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Living high on Disability Grant

Published: 
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The population of Tobago is around 60,000, approximately 1/25th the population of Trinidad and Tobago. It is given by law, four per cent or $2.4 billion of the annual budget in direct cash in quarterly instalments.

What many people are not aware of is the additional sum of $2.5 billion in subsidy is given indirectly to Tobago, annually. This is in the form of the purchase of airplanes and ferries to service Tobago.

The staff of these boats and airplanes are paid for by the T&T government. In addition to these subsidies, police, army, coast guard, T&TEC, WASA, Immigration, the port, airports, Magistracy, Government pensions, Magdalena Grand Hotel and a host of other government services are paid by the Government and not the THA.

This makes it a grand total of approximately five billion dollars annually, which is 10 per cent of the budget. Four per cent of the population is given ten per cent of the budget and some Tobagonians now realise that Tobago produces nothing, exports nothing and yet enjoys a comfortable standard of living and, in many cases luxurious living, with no shortage of foreign exchange. According to one Minister from Tobago, the grocery shelves are stocked with high-end foreign products. What made headline news recently is someone planting lettuce in Tobago. Bread is baked in Trinidad and shipped to Tobago and purchased with the annual subsidy.

This $5 billion must not be referred to as a subsidy but as a Disability Grant. A disability grant is given to someone who is unable to generate income to maintain his or her standard of living. However, excessive amounts should not be given, as in the case of Tobago, so that things are so good that many Tobagonians go on luxury cruises with adequate foreign exchange and yet Tobago fails to produce any food for consumption. They are given this excessive disability grant and use it to import all food from Trinidad.

This is so comical that one high ranking individual from Tobago said in 2017 that Tobago expected to see a two per cent growth without tourism or exports. This should attract the top lending agencies as the IMF and the World Bank to show countries with financial problems how to experience growth without productivity or exports.

To compound the comical situation, we have set up a committee to grant Tobago full internal self government so they can pass their own laws. How can you have a functioning self government without any income generation? This committee consists of highly educated citizens and we anxiously await their recommendations.

One of the laws they can pass is to legalise marijuana which will be a good source of income. We could now have Trinidad police in Tobago smoking marijuana in their off days and on their return to Trinidad, arrest people for marijuana possession. The other law they will pass is the ability to borrow excessive sums of money to continue the luxurious lifestyle and Trinidadians will have to be the guarantor of these loans.

Satnarine Singh
La Romain

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