Trinidad & Tobago: Belt-Tightening

About seven months after the global food crisis was showing up on people's radar and two months after the global financial crisis made headlines, Trinidad and Tobago‘s Prime Minister decided that the time was right to address the nation regarding the state of the economy. The money quote of the speech was “Tighten your belts” – and bloggers have had a lot to say about the subject.

“Tighten your belts” was Prime Minister Manning's advice to Trinidad and Tobago citizens, as he noted that the economic situation could become more challenging.

Coffeewallah, in a post aptly titled Corset Diaries, says that she has “been belt tightening for months, trying to be prudent, only buy what was necessary…”:

Of late that belt has begun to feel like more a Victorian whalebone corset, cutting off circulation, making it difficult to breathe, harder to move freely, constricting. You know what I mean, you're doing the same.

Like most women I live by budget, it's carefully constructed in an excel spreadsheet, after all, technology is there to be used. At a glance I can see what bills are outstanding, how much leverage I have in between the sum that hits my bank account and what goes right back out. Lately that number is getting smaller and smaller until a couple of months ago I noticed something quite alarming. There wasn't any difference. You heard me. Now you might wonder, has my lifestyle become more extravagant, have I taken to throwing the old dollar around? The sad reality is that it's quite the reverse. Whereas I used to be able to go out for the odd meal or drinks with friends, maybe a pedicure, that's been cut back to the point of non-existence.

Meanwhile, Trinidad Carnival Diary is concerned about how the economic crisis will affect her traditional Carnival activities:

The main Carnival cost cutting measure for me will come in scaling back on the fetes. I am waiting patiently for fete prices to be released and have made the decision that if needs be I will not go to any fetes in January.

The goal is to spend less, save more, even for those of us who can afford to splurge on something as superfluous as a Carnival costume while others cannot even pay their bills or put food on the table. While I do appreciate the fact that being able to enjoy and participate in Carnival is somewhat of a luxury , it cannot be denied that the financial crisis is hitting too close to home to enjoy the season of bacchanalia without some concern.

But Trin is still irritated about the Prime Minister's response to the question of whether he would be tightening his own belt:

The ignorance of our Prime Minister enrages me. Extravagance, as defined by our erudite Prime Minister entails the consumption of alcohol, and solely the consumption of alcohol. Upon stern reflection, when asked by reporters, to ascertain if our Man-in-Charge would be leading by example, a self-righteous Manning said that he found nothing about his lifestyle to be extravagant and there was nothing he was willing to give up, as a matter of sacrificial symbolism, to show solidarity with his financially-strained citizens. I am so angry at his excessive arrogant self righteousness. He will continue to feed off of our sweat while we adjust our consumption accordingly. Absolutely unforgivably sickening.

What's even worse, according to Trin, is that the government ignored the writing on the wall:

Another sickening incident was that like Sleeping Beauty awakening after years of slumber the Prime Minister has finally clued in to the vicious financial crisis that has been engulfing North America and the rest of the world since 2007. Considering the barrage of advice being thrown at his cabinet since last year warning him that he needs to cut Government spending, ask yourself, is his response too little too late? Our recent National Budget was based on crude at $70 per barrel. Today it is trading at $51 per barrel.

Trinidad is not immune to the global recession as the Prime Minister and his Finance Minister imagined. All either had to do was pick up a financial newspaper anytime since early 2007 when the mortgage crisis ballooned, to have an inkling of what the economy might be like in 2008. But no; in Trinidad ignorance and self righteousness prevail in leadership…

Paolo's Blog, which dubbed the Prime Minister's address his “‘distress’ to the nation”, adds:

Manning…suggested that the government could not have divined the cataclysmic events that led to the global economic meltdown. Well I put to you…that his disability lies not with his eyes, but with his ears. There have been stories in the media about the government’s greedy pursuit of the very same path that led us from Boom to Bust in the 70s since 2006. Inflation has been a pressing concern in the media for at least a year.

Everyone in the country admonished the government to pull on the reins, instead Manning was whipping the jackass hide furiously. So now that workers monthly salary will last as long as a one dollar snow cone in the desert, they expect to be paid more to keep abreast of inflation.

Trin, like other local bloggers, is full of questions:

Did the Prime Minister wait too long to make cutbacks? What measures are in place to help our citizens deal with the impending financial fallout? Given the wealth of expertise and advice given to the Prime Minister over the last year regarding our economic future, it is an outrage that he waited this long to take action. Our time, our stress and our livelihoods are of no importance to the Prime Minister. I am seething with proletarian despair.

Paolo echoes his thoughts, albeit in a more descriptive way:

The time for the government to pump the brakes has passed. Kiss your loved ones, rest the pillow on you lap, and place your head between you knees, because this…will be like passing a kidney stone.


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