The 2015 Budget Debate began in the House of Representatives and went on for several hours well into early Saturday morning and will resume on Monday September 15th. This yearly exercise is usually a time when a government brings out its MPs and Cabinet Minister to discuss their accomplishments of the ministries and plans for the upcoming fiscal year. It should also be a time when the Opposition present an alternative and prove their viability as the next government.
This year’s budget happens to be the 5th of the People’s Partnership Government, a critical one because it is the final opportunity because they could be very well sitting on the Opposition Benches after the 2015 election budget. Most notably Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Rowley and the fellow members of the Opposition bench have described as an election budget, a welfare budget, and above all a shameless budget.
Of course we are on a path towards an election, everyday brings us closer but for those who believe that an election will be called before they are constitutionally due, should rethink their strategy or find one. Dr. Keith Rowley had two hours to respond to the budget and within less that five minutes Dr. Roodal Moonilal was able to make Dr. Rowley’s presentation forgettable. We will just have to wait to read the Hansard to remember exactly he said, but nothing he said was new, but even more startling, he did not present himself as an alternative Prime Minister and his team as an alternative government. The performance of the PNM so far during the debate lived up to the expectations because many are aware that the well is empty and dry.
On the flip side the members of the Cabinet and MPs of the government who contributed to the debate were on point and strong in their delivery. While no pun in intended, this government has branded itself as strong on performance and delivery while the PNM has great ideas and talk about them for 40 years. While we will continue to point out errors of the People’s Partnership Government, their past mistakes that they have owned up to claimed and took action on, we recognize the foundation of the past four years and the trajectory for continued development the leadership of the Honorable Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar has placed Trinidad and Tobago on. There is no choice but to support the path of progress for all people especially when no credible alternative in presented.
We need more from the PNM than they stole our ideas. The fact is governance is more than ideas; it is about delivery, action and above all it is about people. Perhaps more so it is about the least among us, the vulnerable in our presence and responding adequately the current developmental needs of the country. The concept of “lifting” people is central to the progressive philosophy of people centered governance of this current government. Our human capital is our most valuable asset and the current government has aptly demonstrated its commitment to develop and empower our people.
The themes that grounded and connected the presentations of Cabinet Ministers and government MPs showed cohesiveness and collaboration and while all so far where strong in their respective areas, the Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Dr. Lincoln Douglas must be commended.
Not only did Dr. Douglas make a strong case for the arts and creative industries as a vital sector for economic growth and development but his angle on the nature of our multicultural society was profound. He stated, “we are the happiest people in the world,” and there are many elements in our culture and creative arts that brought the best from the worlds great civilizations to what we know today as our country in the forms of music, art, literature, dance, religion, food and countless more. Dr. Douglas stated that all these are important elements to the development of a society just as important as oil and gas. The weaving of all these elements together is our unique cultural product and the world wants this: happiness.
He further began uncovering some issues that we have been trying to understand and conceptualize both about the history and politics and their respective impact on our development as a people and a nation. He described Dr. Eric Williams as a “good man but perhaps a bad leader,” known for giving away his salary but unable to break the colonial mindset of the people he led because he himself did not understand the power of culture and the people were not able to capture his ideas and in doing so what we know as the dependency syndrome had its origins in since those initial days of nationhood. This does not diminish the intelligence or the lasting contributions of Dr. Eric Williams of the man who led us to Independence and served as Prime Minister for twenty-five years.
The contribution of Dr. Douglas scratched more than the surface of our larger interest on political culture. Good people can be under bad and poor leadership and this is the current case of the PNM. When you analyze political culture and political socialization there must be close examination of the conditioning of the minds of people and questions of why things are structured the way they are and why people do the things they do including voting against their interests will be raised. An understanding of political psychology as well as elements of sociology must be explored to answer these questions.
We look forward to the rest of the debate on 2015 budget and its eventual passage. We have to have a budget.