Monday, October 31, 2011


We all are (or ought to be) familiar with Albert Einstein's famous definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. It seems to me that this is what we have been doing for a long time ... too long. Quite frankly. I cannot discern any real difference between the economic philosophies and policies of this administration from the last, despite all the rhetoric to the contrary and despite all the previous hype about "new politics". If there are policy differences, then could somebody please explain them to me.

The economy is central to everything ... the war against crime, the making of a better life for the citizenry, better health care, better education, better roads ... everything! If the economy fails then everything else sooner or later (and usually sooner) will also fail. Once you understand this fundamental fact then you will understand why I keep going on about the economy and what the Government is or is not doing about it.

Back in 1987 the "flavour" of the time was "trickle down economics". This was an economic theory that had two powerful adherents ... Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. When the NAR Government came in under A.N.R. Robinson it followed the principles of this theory slavishly. The argument then was that T&T needed to adopt these type of economic principles in order to get out of the rather deep hole that we had dug ourselves into. At the time I was an Opposition Senator and argued that you could not run a country like a business ... a country was not a business, and that if you attempted to do so then while you would get the country out of the hole what would happen is that the rich would get richer and that the poor would get poorer and the middle class would be squeezed out of existance.

Well, Manning came to power in 1991 and persued the same economic policies. Then came Panday in 1995, and Manning again in 2001. As far as economic policies are concerned nothing changed. (This has nothing to do with Manning's squandermania ... we are talking about economic policies! Even the best policies go awry when the wealth of a country is squandered). And here we are back at the beginning as it were ... 1987 all over again. (It is interesting to note, by the way, that Mr. Dookeran was the Planning Minister in Robinson's Cabinet back then).

Time has, most unfortunately, proven my 1987 arguments correct. The gap between rich and poor is now much greater than it ever was, and the middle class is gasping for breath on its death bed. If the present Finance Minister continues on his present course he might get us out of the hole, but at a terrible cost. It would be like the famous medical joke: the operation was a success but the patient died!

So, what to do? We ought to take another look at how we are doing things. Maybe we should take a leaf out of former President Bill Clinton's idea of "invest and grow economics" as opposed to the outdated and discredited "trickle down" theory. We need to start creating ... like yesterday ... a new investment paradigm. We need to make T&T a place where people will want to come and live and invest. Do you know, for example, that Brazil is enjoying an influx of qualified and educated Europeans who, unable to find work in their own countries are now migrating en masse to Brazil? This 'reverse' brain drain is beginning to cause such concern that just last week you had the BBC reporting on it. Educated immigrants build a country. So, why don't we look at this possibility? And if you tell me in a rather smug manner that you are, then what are you doing about it?

Put another way, the time has come to stop all the "ol' talk" which we are so good at. No! The time has come to perform ... get things done! As the old Basdeo Panday used to say ... and he was right ... performance beats old talk every time! We don't need a lot of half baked theories, nor do we need a bunch of badly articulated speeches. We need action ... now! And just in case you didn't understand "now" means now!

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