Budget debate begins… Kamla: “A Madman’s Rant Budget”

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Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has described the 2017 Budget presentation by Minister of Finance, Colm Imbert, as a “Madman’s Rant” Budget.

She reminded the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon of David Rudder’s 1996 hit calypso “Madman’s Rant”. Here is how it comes:

“Was the chant of a madman, in this tale from a strange land
Give me the chant of the madman. It’s the only salvation
Ah say the chant of a madman, in this tale from a strange land
Give me the chant of the madman, Lord, is the only salvation.”

Persad-Bissessar added, “I heard some say Hon Prime Minister, your concern and care should move from Whitehall back to Mason Hall in order to get in touch with the roots. And I wondered, the more I found myself pondering about our current state of affairs.

She minded the House that the country wakes up to daily newspaper headlines – bloodshed. She pointed out that since the PNM came into Government 13 months ago, there have been more than 400 murders and counting.

“Everyday mothers are crying. A young mother is kidnapped in broad daylight. PH drivers making an honest living are killed, and a woman attacked so viciously in St James.

If we were in Government, we would have put initiatives in place to deal with crime. Look, the Minister of Health does not know how to deal with the deadly zika virus.

“There are no drugs in the hospitals. So instead of you going to the hospital for health care, you are going there to die,” the Opposition Leader added.

She said the Budget means nothing to citizens if they cannot be protected or receive proper health care.

If love ones die, nothing else in the budget would matter.

Persad-Bissessar noted that Government holders are being harassed out and forced to engage in wars of words, while no attention is being paid, incidentally, to the declining value of the TT dollar, nor the appalling state of the justice system.

According to the Opposition Leader, there is:

rampant crime and unemployment,
women and children being murdered,
girls are being assaulted and are disappearing never to be found.

She added, “And, in this Strange Land, there is a deafening silence from the Government and authorities as to what measures they intend to take to curb this rapid, deep descent into tragedy and chaos.

Again, I note, it was nowhere near this tragic and frightening state a mere two years ago.
But wait. There is even more.

“In this Strange Land, the Prime Minister appears almost every week in some public forum or on the media prophesying doom and gloom, telling the citizens that we are on the brink of bankruptcy, that they must, to use his words, “wean” themselves off the State, that their tax paying dollars should no longer be used to build roads and schools and health centres in effect.

“At the same time, his government discontinues a case against a friend for wastage of billions of taxpayer dollars.

At the same time, his government:

Invests millions of dollars in constructing a stadium that has no tangible use for the population at large (which was incidentally mired not too long ago in one of the biggest corruption scandals in this country—and we’re still to get to the Heart of the Matter on that) and also purchases million dollar paintings, saying that this will ensure the people of this country gain some form of culture.

And in this strange land, that same Prime Minister appears on a political platform telling public servants that if they accept their legally due back pay, they can lose their jobs, but at the same time that same Prime Minister appears on another political platform doing a very strange dance and singing an equally odd song in a voice that sounds, well, strange—saying “I want my money, I want my money.”

Let me point out that no government campaigning for re-election will deliberately lose an election so that another government will have to pay out the backpay.

That is a misrepresentation by the Minister. Madman’s rant!

We knew how we were going to honour all the backpay because we had made provision for it which he “hoped” up to use in expenditure after elections.

This then, is the Trinidad and Tobago we live in—a country of paradox—where we don’t have money to buy medicine for the people but instead we have enough for mega construction projects and luxury hotels and paintings while single mothers who are losing their URP and CEPEP jobs daily cry and praying for God to send them food for their children when the day comes.

May I remind this House that in one year we have seen massive job losses of over 20,000 jobs have been lost in this country since this government came into office.

Had it been my government in office, initiatives for workers and job creation as well as shoring up a social net for the most vulnerable would have been upfront in the Minister’s budget instead of the nonsense at pages 68 and 72.

Tales from a Strange Land indeed where the most important issues affecting people, viz, safety and security, health care and sustainable jobs – these are relegated to the back burner whilst the government focuses on arithmetic, on adding sums and accounting in a vai-que-vai manner demonstrating upside down priorities.

It should be people-centred!

They used to talk about money for value all the time; now all they talk about is money with no care for people.”

Persad-Bissessar said the Government does have money to buy drugs, but they have money for mega projects and to build hotels.

“We have always been people centred, but this govt is upside down. Almost $60 billion spent and there has been no accountability. Where the money went, no money for back pay and no money for the contractors, so where the money was gone.”

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in Parliament on Thursday

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar in Parliament on Thursday

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