Caroni Central MP, Dr Bhoe Tewarie, says crime and the state of the economy have both taken a psychological and sociological toll on Trinidad and Tobago.
And according to the former principal of UWI St Augustine, the global coronavirus outbreak is only the latest in a long series of blows to the national psyche.
At the time, Dr Tewaire was delivering the feature address at a dinner function he hosted for religious leaders in Chaguanas, on Thursday night.
Dr Tewarie told those gathered that long before the emergence of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, the local economic situation was bad. He observed that the last 5 years has shown a 10 percent decline in GDP from $180 billion to $150 billion, while national debt levels are at $107.5 billion—which equates to 65.5 percent of GDP, coupled with a Gross Public Sector debt of $122.7 billion.
The former Planning Minister said other loans for state enterprises and other forms of indebtedness can reach as high as 170 billion.
“We have a revenue crisis and a never ending deficit situation,” he warned. “Loss of confidence, little or no investment, squeeze on business, loss of jobs, low labour participation rate, general deterioration in the quality of life… There’s no sign of hope for confidence, investment, recovery, job creation and growth.”
Dr Tewarie argued that the crime situation is getting out of control. He said confirmation that there are 220 gang leaders and 2,500 gang members has not made a difference in solving crimes; nor has there been a reduction in murders.
The Caroni Central MP said despite passing a lot of anti-crime legislation, little or no positive results are seen, and gang activities, guns, drugs and human trafficking seem to be proceeding apace.
“This could not happen unless the justice system, the economic system and the political system were compromised,” he stated, “which means—from prison control systems to judiciary, from business to politics to governance—we have vulnerable points of complicity and corruption.”
Dr Tewarie said trust becomes difficult in what he calls a “runaway system”.
He also noted that crime has altered the sociology and cultural habits of T&T, as safer communities are becoming vulnerable, targeted and oppressed; all this while citizens live in perpetual fear of attacks, assaults, home invasion and murder.
Speaking on the global coronavirus outbreak, Dr Tewarie urged religious leaders to preach prevention to their congregation. He said no country is able to contain and bring the COVID-19 virus under control.
He also urged religious organizations to get their house in order, to ensure they comply with the Non-Profit Organisation Bill.
Dr Tewarie revealed that he felt the Bill is too hostile towards non-profit organisations, but he explained to the religious leaders gathered at last night’s event that the Bill requires all non-profit entities to register every five years and be overseen by the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
He warned them that failure to comply can see hefty fines and jail times for controllers of the non-profit organisations.