MSJ: Government failed to put spotlight on the people

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

MSJ political leader David Abdulah. FILE PHOTO –

MOVEMENT for Social Justice (MSJ) political leader David Abdulah said he was left disappointed by the “Spotlight on the economy” event last Friday. He said the forum did not pay attention to the needs of the people.

The event was held by the Finance Ministry at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain. At a virtual news conference on Sunday, Abdulah said, “Our spotlight is on the people. That’s where we should begin.”

While accepting that data about TT’s macroeconomic indicators is important, Abdulah claimed both Dr Rowley and Imbert missed the point of what a budget is supposed to do.

A budget, he continued, is supposed to organise the collective resources of a country to benefit its people.

Abdulah said that conversation was not had during the spotlight event.

Referring to the opening of the new school term on Monday, Abdulah said the fact that nearly 50 per cent of students who wrote the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination did not pass, points to ongoing deficiencies in the education system.

He asked what was Government doing to address this as the new school year opens.

Abdulah suggested that Government use some of its additional revenues to digitise textbooks used by primary and secondary school students to avoid their parents having to physically purchase them from bookstores.

He also suggested a proper transport system to take students to and from school.

Abdulah said discussions could be held with various maxi taxi associations to arrange a system whereby maxi taxi transport could be dedicated only to students at specific times of the day.

He wondered whether Imbert’s comments about Rowley wanting to further reduce the fuel subsidy, translated to a further increase in fuel prices. Abdulah was concerned that this could have a knock on effect on the cost of other goods and services.

On September 2, Imbert said the fuel subsidy was currently $2.6 billion and a $2.1 billion figure was being projected for next year. He added that Rowley wants a limit on this amount, to use the rest of such funds for other purposes.

Abdulah also asked what Government was doing to help people deal with the rising cost of food.

He suggested that property tax be implemented on commercial properties first instead of residential ones.

Abdulah also reiterated the MSJ’s call for Government to impose greater taxes on wealthier individuals and companies in TT as opposed to poor people.