Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bhoe: Time to share the wealth

EMPOWER WORKING CLASS: Caroni Central MP Dr Bhoe Tewarie gestures during his presentation at yesterday’s discussion — Breakthrough Strategy for a Sustainable Nation — Acting today for a better tomorrow in T&T — hosted by the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business at the Yara Auditorium, Mt Hope campus. —Photo: CURTIS CHASE

Mt Hope
OPPOSITION MP for Caroni Central Dr Bhoe Tewarie yesterday called for the distribution of land, homes and shares in public and private sector companies as he spoke before a packed Yara auditorium at The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mt Hope campus of the Arthur Lok Jack Graduate School of Business (GSB).
An employee share ownership plan (ESOP) for both the public and private sectors would empower the “working class” and reduce the gaps among members of T&T’s social strata, Tewarie said.
He was not the first, nor the only, veiled reference at the forum to the now infamous call for a boycott against the economically powerful one-per cent by Joint Trade Union Movement (JTUM) president general Ancel Roget.
Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud, one of 14 speakers at the forum, did not specifically address the one-per cent topic, but argued he did 99 per cent of the work at his company, and that he wanted to be part of any percentage working toward national development.
Speaking after UWI senior economics lecturer Dr Roger Hosein, Aboud joked that Hosein’s white-collar talk could not be about him because he does not wear white shirts.
Hosein had given one of his trademark quips about the Government running “a white-collar CEPEP (make-work) programme called on-the-job-trainee (OJT) programme.”
The senior lecturer said, “This is a man-made disaster. It is as if T&T got a checklist of what not to do with economic policy and did all since 1962.”
Tewarie spoke about easy measures Government can take now to boost the economy. He said land distribution would help agriculture, and foreign exchange earnings, not to mention the squatting problem in the country.
He said home ownership was a low-hanging fruit to elevate many into the middle class in the short term, and he called for focus on young professionals who can easily climb into the middle class “to strengthen” that stratum.
“There is no confidence in the economy today because there is no clear economic direction,” Tewarie said, arguing that the Government has no plan. People do not trust the system, he contended. “They are sure politicians will not lead by example,” he said.
Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers Association (TTMA) director Franka Costelloe, of Lifetime (Roofing) Solutions, said helping the manufacturing sector is the key.
“Reviving the (manufacturing) sector could provide new jobs to those displaced by recent close-downs and downsizing that we’ve seen in oil and gas. It is estimated that each manufacturing job supports three others,” she said.
“The health of the economy is critically dependent on the health of the manufacturing sector,” Costelloe said.
The event was not an official political rally, but the place was abuzz with a long list of recognisable and unrecognisable members of the previous government.
Former government advisers, including Lisa Ghany-Weekes and Gideon Hanoomansingh, played key organising roles at the event.
Existing Opposition Member of Parliament Ganga Singh, former National Gas Company (NGC) president Indar Maharaj, former minister in the Ministry of Finance Mariano Browne (now at odds with the Government), former energy minister Conrad Enill, former foreign affairs minister Ralph Maraj, whom Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has criticised on political platforms, and many others helped to fill the auditorium to standing-room only.
The official title of the forum was Breakthrough Strategy for a Sustainable Nation—Acting today for a better tomorrow in Trinidad and Tobago.