Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, in a message to mark the 44th anniversary of the nation becoming a Republic, reminded citizens of the pride that emanated when the twin-island republic broke away from much of its colonial past.
The Prime Minister noted that the country’s constitution is one that demands the government to conduct the affairs of state on the principles and the practice of Parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.
“My government has maintained what is seen as its accompanying values of integrity, morality, equality and the State, as a benevolent, “caring Mother”. In the international community, we have conducted ourselves, as a partner, respectful to all, inferior to none, holding firmly to the principles of the United Nations, including the non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.”
The Prime Minister added that citizens “have all shown that they are particularly vigilant and duty-bound in protecting our democracy.
“As a society, we have shown that we recognise the values of both competition and cooperation. However, in recent times, there are increased outpourings of competition, with the obvious objectives of advancing individual and group interests, rather than promoting the national good. But it is proven historically that while such rivalry may advance sectional interests, ultimately, they may not serve the collective good.”
He noted that this may be one indicator that democracy is not in danger, but at this time Trinidad and Tobago is facing many challenges.
“When my government took office in 2015, it was confronted with the collapse of global oil and gas prices. However, faced with such challenges our citizens showed their patience and resilience. At the start of this year, we faced another collapse in the international energy market. Simply put, it means that this country has less revenue to meet its citizens’ needs, and some expectations may not be met in the near term.”
Rowley also pointed to the Covid-19 pandemic which he said created a second shock.
“There should be no comfort in the fact that statistically, the virus has infected less than one percent of our population, because, in the face of public health regulations and warnings, its causalities keep mounting, and damaging economic disruptions continue across every aspect of our daily lives.”
“These dual shocks may cause our horizon to appear blurred, but not gloomy. Recently, I indicated that our energy sector is still very much alive. In spite of the hype and the headlines given to economic “doomsters”, Trinidad and Tobago, one of the world’s oldest oil producers, continues to push its productive boundaries.”
He said that while they predict the end of our energy fortunes, there are favourable, medium-long term projections in the international hydrocarbon market and the country try intends to re-engineer its industries to be part of it.
He also took note of the Road to Recovery Team’s recommendations on economic alternatives which we intend to pursue.
“Our Minister of Finance told the country of a $13 Billion deficit — a hole created by the two shocks. In the face of these “ill-winds” the State has been very supportive. It has provided grants of salary relief, income support, rent relief, and distributed food cards and fresh food. It also accelerated Income Tax and VAT refunds. I maintain that “No one should be left behind”. The Finance Minister will speak further in the coming national Budget”
The Prime Minister says that the Government will continue to lead the charge presenting a robust legislative agenda to Parliament.
“At the same time, we are paying attention to our youth, seeking to cultivate their individual and collective responsibility through the recently introduced Ministry of Youth and National Service, and we are laying the groundwork for aggressive reforms in the education system.”