The recent budget presented by the Minister of Finance likens itself to a statement made by St Augustine of Hippo in his seminal work “Confessions of a Sinner’’. Here he says, “Lord give me chastity and self-control—but not yet.” Similarly, in the budget the Government sets out to kick-start our transformation. And while sketching the key areas for our sustenance, they fall short and present the attitude “but not yet”. They have hesitated on the critical enabling factors, without which no significant progress will ever be safeguarded or any backsliding ever be arrested early to avoid crucial relapses to the system.

Delay of the full implementation and operation of the Procurement Act, proclaiming the amendments to the Exchequer and Audit Act that operationalises digital payments and receipts by Government. Adoption of block-chain technology to protect monetary transactions and contracts relating to government project spending and supplier trade liabilities and long-term borrowing (domestic and foreign). Proper financial reporting of government assets and liabilities based on the accrual concept. Setting a comprehensive agenda for the Fair Trading Commission to review the domestic markets with a view to removing barriers inimical to fair trade. An updating of the Equal Opportunity Act to consider issues like affirmative action and social monopoly (white and bourgeois privilege).

Now is a time for laying down rules of engagement and forming the tools and the framework to enable things to be done properly, and done properly the first time.

By saying “but not yet”, St Augustine had hinted to his entrenched desire for the very corruptions upon which we stumble. He was unwilling to give them up and remain steadfast. By so doing, the Government too is electing to leave open the doors of corruption, for yet another season.

Wretched ones we are, grant us the coming of a “group of dedicated souls” who will deliver this country from this political malaise of unfeeling and indiscriminate selfishness that have afflicted our relations from the dark beginnings of crown colony until now.

The Covid-19 Recovery Committee, if it still has its mandate, needs to go back and examine all these enablers and map out their implementation so they dovetail with the spending agendas of the budget. This vital step will enable the “chastity and control” the Government seems to “not yet” seek.

As St Augustine goes on to say, “Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: such as we are, such are the times.”

In other words, let us strive to do the things that need to be done, well. The times will reflect this, once we keep the peace and cultivate our love so that it grows. Please God, bless T&T.

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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.

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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.