Thursday was definitely a working day for Finance Minister Colm Imbert but he was minus his usual tie and business look at the post-Cabinet media briefing.
Whether it was the open-necked printed shirt (and jacket) he was sporting that day, Imbert was comfortable enough—in discussing double dipping” in the Salary Relief Programme—to admit some people in T&T are a “bit desperate.”
It wasn’t unexpected, he proffered. “You have to have a human side in all of this…”
Comment coming at a timely juncture. Budget 2021 is being finalised and Imbert’s acknowledgement of the “human side” will have to be reflected in his budgeting for T&T.
His 2021 prescription will test the balancing of T&T’s financial status and this human side, where Government’s political interest is also involved. Imbert’s already stated the difficulties which could arise from cutting certain expenses to fund items ranging from pensions to debt.
But his firmness on the clear presence of the property tax in the People’s National Movement’s manifesto has signalled that tax lies ahead. Whatever timeline and basis for implementation, Imbert should seek this particular revenue stream first from locations which can easier produce it, ahead of residential categories where hardship and legal challenges could arise and retard Finance’s collection and image.
The tax may be inevitable but the COVID climate where joblessness is only one fallout factor, requires a different approach to what may have been envisioned.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s energy announcements on Tuesday were designed to build some hope. But after Imbert’s acknowledgement of people’s desperation, his tax schedule will have to reconcile numbers with the message of being one’s brother’s keeper, which has been the platform for COVID consciousness.
T&T’s pandemic experience has demonstrated that while many may reflect that message, it’s been skewered in interpretation by some and downright kicked to the curb by others whose ignorance cannot be excused.
Former late PNM leader Patrick Manning deemed 2020 as target date for PNM’s Vision 2020 plans and the year has indeed turned out to be a signal one not only for T&T but the world: the pandemic laying bare global human ills.
Local pandemic pressure has triggered sensitivity that ordinarily might have been insulated by routine. Some of it’s in aid of the right reasons. Some, patently wrong as recent incidents have illustrated.
In this term, which might be Rowley’s last—and after the lessons of last term—his legacy and PNM’s political future are being built. His stance on fairness regarding the Bayside Towers pool shenanigans, however, summoned enough of an ear-splitting clapback from Police Commissioner Gary Griffth to ensure the matter, unfortunately, didn’t end with an amicable joint statement after the meeting Rowley called on Monday on the issue.
Interestingly, Griffith hasn’t repeated his “hypocrite” description of Rowley—an indication Griffith understands the situation and there’s hope for positive movement.
The United National Congress’ closely followed the spat, as MP Roodal Moonilal’s statement supporting Griffith denotes.
UNC quarters have speculated on whether the blowouts might affect possible extension of Griffith’s next August. He’s said he didn’t think so, since he’d gotten the highest marks of any commissioner.
But some UNC insiders say Griffith’s perceived leadership strength would be the ticket for the UNC resurgence being sought post-election, amid calls for change of the current leadership. However, they’ll have to await whether Government extends next year’s contract, removing him from the political market place.
Other loud clapbacks emanated from the distasteful “private beach” episode. A great many people wondered at the lack of thought in statements involved which didn’t inform, educate or communicate anything beyond self (A theme also perceived, Bayside-wise.) Second wave from that “beach” was an affront to all T&T citizens who’ve laboured long and hard in some way for their country. From which many seize benefit.
Assorted venting is preventing J Public from grasping that customising COVID regulations isn’t regulation: some sporting masks improperly. Education Minister posing sans mas. Private partying numbers.
The desperation which Imbert has to cater for will only get worse if cases continue rolling. And that’s not entirely in Government’s hands.