Prayers for the budget
I have just read online from London that on September 9, the Minister of Finance, Larry Howai, will present T&T’s national budget in Parliament. Last year’s budget was the country’s largest ever. Total expenditure was $58.4 billion compared to $54.6 billion in the 2012 budget. The theme of the 2012-2013 budget, delivered on October 1 was: Stimulating Growth, Generating Prosperity. Who is prospering in T&T?
Mr Howai’s budget statement last year included sections that focused on “Developing Human Capital” and “Developing Quality of Life”. Integral human development is at the heart of Catholicism—that is, the development of every person and of each dimension of the person.
We have a duty to remind those we elect to positions of authority that the resources of the nation are given to us as a gift from God and should be shared with all. A just society is one that demonstrates that principles of equity, equality and need, in the context of distributive justice, inform the budget-making process. I recall Glenn Ramadharsingh’s words as he made his contribution to last year’s parliamentary debate on the budget. He was speaking in his capacity as Minister of the People and Social Development. Inter alia, he said:
“I encourage all, leave behind partisan views so that we may come together in the true interest of Trinidad and Tobago…above all, this is a budget for the people.”
I am writing this letter at this stage so all those involved in the budget-making process this year will genuinely evaluate whether, after nearly a year, we can truly say that last year’s budget was a budget for the people of T&T.
Each year we continue to witness a mismatch between the rhetoric of statements such as the aforementioned quotation, and the reality on the ground. In preparing our next budget, let us honestly reflect on whether our annual budgets meet the principles of e.g. solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, and a commitment to the common good. There are moral criteria that our annual budgets should meet. If we fail to meet these criteria, we will also fail to create conditions in which each person can realise his/her potential.
I urge all citizens to offer up prayers for those preparing the annual budget. Let us pray that God will inspire them and that they will be led by their consciences to do what is right, because it is the right thing to do. Let us pray also that there will be accountability and transparency in the implementation of the budget. May God continue to bless our nation.