As the country reels from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Government has an opportunity to hit the ‘reset’ button in the upcoming budget presentation.
This is according to Vasant Bharath who sat on the Government’s Roadmap to Recovery Committee last year. He was speaking yesterday during an interview with CNC3’s the Morning Brew host Jason Williams.
Bharath said T&T was in competition with the rest of the world.
“The entire world has gone through the process that we have done here in Trinidad and Tobago with COVID-19, many countries have pressed the reset button and they are looking at new ways of doing things and I think that the Minister of Finance and the Government has a golden opportunity to also press that reset button for Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
Bharath said he believes the Government did well in handling the healthcare aspect of the pandemic but their failing was handling the economic fallout.
He said T&T, like many other countries, pooled together some of its best minds in the Roadmap Committee to come up with solutions to the pandemic. He said the recommendations of the committee remain valid and he hopes to see them operationalised in the budget.
“ I would expect that in next week’s budget, the Minister of Finance would be able to say, look, it may not appear that we have been doing much on the surface over the last year as far as the economy is concerned but actually we have been working in the background and we are going to be in a position to have a very visionary budget that does press that reset button.”
He said he hoped the budget will give hope to pensioners, young people and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as he said the pandemic highlighted the stark inequalities these groups face within the society.
“The inequities people have to face on a daily basis as regards to health care for example, if you are unable to afford private medical care, in many instances, unfortunately, the consequences are grave, many people are homeless, without shelter, there are many victims of domestic violence who really have nowhere to go, there are many small and medium-sized enterprises that are starved for foreign exchange and they are starved for technical resources because they can’t afford it.”
Bharath said his budget wish list includes a package of incentives for SMEs, a lifeline for those who live below the poverty line and those who have lost their jobs. He also hopes the pensioners would benefit, saying many of them have been unable to purchase medication when faced with other living expenses.
“We have an opportunity here to show a humane face of Government,” Bharath said.