The agriculture sector is increasing in national stature: For the first time in recent memory (and research), the budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries has surpassed one billion dollars. Yes, in 2023, this Ministry will receive comparatively more money than even the Ministry of Housing! That, however, is beside the point.
If the past two years have taught us any lesson, it is that food security is top priority. We in the Caribbean and more so Trinidad and Tobago, must strategically revise our vision and renew our determination to grow most of 'our own food', reduce our food import bill/appetites for foreign foods, and also become more globally competitive in certain areas of agriculture/agri-processing.
To further promote these objectives, some examples of what affirmative measures the Trinidad and Tobago government has proposed per Minister Imbert, are as follows:
(a) Rebates of up to $25,000 TT for approved agricultural holdings for the implementation of renewable energy, such as solar and wind energy from January 01, 2023
(b) A one-time manufacturing tax credit to a maximum of $50,000 TT for approved manufacturing companies which make an investment in new machinery, production lines and equipment (although this measure embraces all trade and industry sectors and not exclusively agriculture)
(c) Expansion of the exemption of approved small companies from the payment of corporation tax from a period of five years to six years with effect from January 01, 2023
(d) An amnesty on penalties and interest on taxes owed up to and including the year ending December 31, 2021, from November 14, 2022, to February 17, 2023; and
(e) An expansion of the enterprise base to produce alternatives to wheat flour by extending the financial coverage of the Grant Fund Facility from 50 percent to 75 percent; and also increasing the maximum funding amount from $250,000 TT to $340,000 TT for all producers of alternatives to wheat flour (such as cassava flour, plantain flour, dasheen flour, etc).
The traditional work model will remain the status quo: Though some may applaud this stance by Prime Minister Rowley as a return to 'normal' life, I cannot share their enthusiasm. In my opinion, the work experience since March 2020 remains unique. For example, it gave us- the entire world, an opportunity to delve directly into the Digital Era and physically experience what working out of an office would look and feel like, while 'still working'. I daresay that it had some degree of success.
Yes, the infrastructural challenges of adequate electricity supply, Internet/Wi-Fi connection and Internet-ready devices that existed during the heights of the pandemic remain ever-present. Yes, employee discipline was and remains a challenge. However, that is where I am respectfully suggesting, that the desire to do better through routine implementation and practice must now come into play. What is the point of having a Ministry of Digital Transformation, a Ministry of Public Utilities, a Ministry of Labour and a Ministry of Public Administration, if not to collectively improve the experiences of employers, employees and clients alike?
I personally felt truly disappointed as the noted plethora of studies and expert opinion over the years on mental health, as well as workplace productivity and competitiveness have all suggested that the time spent in traffic to commute to and from work and/or school have sustained deleterious effects on the individual, the family as well as the wider community. Yet, here we are in September 2022 doing precious little to alleviate that situation.
We do not all need to be in the conventional office space to be engaged and contribute productive labour. Similarly, efficient and effective public transport in Trinidad and Tobago remains a pipe-dream.
Nonetheless, it is instructive to note that, the Prime Minister suggested at a news conference hosted after the 2023 budget was presented that, the population (sic) could use public transport instead of their private vehicles, as well as decide on earlier times to arrive at work and/or school in order to avoid spending too much time in traffic and by extension needlessly 'burning fuel', in light of the increase in the cost of gasoline. Amazing! Maybe it's sincerity and candor at play; maybe it is not. Maybe it is anachronism and aloofness at play, maybe it is not.
In any event, the Budget Statement 2023 was for me, a mixed bag. Here's hoping that the reality is much better.
Keywords: LinkedIn Local Caribbean, stability, fuel subsidy, agriculture, workplace