The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) believes that yesterday’s announcement by Prime Minister Rowley of the appointment of a “Recovery Team” to develop a “roadmap” for Trinidad and Tobago, post the Covid 19 pandemic signals that we have missed an opportunity to start a process of transformation of Trinidad and Tobago. Every crisis presents an opportunity. The health crisis of Covid 19 has precipitated a global economic and social crisis. Trinidad and Tobago is neither immune to the health pandemic nor the economic and social crisis. Indeed, the crisis has made more evident the social and economic problems that we have had since independence.
Covid 19 created the opportunity to fashion solutions to our problems, some of which are:
· An economy that is not diversified and which is still dependent on external factors (such as oil and gas prices);
· The failure to develop (in conjunction with Caricom) food security;
· Wealth and income inequality, and the fact that while we have had immense riches as a country so many of our people are in poverty and see no hope for a better life;
· The lack of opportunities for our young people to have a secure and decent future;
· Communities that are neglected and lack the basic amenities of a decent life;
· A divided society – by class, race, religion, geography and party politics – resulting in the absence of a common vision and objectives around which we could all unite and which would enable us all to truly believe that this is One Nation which we all feel that we own
Regrettably, the composition of the “Recovery Team” does not suggest that the opportunity to bring about solutions to these problems will be seized. The MSJ does not have any problem with the bona fides of any member of the Recovery Team. The issue is that of balance. It is way too heavily weighted with persons from the private sector and from big business in particular. There is nobody who can speak to the real life problems of and solutions for the small man and woman who have micro, small and medium sized businesses. There is nobody who can truly identify with the struggles of the tens of thousands of our people who on an almost daily basis have to find some change to put food on the table; or who live in communities that are discriminated against. The poor and the dispossessed have no voice, nor is there anyone on the Team who actively works to empower the poor and dispossessed.
It is also notable that there is nobody involved in agriculture, fishing and food production as food security must be a key element of our recovery. The creative sector is also not represented signalling that the government does not recognise that this sector is vital to our diversification and recovery. The gender imbalance cannot be ignored. We needed a “revolution of the mind” and this is not evident.
These imbalances point to a built in bias of the Government: a bias towards the strengthening of the status quo and the further entrenchment of an elitist, inequitable society. If that is the outcome it will be disastrous for the majority of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. We know that there are members of the “Recovery Team” who do not wish for, nor support such an outcome, and we can only say to them that the burden of responsibility that they have at this time is enormous, as the forces of the status quo are formidable indeed.
The MSJ calls on the Government to inform the country of the “Terms of Reference” of the “Recovery Team”. A “roadmap” assumes a start point and an end point – and the terms of reference will enable the population to have an understanding of what the intended objectives are and the process by which the “Recovery Team” intends to achieve those objectives. The process must involve getting very many ideas and input. If there is no “buy in” or sense of collective ownership of the roadmap by the majority of citizens, the eventual outcomes will not be optimal.
The MSJ will, as a responsible political party committed to social justice and equity, in very short time offer our own proposals for recovery, reconstruction and transformation.
Movement for Social Justice