Wade Mark issues warning …”POSSIBLE CIVIL UNREST”

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Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Wade Mark, said the austerity measures in the 2018 Budget, could lead to many things, including possible civil unrest.

In his Budget contribution on Tuesday, Mark added, “the impact of these measures will lead ultimately, to rising unemployment and under employment, increasing levels of poverty and crime, growing income inequality and concentration of wealth, loss of business confidence and competitiveness, increasing political risks, and industrial instability and possible civil unrest in the society.

Below are excerpts of Mark’s contribution in the Senate:

Impact of Austerity Measures 2018 on Labour and Working Class

Let us now turn to the impact of austerity measures on the working class. Madam President, the worsening economic crisis is a creature of the People’s National Movement’s (PNM’s) incompetence and anti-people political philosophy. The choice of fiscal measures in the 2018 Budget that has been unleashed on an already overburdened population has led to an explosion of fear, disappointment and disenchantment across large segments of the population particularly, the working class and the ordinary people of our beloved twin island Republic. The impact of these measures will lead ultimately, to rising unemployment and under employment, increasing levels of poverty and crime, growing income inequality and concentration of wealth, loss of business confidence and competitiveness, increasing political risks, and industrial instability and possible civil unrest in the society. These calamities MUST BE AVOIDED AT ALL COST.

LABOUR BRUTALISED

In spite of the hypocritical mouthing of the government, labour continues to be brutalised, LEAVING THEM SEVERELY TRAUMATISED.

Over the past twenty four (24) months, {thousands of workers have been battered, brutalised and crushed under the iron feet of the Rowley led administration.} the axe has fallen on the necks of thousands of workers. { without any safeguards and/or social protection networks designed to establish the necessary social protection critical for economic recovery, inclusive development, social justice and the building of human capital and productivity. The following }workers have fallen in battle in the changing paradigm of this vicious and oppressive Rowley led administration:}

Arcelor Mittal over 700 workers

Construtora over 800 workers

Centrin over 300 workers

Tourism Development Authority over 120 workers

OJT’S over 111 workers

Caroni Green Initiative over 77 workers

Trinity Exploration and

Production Services Ltd. over 48 workers

Government Human Resource over 25 workers

Perenco formally Repsol over 25 workers

Media Sector (Newsday/)

Express/Guardian over 100 workers

RBC over 500 workers

These are just a few companies that have retrenched hundreds of workers under the watchful eyes of the PNM over the past twenty four (24) months.

In addition, the vicious austerity measures announced by the Rowley led administration would undoubtedly lead to the termination of hundreds of workers whose contracts in the public service/public sector have expired. Added to continuous retrenchment, it will lead to the imposition of a de facto wage/salary freeze and the effective offer of a zero-zero-zero package by employers in both the public and private sectors.

These punitive measures will lead to a widening of the gap between the rich and the poor; the haves and the have nots. The brutality, insensitivity and cruelty of these austerity measures will have a deleterious and debilitating impact on the quality of life and standard of living of every man, woman and child in this country

A new rethink of development is absolutely and urgently required, if this country is to avoid economic ruination in the next few years. A new policy direction is A SINE QUA NON, to rekindle growth, generate jobs and protect the poor, weak, vulnerable and marginalised people in our beloved nation. Clearly, the PNM has failed the people in a most spectacular manner. A new mandate is absolutely required. Fresh elections should be called now! The government has not only broken its social contract with the people, but has lost its political legitimacy to rule this country.

Madam President, thousands of jobs have been lost directly and/or indirectly in the construction sector, steel industry, public sector and the media sector over the past twenty four (24) months owing to the flawed economic policy being pursued by this Rowley led government. It was in October, 2016, the period leading up to the retrenchment of thousands of workers that Labour Minister, Senator the Honourable Jennifer Baptiste- Primus made a bold and startling announcement to the effect that a Canadian company named Hire Pro Drivers (HPD) had identified some 35,000 long-haul trucking vacancies in Canada that could be filled by nationals of this country and hinted of the strong possibility of workers even securing permanent residence in that same country. Nothing has been heard of that plan since October, 2016. Could the Minister indicate whether this was merely a hoax on her part to mislead and to fool the working class?

DRACONIAN AND AUSTERITY MEASURES

I now turn to some of the draconian measures introduced in the 2018 Budget.

In his 2018 Budget, the PNM government has adopted a series of draconian austerity measures which will ultimately impact negatively on the quality of life and standard of living of every single employee and worker in this country.

