Express Editorial : Daily

At least two senior Government ministers have raised issues related to the country’s continued unacceptably high food import bill and its relationship to agriculture production in Trinidad and Tobago.

One of the real questions arising from these remonstrations, however, is to what extent can a promise-weary population, and persons with deep and abiding interest in the matters under consideration, expect satisfactory improvements in the areas under review?

It is to be noted, perhaps hopefully, that in both cases, these are ministers who were part of the last administration, and have been given the privilege of retaining their portfolios in the current Cabinet line-up.

During her contribution to the budget debate, Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon lamented the fact that the country was spending more foreign exchange than we earn, a significant portion of this on the importation of breakfast cereals, biscuits, breads and pastries. These, she said, accounted for almost $1.2 billion. “That cannot be allowed to continue,” the minister declared, pronouncing upon the fact that “there is a context” in which decisions must be made to curb what she described as “foreign exchange leakages” from the system. She noted another $5.6 billion went into the importation of new and used vehicles.

Ms Gopee-Scoon also went on to read from an all too familiar playbook of initiatives aimed at redressing the country’s negative import/export balance. She recited once again the Government’s continued commitment to developing the services sector, and to boosting non-energy exports. She talked up projects aimed at increasing activity among women entrepreneurs, and lifting up the country’s attractiveness as a film-making destination, among others. With another five years to lead in the realisation of some of these ambitions, Minister Gopee-Scoon has put her reputation squarely on the line here.

Similarly with Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat—who used part of his contribution in the debate to call out the Leader of the Opposition and former prime minister on her record of delivery in this critical area of food and agriculture production. This is a matter which, in many quarters, is being seen increasingly as an item directly related to aspects of our national security. But also on this niggling issue of what he considers irrelevant and unnecessary food imports, Minister Rambharat must set about in this second term to demonstrably turn the tide.

He must push substantially past the finding of gear and equipment for persons involved in the Youth Apprenticeship Programme in agriculture, missing guns for the Praedial Larceny Squad, questionable imports of honey, or those involving chicken legs and thighs. This last item itself has not been demonstrated to have had any negative effect on the local poultry industry.

Minister Rambharat has another chance now to settle the troublesome issue of land tenure, as it relates to security for the purpose of food and agriculture production. He must set about establishing the regime under which we must “eat what we grow” more abundantly. He must also convincingly explain to those who remain curious why the additional $500 million allocation for agriculture in the current budget is better located in the Ministry of Finance, rather than under his direct authority.


RIGHT now, Trinidad and Tobago is facing a potential catastrophe. No, I don’t mean our unsustainable fixed exchange rate, or our almost bankrupt National Insurance Board, or that there won’t be Carnival next year. I am referring to the oil storage vessel Nabarima which is currently anchored off the coast of Venezuela across the Gulf of Paria.

The widespread public concern over the risk of a major oil spill in the Gulf of Paria from the stranded oil-laden FSO Nabarima is an indicator of the growing environmental ­consciousness in this country.

AT the beginning of his wind-up to the 2020 budget debate, in which the budget statement outlined the measures for fiscal 2021, the Minister of Finance boldly outlined what he indicated were the ideological foundations of his budget statement.

AS a practising attorney for the last 40 years, I can confirm what we have all known for some ten years. The judicial arm of the criminal justice system has collapsed. It is all well and good for all parties to point blame at each other for the various shortcomings, but the fact still remains it has collapsed.

T&T’s borders were closed since March 2020. The Government justified this as containing the spread of Covid-19 and preventing the overburdening of the health system. With our borders closed, we moved into community spread, and adjusted our parallel health system into home quarantine. There is no reason our citizens should continue to be left outside.