To be perfectly honest, I did not pay too much attention to the presentation of the 2020/2021 Budget from the Minister of Finance, back in October.
Years gone by, I would have been front and centre, glued to the television set with a strong cup of coffee, pen, notepad, and a capitalized DO NOT DISTURB look on my face, just in case any of my children decided to have an emergency at that time. ‘THE BUDGET’ was a serious thing. I could not miss a word, and the Honorable Minister and I needed to thrash out every proposal, haggle over every cent, which was allocated somewhere I did not want it to go; and I generally tried to figure out my battle strategy for the following day when I would need to confront any opposing factions at my workplace. Surely, my colleagues would be coming out with their own ideas, and we would need at least two or three days of serious debate over the economic state of the country, before any of our boss’ work would be done. THE BUDGET was serious business.
Fortunately, age, wisdom, and experience have tempered my exuberance for things that are out of my direct control. I have learned that those at the helm do not know me and have no interest in how my family survives. When delicately crafted champagne flutes are raised in the various social events that politicians frequent, whether or not there is sustenance in my pantry never holds a place on the agenda.
These days I just skim the salient points that impact on the day-to-day living of my children and me. I see the $50,000,000 designated to laptops as a good thing but wonder how effective the means testing system will be to determine the neediest of our children. I also read about some additional hotspots for internet access. This is supposed to be a joint effort between the Ministries of Education, Public Administration, and Social Development. We will wait and see how that union goes.
Personal tax allowance is to be increased from $6000 to $7000 per month from next year. While this may be very beneficial to some, quite a significant number of single mothers don’t earn anything in the vicinity of $6000 monthly, far less $7000, so for them it carries no impact.
A data management system is carded for households with single parents, women and children, elderly persons living alone, and the vulnerable who need support. The National Social Services Card System is also proposed to track vulnerable persons. This is all excellent news, as are the proposals for lower-income housing, stimulus packages in the agricultural sector, and government grants for startup businesses.
Everything is just wonderful ON PAPER, but in reality, implementation of government bounty has never been what we as Trinbagonians got. Somewhere in the great divide between “what the Minister says” and what Ministry offices across the nation do, the road to hell has been fortified for the ordinary citizen, i.e., paved with good intentions.
Kiran Mathur Mohammed, a social entrepreneur, economist and businessman, conducted his own interviews with three single mothers post budget, in an effort to understand how they saw the 2021 budget as impacting on their lives. It is not so much a wake-up call as a confirmation that at the end of the day, the brass ring for the single parent is the health, welfare and upliftment of her children. It is not that they purposely sit in ignorance of the bigger picture or that interest of the country as a whole is not important. It is simply that the struggle to deal with the daily grind of life and the understanding that you are responsible for these young, precious lives must trump everything else; and if it means just skimming the surface of a three-hour budget presentation for what you and your children could benefit from, then so be it.
Details of Mr. Mohammed’s interviews can be found on the Trinidad Newsday edition, October 15, 2020.