The only solution | Journalist
I am writing this column before Finance Minister Colm Imbert delivers his budget speech and announces the measures the government intends to use to fund its operations in fiscal year 2021-2022.
What I am writing here is nothing new. Other commentators, economists, politicians and informed citizens will have said or written scholarly critiques of the economy, unloaded tons of advice and mountains of action on the minister.
He will probably ignore us all. But I keep writing, hoping he will pay attention to what Citizen Shah says because I have no personal agenda, no interest in politics, not even to add a few extra dollars to my meager pensions, since I know that I have time left in the land of life is very limited.
I am only seeking to offer my thoughts on the enormous challenges we face, hoping that Minister Imbert does not make fatal errors in his budget presentation, real miscalculations that could push this company into a precarious and very divided balance. towards an implosion that would wipe it off the map – and there are so-called patriots waiting to see that happen.
Now I know I sound alarmist, and maybe that’s how I want to sound. You see, as I remain locked in my humble abode due to issues bigger than Covid-19, I keep my eyes, ears, and instincts on the alert, so I see and hear things that a busy finance minister will not see. So I need the minister’s indulgence. Listen.
The big challenge you face is how to raise around TT $ 50 billion to cover next year’s expenses, based on citizens’ expectations, their consumption patterns which, let’s be honest, have been hammered into their psyche. by politicians like you, your friends and opponents holier than you in Parliament.
Of that big sum, you will spend around $ 9 billion on wages and salaries, which sad to say for my own people could have cost half that if those who get their paychecks like clockwork worked. at least not just showing up for work.
You need $ 5 billion to pay only the interest on the money you and your predecessors borrowed, not the principal sums, which is another $ 120 billion gorilla that we have to deal with for some time. . The King Kong and Count Dracula created by successive governments are the $ 30 billion spending in transfers and grants that mountains of leeches suck into the marrow of our economy, with little or nothing to show in return.
It is a frightening prospect that you face and others before you as well as those to come if you run the financial affairs of this country as it has been and has been for several decades. There is no way, under the present circumstances, that the income side of the economy can produce enough money to sate such vulgar debauchery.
So, Minister, what are you doing? The best option is, of course, to run and leave the mess behind. Someone or bodies will come and try to do the impossible, and you could be in Malta or Dubai enjoying the rest of your life. These are not options for you. You are a fighter and you know well that even though you face an insurmountable task, there is hardly anyone else in the room who can do better than you.
I suggest you select the best negotiators available, some sort of rescue team, and negotiate the country out of this mess. I specify “country” because when the creditors come to claim, they are not looking for ministers, they look at the country, the most chosen coins, to pocket.
It won’t reach that level of crisis because looking at it objectively, every country in the world, post-Covid, except a few super-rich states, are in doo-doo. Creditors will then have to work with us to help us emerge from this crisis, which will not last forever and which, once we have the resolution and use our brains, we can overcome.
First of all, when you start speaking tomorrow, you are announcing that all parliamentarians, ministers and consultants and various lazy bureaucrats have agreed to a 50% cut. 100 of their salaries and benefits. This exemplary move naturally excludes their “rides” and their accommodation.
Then, all public sector employees and their unions will be virtually invited to negotiate an unprecedented deal whereby nothing is added to their current emoluments, big money will be taken away from those who insist on “lahayer” at work, and from seniors who do not win their packages will be sent packaging.
In the private sector, those who evade tax, do not pay NIB contributions, and otherwise engage in theft will appear in a special court set up to imprison their buttocks.
I will come back to my mitigation measures soon: I took all this terror.