BUDGET IN RETROSPECT – A viewpoint by MP Rambachan
As the debate continues on Budget 2017, it is becoming clear that the PNM Government under DR Keith Rowley has placed the nation on a hold, awaiting the rise in oil and gas prices. Even if these prices were to rise to the point where the budget deficit will be cut, or even if the budget becomes balanced, the necessity for diversification is immediate given the cyclical nature of the energy market and the vagaries of decision making on output levels by producing countries. It is clear that unless we create and develop new sustainable streams of revenue and jobs for the future, we are going to be in serious difficulties. One day our luck will run out!
The nation has to wake up to the global realities and discover how dependent we are and continue to be on oil and gas as well as how vulnerable we are given our dependency on other nations to buy from us, to provide our food and other creature comforts. The “dependency syndrome” at the level of country must be weaned and a true economic model which will facilitate independence must be introduced.
This is not an impossible mission and it is my view that within ten to fifteen years remarkable changes in our ability to create and maintain a sustainable future is viable. The question is how do we get there. In matters of transformation, an inspired shared vision and leadership that promotes confidence in the future are both necessary. In addition, the nation must become united around this inspired vision to the point where the people are willing to make sacrifices and to give of themselves in the level of productivity which will be required. People are going to make sacrifices in the short term if they can see value in the medium to long term. This means that as a country we have to set national goals and measure and report to the people how well we are doing as often as possible. To achieve national transformation requires communications and conversations. It is conversations which will eventually lead to transformation for in the act of communications and exchange ideas are distilled, fears are soothed and consensus is developed. Stakeholder commitment which is so essential to change adoption and adaptation is born out of consensus driven and implemented decision making. The very word “stakeholder” suggests shared decision making.
The above requires a revised political culture, one that transcends the winner take all syndrome while upholding the right to choose a government of one’s choice. But more fundamental to transformation is the need for a “cultural revolution” in Trinidad and Tobago. The word culture is too often limited to song and dance, food and religion. It must include the new habits and attitudes, beliefs and national practices that we as a country must adopt in order to move us into that zone of economic and financial security in the future as well as personal and national security. A leadership is required where people are motivated to ask and answer in relation to their physical presence, how am I contributing to the future of my country. As citizens, we must in satisfying our personal ambitions and goals, also satisfy our national goals for there is no individual success without country success. This is part of the new belief system which will be required.
The cultural revolution required is not one of asserting leadership power but one of inspiring people to think and act nationally and with the future in mind. The cultural revolution will mean the death of dependency and the adoption of the determination to work assiduously for personal success while building the nation. It will mean the adoption of values which promote a love for country and a spirit of community with supporting behaviours and attitudes whether these be towards each other, the environment, self-improvement, respect for the constitution and the laws of the land and national consciousness.
There is a way forward that does not have to take generations but requires an instantaneous leap, a leap of “doing” and “being” of believing and adopting a new mantra of “I am” rather than “I am going to be.” The journey can be shortened by making the mental leap which will motivate the required actions. The intent is important for it is through intent that action follows!