The Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions and NGOs (FITUN) have released a joint statement on recommendations for the 2021 Budget.
Their first suggestion is for a progressive stimulus initiative to take the country to some level of growth and build the long-term productive capacity of the country.
It said the social distancing and stay-at-home measures that were effective in protecting lives earlier this year had a negative impact on production and employment. As such, many people are seeking both unemployment relief and trade union protection.
“What is needed now is a stable, permanent tripartite forum for collaboration, i.e. involving government, labour and business so that all parties can share their concerns and recommendations and thereby develop responses in a timely manner.”
As such, both entities recommend that the National Tripartite Advisory Council, NTAC, be a statutory body with parliamentary/legislative provisions made for the ongoing life of this body beyond any government’s term of office.
The objectives of the Initiative will be to support existing businesses that would have been severely impacted by the restrictions imposed to deal with the pandemic together with supporting new business activity in areas which can lead to a more diversified economy.
It also aims to strengthen manufacturing and the use of local talent in the creative art sector as a means to boost exports in an effort to earn foreign exchange.
Additionally, they recommend the establishment of an Industrial Development Fund to make business investment easier.
It said, “Potential local funding source can include use of 5% of the asset bases of existing financial institutions, which can be raised through specific targeted strategies, for example, a Bond can be posted for Credit Unions that can tap into their excess Liquidity.”
JTUM and FITUN also recommended directed Fiscal Policies targeted at food production, infrastructure, tourism, manufacturing and energy diversification.
“Culture is a sector with unique potential for sustainable livelihoods and increasing demand for other goods and services. The establishment of a Heritage City in East Port of Spain could transform the area into a tourism and speciality manufacturing hub,” the group said.
While there are over 200 social programmes currently funded by the government, as well as more than 100 NGOs, a thorough evaluation of these programmes to determine their effectiveness is needed, particularly based on the numerous complaints that the group have received from vulnerable persons.
They also called for a re-evaluation of the roles of various stakeholders such as the Government, businesses, labour/civil society and households.
It said the Government should establish a fully functioning General Accounting Office to monitor, review and evaluate government spending.
“Reducing waste by TT$ 11 billion is an achievable target which will help close the deficit gap in the annual budget.”
It suggested that all businesses in T&T should be required to generate or save forex.
In terms of civil society, the joint movement said, “We need to see a shift from traditionally measured inputs of labour and capital to total-factor productivity measurement. Civil society institutions inclusive of the Cooperative Credit Union Sector must also have representation and a voice at the table of all National Developmental Policy Formulation.”
The group also suggested that there be a national campaign targeted to all households to save foreign exchange, and that there be a strong focus on domestic spending.
“Rather than turning to imports, consumers should press for better quality and better prices in respect of locally made items. This will sustain economic growth,” the group said.
“We also strongly recommended the immediate implementation of the government-appointed Road to Economic Recovery Committee recommendation for the timely conclusion of the sale of Guaracara Refining Company Limited Refinery and Paria Fuel Trading Company Limited (Paria Terminal) to Patriotic Energies and Technologies Co Ltd.”
It added that the closure of the refinery curtailed economic activity and job growth in South Trinidad with knock-on effects to the rest of Trinidad and Tobago.
The areas that will be positively impacted by the sale of the following increased foreign exchange flow into the country include job creation, a wider tax base, fuel security and COVID-19 economic recovery.