Law & Politics
By Lloyd Noel
The IMF conditions which were laid down by the organisation for helping our government — and contained in the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) — should have been signed by the Prime Minister when he visited the USA last week for that purpose.
And if it was, then the release of the $21 million from the world financial body should be any time now to help the government in the financial crisis the country is facing.
What those conditions are only the people in government know about them— and so far they have not disclosed to John Public any details, but I would imagine that they had to sign to obtain the finance.
And what is even more compelling about the conditions was the fact that the European and other international donors, also followed the IMF to make up the US$100 million in grants and loans.
How soon those funds would become available for spending by the controllers, they alone know at this stage; but I would imagine that the urgency was expressed to the lenders to expedite the transactions.
In the meantime, property owners have been receiving their increased house and land tax demands, for payment by the end of June.
And many have been paying early so as to get the 5% reduction on their almost double house tax demands for this year.
I heard some ole talk that the government was considering adding extra taxes on empty lands, so as to encourage those owners to work the lands and put them into cultivation.
The government itself has about four estates that have been lying idle and covered in bushes for years — and the talk last year was about offering foreign investors citizenship, and lease those estates to them for development and providing jobs at very low rental charges.
I would have thought that the government itself would have sought out the finance, from loans or grants and put those estates back into operation, by providing jobs and keeping the benefits for our people.
Agriculture has been our national heritage for decades — and nutmegs, cocoa and bananas have been the backbone of our economy for ages. The lands are still there and the soil just as fertile islandwide, but the cultivations have nearly all disappeared over the years, and governments come and gone and no efforts made to revive our national heritage.
Instead of so doing, every time we hear talk of investors coming to our shores, the ideas are always about some manufacturing and foreign trade, but never about reviving our natural resources.
And since we no longer produce the volume of crops from our lands, those who operated as traffickers between our shores and Trinidad and Tobago, they too have lost their means for making a living, and thereby increased the unemployment level over the years.
The IMF loan of just over $21 million, will not take us very far towards reducing the jobs problems, but when the other loans and grant from Europe and elsewhere become available, some of that should be channeled to the agricultural sector, because a whole lot of people in the countryside could benefit from that package to ease up the unemployment situation islandwide.
The government itself cannot do very much with that sum, but by spreading portions thereof around the countryside, a whole lot of farmers and workers in that field could derive benefits there from.
While a whole lot of people are concerned and worrying about the financial and grave unemployment situation, there are some equally troubling concerns in the wider political arena, and in particular in the Parliamentary Elections office and the Voter Registration System islandwide, which has been put on a shared network with the Office of the Prime Minister. Apparently the Supervisor of Elections, Judy Benoit was sacked, because she challenged the authority of Cabinet to do the sharing.
The person who replaced her just a few months ago, Mr Aaron Francois, has also resigned from that position, because the person who was responsible for administering that system was replaced by a relative of an NNP Member of Parliament.
That state of affairs in a sensitive area as the Voters Registration System, must give cause for concern by the controllers.
In areas like Voters Registration and Parliamentary Elections Office, the whole operation of the system must be seen to be above-board, and outside the possibility of any wrongful interference by persons with special interests.