Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) president general Ancel Roget says the 2023 National Budget was another example of the Government imposing hardship on the population.Addressing the OWTU and Credit Union League’s People Sector Post-Budget Forum on Tuesday, Roget said Minister of Finance Colm Imbert attempted a spin job to dupe people into thinking the proposed fiscal policies were good for the country.
However, he said where the Government gives with its thumb and index fingers; it takes back with both hands.
Roget said those who would benefit enormously from the budget are the onepercenters, People’s National Movement financiers and multinational companies (MNC).
Meanwhile, he said the Government calls on citizens a fifth time to pay more for fuel in a petroleum-producing country with a refinery.
He said the increase in fuel costs brings more onerous hardship on the people, regardless of whether they own a vehicle.
“That is one of the most uncaring actions by this Government. It is as though we (Government) put as much pressure on you because you seem to be taking this pressure,” Roget said.
Roget recalled Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s infamous “they have not riot yet” statement from 2016, in which he increased gas three times. Imbert jokingly remarked that despite increases, people had not rioted. Roget said people will now experience increased transportation and food costs in addition to the 40 per cent inflationary increase. He warned that Property Tax was right around the corner.
While it will cost the man on the street more to live, Roget said Imbert was generous to the MNCs by reducing Supplemental Petroleum Tax, and Petroleum Profit Tax and offering more concessions. Therefore, he said the trade union movement was vindication in its stance that the Government can do better for the country.
He said it would ensure workers get a better wage adjustment, especially for the past years, and to counter the increasing cost of living.
“If there was ever any time that we feel vindicated as a trade union movement, it was right after the reading of that budget yesterday. Why? Because we are firm in our conviction that the four per cent which was already woefully ten times, 100 times more now inadequate after the reading this budget.”
Movement for Social Justice Leader David Abdulah said the budget showed no picture of where the Government wanted to take the country.
Abdulah said the Government, which has an overall neoliberal vision, offered no hope to those struggling that life would improve. He said there was nothing to suggest food prices would decrease.
Abdulah said the way the Government deals with the issue of sharing the burden of adjustment is one where the people who have to continue to bear the brunt of the adjustment are the working people and the poor.
He said Imbert claimed that Government could only afford a four per cent wage increase over six years, but this would not impact workers’ loss of purchasing power which eroded in recent years.
“The four per cent is a clear indication that workers have to continue to bear the brunt of the burden.”
Economist Dr Keston Perry said the budget was not forward-looking and focused on how the country arrived at its current position.
Perry said it came from one of the most callous and neoliberal governments the country ever saw.