Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 17th 2014 Contents BG12 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 2014 • WEEK THREE
In the Senate earlier this month, Opposition Senator
and attorney-at-law, Stuart Young, made a contribution
on Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appro-
(Financial Year 2014) Bill, 2014 in which he emphasized
the need for financial prudence in the country s financial
management:Iwould like to start by reliving a conversation I had
with my four-year-old son when I was dropping
him to school this morning. The importance of the
conversation, as I was turning the corner to drop
him to school, he turned to me and he said, "Daddy,
we need to put a spell on the country," and I turned
to him and I said, "Ethan, what do you mean by
that?" He is four years old. He said, "Daddy, the
country is not in a good way and we need to fix it." He said,
"I am frightened. I am afraid of criminals. I am afraid of bad
people, daddy." I said, "Son, do not worry, we are working
towards fixing the country."
When I used that we, I have to admit it was not a we that
was segregated by party, but it was a we calling upon all of
the upright citizens of T&T, because that is the only way that
we can fix the country, that we must always step forward
now, every citizen of T&T, and take up the mantle of respon-
sibility in taking us where we need to go.
And where we need to go, in my respectful view, is to First
World status. How do we get there? We cannot get there
through legislation. We in this House and the Lower House,
whilst we have an amount of responsibility, cannot bear the
full brunt and burden of the responsibility of fixing this great
nation of ours.
So again I would like to start by calling upon all citizens
to stand up, start as an individual by doing what is right and
what is right for your country, and we, the political individuals,
will do our best to guide the country through the tools that
we have to get us there.
Downward trend in global standings
We have heard a lot of statistics during the course of the
day, and one that struck me in my research is called the Global
Competitive Index for 2013 and 2014. It has the rankings and
the 2012/2013 comparisons. I was greatly disappointed when
I looked at this Global Competitiveness Index.
It ranks 148 countries of the world, and our great nation
is to be found for 2013-2014 at the 92nd position. Last year
we were at the 90th position, and the year before that we
were at the 84th position. So what it has shown, from 2011
to current there has been a downward trend, and this is a
global statistics which is similar to the global statistics we
have been referred to today by those in the know. What this
indicates to me is that we are not being competitive as a
nation, and there is still a lot of way for us to go and progress
to be made, and it is not too late.
I continue to have a dream, Mr. Vice-President. It is a dream
that we the people of T&T would be able to uplift.
For us to get to this First World status, we need a change
in attitude and we need a change in politics. How I tie that
into the Bill before us, it is my respectful view that every year
a government has to prepare a budget, every ministry has to
prepare a budget and the various bodies in the Ministry prepare
their budgets to go into the master budget. So this is not
something that we have just started to do. This is not a rein-
vention of the wheel, this is not something that we are novices
at.So it bothers me why we come here---and I will get into
the figures in a short while---but why are we coming here
now, at this late stage in the financial fiscal year, asking for
an extra almost $3.9 billion. When we have started off the
year at almost $62 billion.
I think the philosophy I would like to put forward with
these supplementary appropriation Bills, they should really
be to cover the unexpected, what could not be easily predicted,
what we did not think would come.
Some of this Bill does go towards that, in fairness, because
it is the request for further funds to deal with the negotiations
that have been concluded, and the wages and salaries, et
cetera. So that is the type of requests we should be coming
here to the House to make, that the Government should be
coming here to make, but there are a lot of our others that
I would take some time to go through, that I cannot agree
to, and I am not in favour of. I think there must be a better
explanation of why this did not form part of the original
budget, especially when we look at the magnanimous figures
for some of these ministries in their original budget estimate
Public funds: Finite resources
What we have to remember that we are dealing with here,
respectfully, are public funds, and I think very often the point
is being missed that we are dealing with finite resources.
We have future generations to think about and to look after,
and that is something that is very dear to me, because I have
young children, and I look around, all my friends they have
young children. All of us in this House, I am sure, have either
our own young children or nieces, nephews, et cetera, and
it is the future generations we are here for.
We are not here for ourselves, we are here to protect the
heritage and the inheritance of the future generations. That
is the importance of this type of Bill here today, and the con-
sideration that we the legislators have to take into account
when preparing our budgets, and coming to the Houses to
request further money. It is incumbent upon us now to protect
the Treasury, to preserve it, to invest wisely, to ensure that
the future generations have a fighting chance.
A few weeks ago in the debate in relation to the procurement
legislation, I utilized a mantra that again is one that is dear
to me. It is "value for money". The Government, I respectfully
suggest, should use this mantra when dealing with the people s
Treasury, because it is not their Treasury. It is not any incumbent
government s Treasury, it is the people s Treasury. These are
public funds. Always utilise the mantra of "value for money."
That does not seem to be happening. We have seen unprece-
dented levels of expenditure, and my fear is, and it will come
to pass, that this is unsustainable. The question is when and
what do we do to ensure that we mitigate and minimise the
risk of it?
We are, and I think I can say without any fear of contra-
diction, the most prosperous country throughout the region.
That is not something that we should take for granted, because
every time I travel through the region professionally and per-
sonally, it always strikes me about how the other countries,
our neighbour Caricom countries, are forced to survive and
how fortunate we in T&T are and what steps we must take
to protect what we have and to ensure that it grows and it
is invested properly and it is not squandered.
I also have briefs throughout the islands, where it is to
attempt to assist a government in solving its fiscal problem.
Some of these islands, our brothers and sister islands, are
living on hand-outs from First World countries. That is state
that we must never allow ourselves to get into. So we must
be very careful, very cautious, Minister of Finance and the
Economy, to ensure that we do not blow the deficit, that we
be cautious about our borrowings, that we be cautious about
how we spend our money, because woe behold the day that
T&T is in a similar situation. We are not blessed with the
resources that some of these other islands have with respect
So let us not squander what we have in the public Treasury
and what we have in the public purse.
Prudence with public purse
Opposition Senator and lawyer Stuart Young
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