Today is Budget Day in Trinidad & Tobago, and the Honorable Mr. Winston Dookeran, Minister of Finance, has warned the nation against expecting 'magic' in this, his maiden budget.
Listening to the comments of supporters and detractors alike, one realizes it's not a magic budget they want, but a 'gimme' budget, with most people seeing the country and the Government not through a prism but a keyhole, having only a view of the world as it affects them.
The beauty of the Internet and Facebook in particular, one gets to 'overhear' many different conversations. As a COP supporter it has shamed me continuously to hear 'members' of that Party making grand charge boasts, out and out demands, and then veiled threats if they appear unlikely to get their way.
These are not supporters of 'New' politics, these are people looking for a ticket to ride. We've seen their brand of politics for too long. In truth and in fact that out and out greed has been one of the four horsemen of Trinidad's slow decline. The break up of the home, the subsequent denigration of community life and the rewarding and encouragement of appearance over substance have been the other three.
No one is saying don't be ambitious, but personal enrichment has replaced personal sucess at endeavor, and material wealth and status (which were the benefits of a life well spent diligently in pursuit of higher goals) have become the ends themselves, with most people comfortable with the ends justifying the means. How is it that these same people cannot see the connection between all that ails society and this policy of greed?
There has been a change in Parties at the helm of Governance, and if that change is to have any meaning other than a popularity contest, the real Leaders at the head of this organization need to espouse a vision, a new way forward for the country, one that encourages family and community life, that respects and encourages religious practice of choice, that rewards national service, and is very clear in the understanding that 'capitalism without compassion is a prescription for confusion.'
The Government needs to discourage greed and avarice by its policies, and a luxury tax on 'big ticket' self-glorifying items is an excellent place to start. These are the people who have amassed the nations wealth and are hoarding it because the policies of past Administrations told them that was all right. We need to change that; Reward them with tax breaks for specific investments, but capital gains and stagnant money strangles development. Someone told me in Trinidad Billion is the new Million, and while that may be fun to say, the reality is that this practice is contributing in no small way to our nation failing.
Secondly, we need a property tax regime, but one that encourages home ownership. There should be no tax on your first home, ten per cent per year of the current appraised value for your second home, twenty five per cent on your third and well you get the idea.
This country is too small to have this many 'real estate tycoons.'
They have pushed the value of first home ownership out of the reach of the middle class through flipping and other profiteering policies, and these have to be discouraged now, so that prices can come back in line with reality, and the middle class, the group of people we all aspire to be counted in, can grow and be equity partners in the country again.
The banks need to be encouraged to provide 'first home mortgages', with a simple interest (say ten per cent of the value) calculated on the amount borrowed and paid off as part of the principal. What currently obtains is so disgusting it should be illegal, and mortgage lending policy in this country is the closest thing we have to organized crime.
The size and vibrancy of your middle class is the greatest indicator of a successful country, and the Government and Mr. Winston Dookeran are in a perfect position to foster its development through sensible and sound fiscal policies.
I have said this innumerable times, give the majority of the people hope and opportunity, make them equity investors in the country by the sweat of their brow and all of the other problems will dry up and go away.
Something to think about...