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Thursday, November 9, 2017

From this morning, we will know the effectiveness of the call by Public Service Association’s president Watson Duke for employees at the Board of Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise Division to take two unauthorised days off.

Whatever the outcome, the call is preposterous.

It is understandable that current public servants working in those two divisions may be apprehensive given the potential changes to their employment with the creation of a new Revenue Authority. However, to effectively call a strike in protest to something that is yet to be detailed is irresponsible and disrespectful to us, who pay their wages.

Disregarding the laws of the land and the rules applicable to public servants is unacceptable. Having the main leader of a public servants’ association promoting such an action is incomprehensible. It’s even more troubling to see someone who should be setting the example of transparency hiding behind words like “holidays” to call what is effectively a strike.

The outcome of this call will also be a major test for the government. If it quietly pretends nothing is happening, without any consequences to those who fail to turn up to work, it will send a clear signal to Mr Duke and others that the state cannot or will not deal with unacceptable behaviour in the public sector.

Confrontation is never a good thing and both sides ought to be reasonable for the sake of us all. However, if needed, the government must clearly demonstrate it is on the side of the rule of law and the taxpayers who, after all, are the ones who cough up public servants’ wages.

Must do better

The International Monetary Fund’s last assessment of Trinidad and Tobago’s economy is not surprising. Although the world’s lender of last resort praises some of the moves by the current government in areas like taxation, it feels a lot more needs to be done, especially as global low energy prices are likely to stay for the foreseeable future.

There’s no surprise in what it points to as areas in need of more work, especially for those more familiar with T&T’s economic fault lines. It talks about the need to remove distortions to the labour market and “pervasive rigidities” in the public sector. Right on cue given the latest skirmishes over the proposed creation of a Revenue Authority.

Before the usual suspects make the usual comments about the IMF (and the organisation isn’t perfect), their assessment should be seen as a reminder of what needs to be done or what ought to be improved in terms of economic management. But it is also a bit of a warning—if we fail to fix our own problems in our own way, the need to knock on their door for help becomes inevitable. Then, it is not just a stern school report the country gets.

Now the Universe

The tears are usually reserved for the final moments of the Miss Universe pageant competition but this time, at least here in T&T, we started the drama earlier with the dropping and subsequent reinstatement of Miss Yvonne Clarke as our representative for this year’s competition.

Now the local drama is over, we wish Miss Clarke success in the competition as she prepares to travel to Las Vegas tomorrow, ahead of the finals later this month.


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