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Crime, unemployment remain top priorities

Analysts: Tough road ahead for Govt
Monday, February 29, 2016
Franklin Khan

Even though the Government is trying to put things in place in this recession year, crime, shortage of foreign exchange, the high price of food and declining oil prices are having an impact on citizens and the business community. 

Speaking to the Guardian about the six-month performance of the People’s National Movement (PNM) Government, led by Keith Rowley, political analyst Dr Maukesh Basdeo said it was best to wait until April when Finance Minister Colm Imbert submits his revised budget. 

The PNM assumed office on September 7, 2015, but has been saddled with many challenges. Basdeo said, “I think since they came into office they have experienced a lot of challenges. 

“The major challenge for them has been how they have managed the economy since the presentation of their budget in October. The price of natural gas and oil has continued to decline way below their projected figures of US$2.75 for natural gas and US$45 a barrel for oil. 

“That has created a lot of problems and we need to wait until the Minister of Finance submits his revised budget in April.” He said another issue was crime, which was also a major problem for the last administration. He said crime seemed to be unabated. 

On moving forward, Basdeo said the Government would continue to face economic challenges for at least the next 12 to 18 months. He said all projections showed that possible recovery was set to take place somewhere around 2020.

“So we are going to have that impact and it will make the government’s ability to formulate policies much more difficult.” Asked how well the Government has put things in place, Basdeo said while they tried, everything seemed to be at a standstill and “a waiting scene.”

But another political analyst, Dr Winford James, says six months is a short time to assess the Government. He says on a scale of one to ten, he’d rate the Government at seven. He said while there were some disturbances “here and there,” people were not marching the streets against Government’s measures. 

James said the Government was able to cut back for Christmas and Carnival events and also asked the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) to cut its expenditure by seven per cent. In the oil industry, there are companies that have been sending home workers and in the THA, people have been quietly retrenched, he said. He said, “There is a lot of austerity taking place and this includes laying people off. 

“That of course has its repercussions; and then there is the re-organising of the Value Added Tax schedule and opinion is divided as to whether the new system is disadvantaging shoppers or whether it is easier for them.” 

James said the Government had not really brought any relief to the population.

“Despite the best intentions of a political party, there are sometimes events that overtake us and we got to manage those events as best as we can. 

“So that the Government finds itself having to manage the people and the economy by making cuts in sensitive areas by laying off people and in some by freezing salaries.”

James said his point was there was nothing to be joyful about. However, he said, it was an excellent opportunity for the Opposition to find the Government “lacking.” He said Government supporters needed to decide whether they were willing to bear the burden and make the sacrifice until better times arrived. 

“When I look at what the Government has done, I cannot jump for joy because my jumping for joy will have to depend on whether, in fact, my life is being improved.

“It is more than apparent that the lives of most people are not being improved and that is directly as a result not of government’s management, but it depended on the kind of revenue the Government has to work with.”

He said the Government was staying clear of controversy, that it should be a bit more respectful of the population and that the Prime Minister should refrain from making comments that would result in “bad press.” He said while there were plans, they had not embarked on any major projects. 

Khan: We did reasonably well

Meanwhile, PNM chairman Franklin Khan said his government had performed “reasonably well” since assuming office in September 2015. He was speaking to reporters after Saturday’s general council meeting at Balisier House, in Port-of-Spain.

Khan said, “I think Dr Rowley said we have performed reasonably well. There are a lot of areas for improvement. It is not that the performance has not been good but we have been hamstrung by a lack of financial resources.” 

Khan said there were many issues facing the country “fiscally” that had to be attended to. He said that took up most of the Government’s time. 


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