Tough Changes Coming- But Who Pays For It?


“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”  ? Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

 

Who should pay for the lifestyle that you currently enjoy? The present government? Your parents? The generations to come? These sobering questions ‘kiss us awake’ to a grim reality that is looming. As it stands, we in Trinidad and Tobago currently enjoy a lifestyle that is highly subsidized and unsustainable in the light rapidly dwindling income streams. Our collective actions as a society, past and present, have led us to a tipping point in our development. We are in a sense living out the proverbial expression: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."

Developing countries, especially Trinidad and Tobago, now more than ever, should be concerned with understanding global political and economic changes and using these to build their resilience. The threshold of the past and failed developmental decisions may have at least been (un)welcomed by the lack of empirical data and research. Arguably, there are some that propose a resurgence of Dependency theory (dependence on developed countries for trade, ideas and aid) to reflect the needs of small, island developing states. However, what we can infer about this hypothesis is that there is little to no scientific research to justify this recourse since Brazil, Russia, India, China and South America (BRICS) are some examples that have gone counter to this theory.

The BRICS have been quite successful thus far in creating a model that pushes them beyond the cries of underdevelopment(For the sake of clarity, underdevelopment refers to underutilized resources within a country). They have crafted paths away from a monocrop culture; weaned themselves of first world dependence to some extent and used South-South co-operation as a tool to finance their development needs.

In our Trinbagonian context, our main economic earner, hydrocarbons, has taken a lethal blow in the international markets. It has faced turbulent ups and downs since 2011 reaching an all-time of approximately US$116.00 per barrel of oil and US$5.52 per mmbtu (barrel of natural gas). For the year 2016, oil and gas presently stands at US$36.79 per barrel of oil and US$1.96 per mmbtu( as at 3rd April 2016) . Given that Trinidad and Tobago is a price taker in the international arena, the drastic drop in the price of hydrocarbon alongside declining domestic production has made itself present in our falling revenues, current account and fiscal deficits and rising foreign exchange pressures. How are we to shift the current spending patterns away from such lavishness to rationing and prudence? More so, how is a government who inherits such a situation to continue the pace of development? How and when are individuals to reacclimatize themselves in this ‘new normal’?

As the quotation by Lec outlines no one snowflake in an avalanche feels responsible for the disaster caused. Likewise in our context, no one Trinbagonian may necessarily feel responsible for our current economic, social and political quagmire, but collectively, all of our actions, though seemingly insignificant, culminate into the ‘avalanche’ that we are in currently. Our development as an individual, a people and a nation is dependent on us.  This article seeks to answer the following questions: Who should pay for the tough times that are coming? How and when do we pay for it?


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