The closure of scores of business inclusive of retail stores, bars and restaurants at Trincity Mall are being replicated all over the country
The Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) played through the recently-concluded Caribbean Premier League (CPL) unbeaten and won the competition convincingly.
The team’s success appeared to be built on sound leadership, proper planning for their opponents, talent, focus, unity and depth in their bench. It was not based on wishful thinking nor vooping.
Their success is a lesson that the country and the political directorate desperately need to learn from, because as I have said before, since the Vision 2020 effort, the country has failed to plan and lacks the kind of focus that will lead to success.
We have preferred to talk about short-term projects, about building a port in Toco for example, without telling us about the strategy for economic development in the North East, other than allowing for a shorter journey to Tobago.
We have preferred to point to a plan to spend a half a billion dollars on agriculture, but not talk about the linkages to the rest of the economy and how it could lead to sustained production that can then move into manufactured goods.
The vooping, the knee-jerk reactions will not work. The calling of a grand news conference to tell us that BHP is drilling a risky deep-water well looking for oil and rehashing what we already know about their discoveries reeks of trying to score 24 runs in the last over of a T20 match with two wickets left, when all you needed four overs before was 40 runs with six wickets in hand.
We are in a perilous situation in which there is little room for error and where the early signs are not good for T&T.
We all know it instinctively, things are getting economically worse and the country awaits Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s budget, hoping that this time he gets it right and that the Government can lead the country to a sustainable economic footing.
It is not going to be an easy task. One of our stories highlights businesses that were already having a hard time in an economy that contracted for five consecutive years prior to the COVID-19 crisis, were just unable to carry on.
The closure of scores of business inclusive of retail stores, bars and restaurants at Trincity Mall are being replicated all over the country.
To be sure, no one can blame the Government for the COVID-19 pandemic and in many ways we have to take responsibility for our irresponsible behaviour that has led to the second deadly wave that we are in. But the country’s economy was already weak and the just concluded election campaign in which the PNM could point to little economic success was testament to the dire state of the T&T economy.
This weak economy coupled with the pandemic has according to the Central Bank left a $10 billion deficit for the first nine months of the 2020 financial year. It has also increased government’s borrowing, with debt to GDP now over 71 per cent.
In its latest economic bulletin issued on Tuesday, the Central Bank noted that the room for additional fiscal accommodation will be fairly narrow in the current circumstances, while the prevailing high excess liquidity will influence the timing of fresh monetary policy actions.
According to the bank: “Overall, the impact of the pandemic has heightened the imperative for co-ordinated fiscal, monetary and structural policies for assuring macroeconomic stability. Structural reform is especially important to increase the ease of doing business; enhance flexibility in the provision of public and private sector goods and services; and move forward widespread and safe adoption of digital processes.”
The bank added that at the same time, the coronavirus’ pervasive reach has put a stronger light on distributional issues, notably the need to protect the most vulnerable members of society who are likely to bear a disproportionate burden from the pandemic.
It is therefore imperative that the budget deals with the worsening fiscal position, even if it means that some difficult decisions will have to be made. The Finance Minister must find creative ways not to significantly worsen the deficit and the debt position even as he waits like the rest of the world for a vaccine and a return to some sense of normality.
The challenge is that the Finance Minister is essentially the bookkeeper and the Ministry of Planning that should lead the strategic approach has too often been weighed in the balance and found wanting. It has never been given the weight it deserves.
When things got challenging for TKR and they needed him to step up, Kyron Pollard rose to the occasion in the CPL. We remember well, his leading from the front when the team looked all but dead in the water. He showed skill, thought, boldness and that he was the man for the job.
If we are to believe Dr Rowley that he is leaving at the end of this term, what would be his legacy? What will the history books tell future generations about him, other than he came from Mason Hall to Whitehall?
Will they say he led the country out of a pandemic and transformed, or at least set the wheels in motion, to transform the economy? Or will the history books say this was a time the country yearned for leadership and could not find it in the proportions required?
I fear we may say as Virginia Wolf did in her masterpiece To the Lighthouse: “Who shall blame the leader of the doomed expedition, if, having adventured to the uttermost, and used his strength wholly to the last ounce and fallen asleep not much caring if he wakes or not, he now perceives by some pricking in his toes that he lives, and does not on the whole object to live, but requires sympathy, and whisky, and someone to tell the story of his suffering to at once? Who shall blame him?”
You see transformational leadership would require Dr Rowley to do the big and often hard things.
The silence on the Roadmap to Recovery report tells me that the Government is not prepared to implement it in the spirit it was sought and given. The country must not stand for it.
The country must insist that this constant setting up of committees when the nation demands action and then over time not implement recommendations must come to an end. We are replete with reports and short on implementation.
Pollard showed that he could call on his bench to come to the fore and even as Narine and others were injured, others stepped up. It is why we have to question the decision by the Prime Minister to bring back his Trade Minister who spend five years in government and the ease of doing business went in the wrong direction? Was there no one else that could be found? Is the bench that weak?
The country takes its tone from the leader and in a time of hardship, when cracks show more than ever Dr Rowley must show magnanimity, foresight and though and insist that he is the Prime Minister for all the country.
Time will tell us if he will be a chapter or a footnote in the history books.