What were these austerity measures? The Minister of Finance increased fuel prices for the fourth consecutive time in twenty four (24) months. The increase in super gasoline by some 39 cents, from its current price of $3.58 to $3.97 per litre. The Minister without batting an eyelid also proceeded to hike the price of diesel fuel by $1.11 from the current price of $2.30 to $3.41 representing an almost 50% percent increase to the working class for diesel fuel.

Madam President, it is a well known fact that the users of diesel fuel are mainly in the business, industrial and transportation sectors and a significant proportion of vehicle owners who have opted for engines utilising diesel.

While the super gasoline fuel hike might still be questioned, the diesel fuel price hike represents the imposition of a significant burden on the travelling public who are the owners of vehicles utilising diesel fuel as well as a significant cost to householders who have to support their children utilising the maxi taxi service throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

RISE IN THE COST OF GOODS AND SERVICES

Moreover, the significant impact would be the associated rise in the cost of goods and services from the commercial and industrial sectors to the consumers of this society. The net effect is a cost push inflation spiral that rears its head stemming from this oppressive budgetary measure. Madam Speaker, this is not the only negative impact on prices on the working and middle classes stemming from the 2018 draconian and unconscionable fiscal measures.

RISE IN CORPORATION TAX

Sectorally, corporation taxes have been increased in the Banking Industry at a rate of thirty five (35) percent. This additional cost will ultimately be passed on to the consumers in the form of bank fees and other charges which will increase proportionally in the coming period.

Madam President, along with this increase in Corporation Taxes on the Banking and Financial Sector will be a concomitant increase in the cost to commercial banks and other financial institutions. This may have a negative impact on their revenue stream and their ability to sustain employment levels in the Banking Industry. This could quite possibly lead to higher levels of unemployment in the financial sector.

Madam President, the gambling industry has suffered a death blow by the increase in draconian taxes imposed on their operations. It has been reported in the media, that several businesses in the gaming/gambling industry have already closed their operations. The unemployment level is going to be significant, if the government does not heed the cries of the Private Club Association and their employees, who are likely to lose their jobs.

Imagine Madam President, in his desperation to bridge the fiscal gap between revenue and expenditure not even the poor and vulnerable play-whe customers have escaped the clutches of this vicious PNM government. { This could be omitted from yr address (*)}

RISE IN HEALTH CARE SERVICES FOR THE WORKING CLASS

Given the state of the health care services in the public sector, there has been a shift to the use of private health services over the last decade. The increase in fees for Permits to operate Private Hospital will place an additional financial burden on the owners of private health services, which will be passed on to the working class. *

Madam President, the impending rate increases for water and electricity to be implemented in 2018, will have a calamitous impact on the working class and ordinary people.

I understand on that the Regulated Industries Commission, as an independent body established by statute, is mandated to review rates upon application from the various Utilities and therefore. is not under the authority and direction of either the Honourable Minister of Finance, or the Minister of Public Utilities.

One therefore, is aghast to read of the Chairman’s virtual approval of new rate increases for both utilities, prior to the holding of the necessary public consultation.

THE WAY FORWARD

In seeking to raise much needed revenue, we wish to propose the following measures:

i) Strengthen and integrate the Board of Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise administration to enhance the collection of taxes and revenues. We understand that a recent study conducted by the University of the West Indies, revealed that some $13-$15b in outstanding taxes are still to be collected by the Board of Inland Revenue.

ii) Fast track Transfer Pricing legislation to facilitate the collection of taxes from multinational corporations and other foreign entities, particularly operating in the energy sector. Tens of billions of dollars are being lost as a result of the failure of the government to establish appropriate transfer pricing legislation to stamp out the illegal practices carried out by foreign owned energy companies.

iii) Implement and operationalize the Procurement legislation and supporting administrative infrastructure to facilitate efficiency, transparency, accountability, integrity and value for money.

iv) Promote tripartite discussion amongst the social partners inclusive of government, labour, business, academia, civil society and faith based organizations aimed at promoting and developing a social compact for the renewal of our national economy.

v) Develop a medium term macroeconomic policy framework to avoid negative and austerity responses to oil price volatility by adopting pro-cyclical fiscal policies and strengthening the social safety net.

vi) Take urgent measures/steps to curb and/or stem the illicit financial outflows and inflows occurring in Trinidad and Tobago through trade misinvoicing amounting to well over US$20.350 m, or well over TT$206 b over the past ten years, according to the Global Financial Integrity Report.

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WADE MARK

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