Stop looking to the Government to fix every problem and instead focus on becoming better productive citizens. That is the advice from former Minister of Trade and Minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne as the nation prepares for the reading of the 2016/17 budget on September 30.
He said productivity and discipline was needed from citizens for T&T to rally out the economic downturn.
Government had no other choice but to cut back given the decline in energy prices and the unstable economic climate. Cutbacks, he added, must be across the board in all sectors.
"I would like to see a realistic assessment and adoption of policies which suit our current financial situation," he said. "Output has declined by way of volume and prices have gone up and unfortunately we expanded our expenditure profile on an unsustainable basis so we have to cut it back."
Referring to policies undertaken under by late Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Browne said T&T had a deficit budget when the oil shock occurred in 2008.
"At that time we had sufficient money put aside to continue construction. We ran a budget deficit in 2008 and 2009 and 2010. At that time it was anticipated that decline would take three years before it was rectified," he recalled.
"We are at the stage where we have no subsidy on super. Those who use premium are effectively paying taxes and we have a subsidy on diesel which cost us $2 billion per year roughly. We started to make adjustments in GATE but we have to make more adjustments across all expenditure profiles to arrive at a sustainable position."
Browne said there was need to prioritise across the board. Government's support to small business development will not solve the economic problems, he advised
"The Government is not a tireless mother to the privater sector or to John Public. There are things we have to do. The State has to ensure that the services to the public are efficient and that they work but there is ample evidence to suggest that it doesn't.
"Public service needs to improve. We have lost productivity and work ethic. Workplace discipline, management and leadership is needed and it is pointless to think that the government can fix everything," he said.
With regard to the foreign exchange crisis, Browne said the Central Bank was well able to deal with that situation.
"The Minister of Finance and his technical advisors know what to do. When we were in this position in 1993 we had a couple weeks of import cover but now we have 11 months of import cover, yet we moved the exchange rate from $4.25 to $5.75 back then. We have to allow the system to work but we are interfering with the system," Browne said.