Not too late to consult on budget measures

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The Government’s austerity measures are being played out as expected.

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, Finance Minister Colm Imbert and other Government spokesmen have affirmed that there were no other feasible options.

Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar, her colleagues and some national analysts and commentators are damning the measures as harsh and oppressive.

The bitter truth is that the Government had no option to introducing exacting revenue-raising schemes in light of the freefall of international energy prices.

To be fair, the Opposition and most fair-minded critics easily acknowledge that glaring and cruel reality.

The devil is in the details.

The prescribed measures to raise revenues and reduce expenditure are being contested by some commentators, including the political Opposition.

Ms. Persad-Bissessar and her associates claim the measures lack innovation, creativity and vision and an appreciation of the dynamics of the modern economic marketplace.

The Opposition Leader has pointed to measures touted by her political organisation in its 2015 general election manifesto to diversify the economy and to spur other sectors to higher performance.

Ms. Persad-Bissessar and other critics are arguing for financial remedies that will not be onerous on the small man, including the growing cadre of unemployed.

As for Dr. Rowley, he is adamant that the adjustment undertakings are the most viable in keeping the country from the fierce clutch of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The public debate will necessarily continue.

Our regret is that the Government did not engage in more extensive and purposeful multi-sectoral consultations before Mr. Imbert’s announcements.

This is unfortunate because of the far-reaching nature of the measures, especially new or increased taxations.

Also, Dr. Rowley had faithfully pledged, in the run-up to last September’s general election, that, if elected, he will undertake participatory consultations with stakeholders.

In fact, he signed a memorandum of understanding with the labour sector.

Ironically, the trade unions have been first through the gates in criticising the Rowley administration for the absence of dialogue.

Although the Government has already delivered its revised fiscal package, it is not too late to engage the people’s sector in roundtable consultations.

Such a venture may yield viable new alternatives to those presented by the Finance Minister.

Or, may well solicit buy-in from important national influence-shapers.

Too much is at stake for the Government to ignore the people who will be forced to swallow the bitter financial pill.

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