PM promises ‘robust legislative agenda’ in Republic Day message
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has called for the celebration of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural heritage on the 44th anniversary of Republic Day.
On the eve of the occasion, Dr Rowley offered hope to nationals who are concerned about an economy battered by falling commodity prices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Some citizens may hold feelings that the Republic is at a crossroad, but it has survived previous difficulties. Let us all celebrate what we have borrowed, adapted and now share with each other -- our dress, food, music, worship, our language, etc – and that unquestionably, unique personality we identify as Trini and Gonian. Patriotic and proud!”
The Prime Minister recalled that his government was confronted with the collapse of global oil and gas prices when he took office in 2015. This presented a $13 billion dollar deficit.
He went on to praise citizens for having patience and resilience but acknowledged that in early 2020, the nation faced another collapse in the international energy market.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic later created a second shock but expressed optimism in the future.
“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.”
“While they predict the end of our energy fortunes, we see favourable, medium-long term projections in the international hydrocarbon market and this country intends to re-engineer its industries to be part of it.”
Dr Rowley added that the Road to Recovery Team’s recommendations on economic alternatives will be pursued.
This, as he reminded that the Government has taken steps to assist citizens.
“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’.”
He further assured that the Finance Minister will speak further in the coming national Budget.
“The Government will continue to lead this 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.”
Meanwhile, Dr Rowley spoke of the proud occasion that T&T became a Republic on September 24, 1976.
He said the meeting of the first Parliament under the new Republican constitution meant that the country was de-linking much of its colonial past and establishing its sovereignty in the international community.
To this day, he said the Constitution does not ring hollow as it demands that the Government conduct the affairs of the State on the principles of Parliamentary democracy and the rule of law.
Dr Rowley stated that his Government has maintained what is seen as the accompanying values of integrity, morality and equality.
“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.”
“In the main, our citizens have all shown that they are particularly vigilant and duty bound in protecting our democracy. For instance, any signs of violations of individual rights, freedoms or arbitrary power are referred to the judicial guardrails of our democracy for resolution.”
He said as a society, citizens have shown that they recognise the values of both competition and cooperation. However, he lamented that in recent times there have been increased outpourings of competition with the obvious objectives of advancing individual and group interests, rather than promoting the national good.
He said still, this is an indicator that T&T’s democracy is not in danger.
“The nation’s founding father, Dr Eric Williams once warned that indiscipline, whether individual or sectional, is a threat to democracy because it jeopardises the national income, inflates costs, and sets a poor example.“
As it relates to the nation’s multi-racial people, he said this was manifested through painful circumstances. However, he reveled in the progress since then.
“An English historian wrote that Africans slaves arrive “spiritually as well as physically naked” possessing only “childlike spiritual institution.”
“Our own, VS Naipaul also wrote about East Indians coming out of a culture of “defeat and stagnation”, “intellectual deficiencies” and an “archaic civilisation”. Today, all races, First Peoples, immigrants from China, Syria, Lebanon, and our sister islands have created, with all its imperfections, a great nation, which we all can call ours. We may live separate lives, but we are all inseparably united. Let us all acknowledge these truths but work assiduously to overcome all challenges as we accept the responsibility to build this nation that we have been so lucky to inherit.”