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A proactive plan for T&T
The following is a list of the themes from the budget presentations of the recent past:
2006—Ensuring our Future Prosperity—Addressing Basic Needs
2007—Vision 2020—Moving Forward
2008—Vision 2020—Determined to Reach our Goals
2009—Vision 2020—Shaping our Future Together
2010—Vision 2020—Strengthening Efficiency, Addressing the Challenges
2011—Facing the Issues, Turning the Economy Around
2012—From Steady Foundation to Economic Transformation
2013—Stimulating Growth, Generating Prosperity
While these titles sound lofty, there have been many complaints about repetition, poor implementation and inadequate means to convert goals into achievable tasks. In light of these, I would like to propose, if I may, some examples of specific measures which would provide incentives for the behaviour which we should foster in our society. Some may be controversial or even not feasible, but the emphasis is on bringing about real change or at least thinking about ways of doing so.
1) Set up a fund administered by a Board of respected professionals. The objective of the fund will be to provide a minimum return to investors by investing in approved new business ventures. Risk criteria and business feasibility due diligence would be conducted by staff of the fund with a recommendation submitted to the Board for approval of financing. The fund would have the dual goals of providing investment opportunities for local investors while also spurring on the development of new businesses.
2) Remove gas subsidies for private vehicles and instead fully subsidise public transport vehicles. This will help reduce the incentive to have additional vehicles on the road while also providing incentives for using mass transit vehicles for environmental concerns.
3) Partner with entrepreneurs locally and abroad to invest in the industries targeted for diversification. Incentives should be worked out based on what is required to facilitate large investments in sectors forming part of the preferred development path. The recycling industry is one such industry which should be given preference, eg, access to State land, because of the potential for savings at the local government level.
4) Phase out “maxi taxis” by engaging the drivers to drive Government owned mini-buses. This would allow greater control of efficiency standards, route changes, health and safety enforcement and planned development.
5) Establish a database of vulnerable citizens accessing State assistance with a view to assigning case workers to each person to assist with the transition from destitution to gainful employment. In tandem with this, there should be a State controlled recruitment agency set up to match employers with prospective employees.
6) Forge collaboration between the National Lotteries Control Board’s outlets and the Trinidad & Tobago Stock Exchange (TTSE) so that shares can be bought and sold by ordinary citizens with a reduced transaction fee. This would boost stock market activity and wealth generation rather than encourage wasteful gambling.
7) Designate land areas with established road access, water, electricity and other utilities to be leased on a long term basis for qualifying developers to build quality, medium priced housing within specified parameters. This would reduce corruption and inefficiency while ensuring that standards are enforceable by law.
8) Privatise all hospitals and health centres and pass legislation to regulate the pricing and markups. Then issue annual electronic credits to all citizens which would accumulate each year if not utilised. These credits would be redeemed at the private hospitals in times of need or emergency. This would result in more efficient healthcare while allowing for money spent on healthcare to go directly to the hands of the patients.
9) Implement a system of driving permits expiring based on points rather than on a date. This would allow for only safe drivers being on the roadways while also removing drivers impaired by age, health or drug use. Vehicle safety and emission standards could also be incorporated in the points system.
10) Constitutional Reform should be initiated by assigning working groups from civil society for different aspects of governance. The objective for each group would be recognising our problems and challenges and designing rules which would address each issue. The combined results for each area of focus, would then be distilled by legal minds into one draft constitution.
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