THE most important challenge facing Trinidad and Tobago is how to earn foreign exchange. Nothing is more important. The economic plan for the country should therefore be the major item for discussion in this election campaign. Every plan, every promise depends on the Government’s ability to pay for it.

How is the Government going to find new income in a post-Covid-19 era?

How is the Government going to deal with the globally low demand for energy and the long-term glut of oil and gas on the world market?

These are the questions that must be answered by those seeking to represent the people of Trinidad and Tobago for the next five years.

The Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago (DPTT) is noticeably clear on the way forward. We believe, in fact know, that the country can no longer depend largely on one sector of our economy for survival. The future economic model must see tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, marine services, technology, medical services, education, sports, and culture all contributing to the revenue of Trinidad and Tobago.

In every sector there must be strategic planning, infrastructure development, education, training, and investment. For example, in tourism our unique treasures like the Caroni and Nariva Swamps, the Pitch Lake, the Gasparee Caves, the oil bird caves and our rivers and mountains must be developed to international standards to allow for safe access to tourists. Carnival and its affiliated activities have to be transformed into a safe and healthy experience.

Chacachacare has to become a hub for marine services and a safe cruise ship facility. Our deep-water harbour must become one of the world’s best places for ship repairs, bunkering and a safe marina for international shipping lines. Our agricultural products must be predetermined and cultivated to internationally accepted standards. One such product ought to be marijuana and the processing of same for medicinal purposes.

Moruga ought to lead the way in marijuana cultivation and processing. To be clear, the DPTT does not endorse, suggest, or recommend marijuana use for recreational purposes. Our position is that smoking is cigarettes and marijuana is dangerous and should not be encouraged in any way. We are strongly suggesting that T&T should be a major player in the cultivation and processing of marijuana for medical purposes. The USA and Canada where such crops are not readily suited for growth are maximising the opportunity to cultivate and process the herb while in T&T we are cutting down and destroying the trees. How counterproductive?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil is a type of cannabinoid, which are the chemicals naturally found in marijuana plants. Even though it comes from marijuana plants, CBD does not create a “high” effect or any form of intoxication—that is caused by another cannabinoid, known as THC.

There is growing awareness about the possible health benefits of CBD oil. Some of the potential medical uses of CBD and where the research stands are anxiety relief, anti-seizure, neuroprotective, pain relief, cancer treatment and insomnia. While more human studies are needed to fully understand the range of risks and side effects that CBD oil may cause, the legalisation of marijuana products can allow for more research and more answers will come. The farmers of Moruga can lead the way in the safe and legal cultivation of marijuana.

The need for an economic transformation is critical to the future of our nation. There is a clear indication that neither of the two major political parties understand the magnitude of the problem nor do they have the vision to take T&T out of our economic mess. The constant reference to a revitalised oil and gas sector and plans to spend more money without a source of income clearly demonstrates their unsuitability for governance.

We must support a third choice.

The parties under the banner “Better United” is the way forward.

Steve Alvarez

political leader of the Democratic Party of Trinidad and Tobago

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