at the inauguration of our cycles of bust and boom and learnt of its durability during the challenges of 1986/1987 when public workers came to understand their vulnerability to enforced sacrifice.

The reality, though, is the decline is not measurable in five-year tranches and is part of a continuum of decay spanning the greater part of our political independence. You can hear the urgency in the voices of the well-informed. I bring Prof Karl Theodore into the discussion because he is a known and confirmed advocate of bringing the national discourse into the realm of the absolutely urgent.

He has been sounding the foreign exchange alert long before Marla Dukharan’s eminently sensible analysis of the foreign currency dilemma was reduced to “madness” through unfortunate obiter dicta.

A little short of two decades ago, however, Lloyd Best had urged the application of what he called “educated common sense” in proposing a balance between the sovereignty of the free market against the application of informed controls.

Perhaps the Senate debate on the 2018 budget will thrash this out on our behalf. Nothing of the sort is possible in the House. If I were President Carmona, I would have invited Ms Dukharan and Prof Theodore to join with other sensible voices on the Independent benches to interpret the dynamic that resides at the heart of current proposed approaches to the looming economic disaster.

This is Colm Imbert’s true challenge; if the haze generated both by his own colleagues and “those opposite” were to ever make way for a rational discussion on what our national assets, in all their manifestations, are actually worth.

It is true that national budget presentations are meant in essence to be political statements of intent, but they also need to be informed by a view of the wider picture that offers up questions the country as a whole needs to answer in a competent, dispassionate manner. A discussion on parity in exchange rates is one important area for which we seem ill-equipped.

Food is another space occupied more by myth than by sound data-driven contemplation. Over too many years, for example, we had conflated the growing of sugar for export at artificially-supported prices with the objective of agriculture for the production of food.

It is time to cut out the nonsense. What is passing for a budget debate constitutes a grave injustice against the generations to come. Aren’t we all noticing?