Karen Tesheira, in an insightful presentation on the 2022 budget statement, said: “A budget is more than a number of cobbled together numbers. He talks about the government’s priorities, its values, its vision and its imperatives, that is, its strategic plan for its citizens.
She titled her remarks “Government for the Rich and Powerful” and reminded us of one of the key findings of the “Economic Inclusion Strategy [EIS]”(2017-2021):” Opening up economic opportunities to previously underserved social groups is an integral part of the transition to sustainable market economies. “(Express, October 6)
Tesheira may have added another observation made by the European Bank in its “Executive Summary”. He noted that “viable and well-functioning market economies must provide equitable access to economic opportunities for all, regardless of their circumstances”. Such a declaration would have captured the central problem facing our society today: the exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged from the economy.
Reading the budget statement, all I could think of were the words of the neighborhood boys when government officials and other economists offered scholarly essays on the effects of rising unemployment on society. They shrugged their shoulders and said, “It doesn’t really matter to us anyway, because we started working anyway. “
This statement sank when Colm Imbert said his government reduced the VAT rate “from 15 percent to 12.5 percent and also twice increased the personal allowance, first by $ 5,000 per month. to $ 6,000 per month in 2016, then from $ 6,000 per month to $ 7,000 per month in 2021, relieving hundreds of thousands of employees of the obligation to pay income tax ”.
The boys in the neighborhood didn’t have to read the European Bank report or listen to “Resilience in a Global Pandemic” (the title of Imbert’s presentation) to know they weren’t included. in Imbert’s vision for the future, although it included some of the qualities that the European Bank considers to be integral to a functioning and well-functioning market economy: “competitive, well-governed, green, inclusive, resilient and integrated ”.
Imbert also told us about the changes the government has made in the banking sector “to allow for relaxed and simplified Know Your Customer (KYC) rules to make it easier to open a bank account for people than traditional requirements might otherwise exclude ”. However, he did not say anything about teaching financial literacy to excluded groups or young people, starting in elementary school.
Financial literacy, a program that former Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams started over a decade ago, has never been in the debate. I’m not even sure it got into the school curriculum. Such education is much more important for today’s young people and disenfranchised people. Annamarie Lusardi, US-based Italian economist, global expert in financial literacy, tells us: “Young people face a much more complicated financial situation than their parents … ever … The explosion of online day trading and cryptocurrency speculation has made young people more vulnerable than ever to the immolation of their savings, or even to trading debt. (Financial Times, October 7)
I praised the government’s “infrastructure projects” which bode well for society. However, I have searched in vain for any mention of the initiation of any substantial economic project in places like Morvant, Sea Lots or Laventille. All I have seen is the economic activity taking place in Couva, but nothing for these disadvantaged black communities across the country. I also wondered what happened to the Community Recovery Program for disadvantaged neighborhoods that the Prime Minister appointed to help these communities.
The improvement of sports facilities and the continued funding of a strengthened “Elite Athlete Assistance Program” are laudable efforts. What I haven’t heard is the organization / mobilization of sports and athletic activities that engage the energies of entire communities. I thought that was Darryl Smith’s job when he became Minister of Sports. However, without the commitment and full mobilization of people in the community, we will not get anywhere in the world of sports, as the Jamaican High School sports meetings demonstrated.
I fondly remember 1996, when Keith Rowley was enthusiastically inspired by William Julius Wilson’s magnificent book, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, as he challenged Patrick Manning for the leadership of PNM. Wilson argued, “The consequences of high neighborhood unemployment are more devastating than those of high neighborhood poverty. A neighborhood where people are poor but working is different from a neighborhood where people are poor and unemployed. Many of the current problems in the inner city ghetto neighborhoods – crime, family, dissolution, social protection, low levels of social organization, etc. – are fundamentally a consequence of the disappearance of work.
We thought then that productive work was important for the liberation of our people. The nature of work has changed over the past two decades, but productive work is still fundamental to the advancement of the poor and disadvantaged. I would have liked to see the emphasis put on this point in the budget speech.
Imbert’s budget statement for 2022 says little about the challenges facing the disadvantaged and the unemployed today. I would have liked him to talk a little more about how his government is helping our citizens become more responsible people.
I wonder how many young and disadvantaged people listened to Imbert’s three and a half hour speech. Is this how we evolve in the digital age?
Other questions come to mind when we think about the presentation of the budget: has the Government done a good job in the face of the pandemic? Do we feel more secure in our homes? Are we more optimistic about our future?

Professor Cudjoe’s email address is [email protected]
He is reachable


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