By SUNSHINE TODAY ECONOMIC REPORTER
Sometimes I believe that it is better for us to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open our mouth and remove all doubt.
This is the message I want to send to our Minister of Finance, the Honourable Colm Imbert because since the PNM was elected to serve this country his utterances have been nothing more than an annoyance to the general population and to put it simply, purely asinine.
I am trying to understand how in a country where belt-tightening has become the order of the day for average man, where unemployment and inflation are eating away at our wealth, the recent drop in the oil price to $34.00USD per barrel is not of concern to our Minister of Finance.
I am struggling to comprehend how a shortfall of $3.5billion dollars to a national budget is not of major concern to our Minister of Finance and I am fighting hard to reconcile what plan this Government has come up with to ease the burden of its suffering people as they have not produced one additional revenue stream since they were elected to office.
I understand that historically we have gone through rough times and seemed to have evolved unscathed but those were periods when the social environment was less harsh, less unforgiving and less austere than it is now. And yes we came through!
But we have currently found ourselves living in the middle of a global pandemic that possesses the threat to railroad the global economy and yet with all the possible implications of such a challenge, our Minister of Finance will go public with a statement that says good comfort levels for him because “we have been down this road before and we have come out of it by careful management of the economy.”
What is Imbert talking about? Which economy he or any PNM Government has carefully managed that provided us with the success he now glibly speaks about with a view to give to our people a false hope that everything is going to be alright?
Imbert’s government can see clearly now
I recall that this same Minister in 2018 at the mid-year Budget Review told the nation in Parliament that the Government could see clearly now, the worst is over. He proclaimed that the economic gloom is past and before his voice stopped reverberating after such an announcement, the connoisseurs in the world of fiscal management were speaking of the level of financial myopicism of which Imbert clearly seemed to be a victim.
I recalled then that he proclaimed that it was the wise planning and the prudent decisions made by his Government that allowed us to weather the storm and escape its brutality, only to realise that he lied to us, shattered our confidence and destroyed whatever faith we had in the Government because our economy was no better in the people’s eyes that when Rowley and his minions came into power on September 7, 2015.
Now is even worse because we stand at the cusp of something sinister, an evil occurrence has just about descended upon us and rather than presenting a narrative that we can trust, Minister Imbert has chosen a rhetoric of falsehood to mislead us in an election year.
Let us explore the real situation and watch the real challenges unfold, because lying to us now will not help our situation neither will it assist us in developing strategies on an individual level that will allow us to battle this impending depression that is now facing us.
Clearly, when Minister Imbert announced that he was not concerned he did not have the full picture of the Covid-19. It did not yet descend on Trinidad and Tobago and a firsthand knowledge of its destructive power. This is information he could have received through mere reading.
The facts as we know it suggest that as of March 1, 2020, 110 countries in the global village are infected with the coronavirus and we are sure that since then more than five countries have joined that list, because in the Caribbean alone Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Martinique have all had their first cases with which each has to deal.
The facts according to the World Economic Forum stated that in China alone, since the outbreak of the virus, using March 1, 2020 as our baseline some 80,565 people have been reported as being infected while 3,015 have died. 3.7% of the infected population.
In the rest of the world, 14,768 have been reported as being infected while 267 people have died; this represents 1.8% of the infected population.
These figures alone are mind blowing because it represents a world view that suggests a virus with a high transmission and a low mortality rate. A careful analysis will show that if an average of 2% of all persons infected would die then this poses a greater threat than Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), viruses with less deaths and yet which had a brutal economic impact.
For instance, in 2003, the World Economic Forum further stated that 8000 people were infected with the SARS virus, 774 died and the cost to the global village was 50 billion US while in 2015, 200 people were infected with MERS and the cost to the global village was 8.5 billion US.
As of March 1, 2020, Covid-19 has infected 98,615 globally, 3282 have died, comparing these figures to MERS and SARS leaves me to wonder what will be the global economic impact and how this will affect Trinidad and Tobago. Moreso, what plans our Government has to treat with it especially since unlike SARS and MERS it has now come home to our shores.
The Center for Global Development predicts that 2.7 trillion US dollars will be lost in output, the Asian Development Bank creates a spectrum of loss that expands from 77 to 347 billion US dollars while the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development pegs the loss at half of the global economic growth; but our Minister of Finance, the Honourable Colm Imbert does not seem a bit threatened because we have faced this before and came through. Such idiocy! At what point in time did we face this before Minister Imbert? When?
The nation is fed up
with Imbert’s lies
World Tourism is on the decline and already we have banned all cruise ships from entering into our ports; a decline in revenue Mr. Minister and this has nothing to do with oil prices.
No one is travelling, not even to and from Tobago. Prices are at an all-time low and subsidies to keep Caribbean Airlines afloat will be forthcoming and you are not viewing this as a threat that could catapult our economy, Minister Imbert?
Increased expenditure is to be expected in the health sector as the virus grows exponentially. Production in all sectors will drastically decline. So what plans do you, Minister Imbert, have to ensure as you say, the economy does not catapult into decline?
And just in case you do not know, the spread of this virus will be around for quite a while since it is predicted that a vaccine for public use to treat with Covid-19 is just about one year away since testing for it will not start until about July to August, 2020.
The nation is fed up with Imbert’s lies, with his narratives of false hope, with his failure to navigate through economic waters and the threat his presence in Government poses to national development.
Continuously he has failed to put his brain in gear before he puts his mouth in motion and that is hurting us.
This is a nanocosm of the world we face with or without Imbert. What we need is a financial navigator to guide us through these troubled ones.
Dr. Rowley can help to spare us by sending an SOS out to Mariano Browne to lead a team that will be pragmatic in its plans to build a stronger economic platform from which our nation could catapult and thus save our nation from disaster. And to Colm Imbert, let me remind him that it is better at times to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open his mouth and remove all doubt.