was sitting amidst the residual breakfast clutter, the suited businessmen,
the television cameras, at the T&T Chamber of Commerce in Westmoorings
last week where expert financial panellists were presenting the private
sectorís response to the 2005 Budget.
the panellists took their place at the head table I wondered what this
meeting had to do with the 400,000 people who live below the poverty line,
or the impoverished and forgotten children in Couva whoíve never seen a
toothbrush in their lives unaware they live five minutes away from the
biggest methanol plant in the world.
not this heady matrix of power, position and wealth, this cozy
conglomeration of politics and business prove to be a little too entwined
and self seeking, and preclude the interests of the general good?
answer came soon enough. In his opening remarks the president of the
Chamber, Christian Mouttet, was asking for accountability from the
Government, (well represented here, by Minister in the Ministry of
Finance, Mr Conrad Enill) reading the now embarrassingly long undelivered
shopping list of measures promised in last yearís budget to combat
was thinking about the woman who was held up just next door at the West
Mall Car Park, in broad daylight.
young woman was putting her baby in her car when she felt a gun on her
back and heard a manís voice telling her to do as she was told. She was
ordered to drive into the nearest ATM machine to withdraw a specified sum
is savagery out there. Desperate acts by people who feel they have nothing
private sectorís overriding interest may be to make money but they
understand that the wolves of illiteracy, unemployment, disease and
poverty are at their doorsteps too, and will swallow them with everyone
Mouttet was saying that itís wonderful that Government has built more
schools, but it is more important to ensure that systems are put into
place so children emerge literate from them.
speculating on whether the low unemployment figures included make-work
programmes, William Lucie Smith was joking about Hype and other such
programmes, saying that according to the dictionary Hype is just thatóa
lot of activity without substance. He was expressing widespread anxiety
that Government is creating a welfare state of dependency, handouts with
there was Ronald Ramkissoon of Republic Bank stating the obvious. That for
the past decade our economy has grown by four per cent because oil has a
life of its own, no credit to politicians or budgets. He suggested that we
have not used our oil money to develop our non-oil sectors, which remain
stagnant; that we have simply spent it with the prospect of spending more
again. No returns.
you just have to think of the collapsing health care, the illiterate, the
increasing poverty, the escalating murder figures to believe him.
ďbuzzĒ word, as one panellist put it was ďsustainability.Ē
Thatís what the private sector wants, thatís what this country needs.
A market economy that would thrive with literacy, education, skills.
Thatís what we donít have.
I hadnít heard it with my own ears I never would have believed it. Mr
Enill, without actually mentioning them, blamed everything on the
inefficiency of public servants. There was no point he said, in pouring
money into health, education, or anything else if the systems didnít
work. Neither he nor his colleagues could discipline them or motivate
them, he complained. He wanted to deliver and so did all the other
ministers but their hands were tied.
tied hands, they throw money, helter skelter, at the wolves, but for how
long will that keep them at bay?