Thursday, July 16, 2015

The PNM / UNC / COP / ILP Political Manifesto Cheat Sheet

Because we should not expect much in terms of policy proposals and manifestors during the current Trinidad and Tobago election cycle, here are some proposed ideas either the People's National Movement (PNM), United National Congress (UNC) or any of the political parties can consider for presentation on their political platforms ahead of the general election in 2015.
  • Increase the Personal Tax Allowance Immediately to $120,000
Under T&T's tax system implemented in 2006 all individual taxpayers are granted a Personal Allowance of $60,000 per year. This means that you do not pay income tax on your first $60,000 of income and 25% on amounts above $60,000. 

Since 2006 however inflation which has averaged a minimum of 9% has stolen purchasing power away from salaried workers and persons on fixed incomes. At the same time food prices have averaged annual increases of 17%. 

To mitigate this patently unfair reality the personal tax allowance should be expanded equivalent to the rate of inflation which means tax allowances in 2014 should be at least $117,000. Any intellectually and morally honest Ministry of Finance should embrace this principle so as to offer relief to an already over taxed population
  • Immediately Discontinue Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE)
Students are enticed by the prospect of getting something supposedly extremely valuable for free, but unfortunately government involvement in the tertiary education market has tremendous unintended consequences to the ultimate detriment of students. 

There is no doubt that determined and industrious students will make the right choices and succeed academically and in their careers with or without the governments help. The artificial intrusion by the state however skews natural market and social dynamics and yields perverse effects contrary to what was originally intended. 
  • Removal of the Gasoline Subsidy 
Because gasoline consumption is subsidized there is more gasoline consumption by way of the usage of private vehicles and by extension the purchase of private vehicles.

The subsidy inadvertently acts as an incentive to use more gasoline. Therefore if persons in T&T paid the true higher cost of gasoline there would be a natural decline in gasoline consumption and traffic woes would decrease.

Instantly removing the subsidy would force drivers in particular to be more judicious in whether they opt to use their vehicles. They would suddenly become more conscious of what will instantly become a more scarce/valuable resource and take steps to minimize its use. 
  • Improve the Crime Fight  and Improve Accountability By Publicly Publishing Quarterly Prosecution Statistic of Prosecutors, Judges and Police officers.
Afford the public greater transparency over the judicial process. What motivation do police officials have to track down criminals when the majority of suspects go free? What motivation do officers have when they receive compensation whether they perform or not? Trinidad and Tobago does not just have a crime problem since police officers can't be everywhere a crime occurs it really has a crime prosecution and conviction problem.
  • Remove Completely The Onerous Inefficient Regulatory System That Severely Stymies The Supply of Homes
The lengthy and inefficient Town and Country and Regional Corporation approval process which takes on average about one to two years deters prospective home builders from building homes. This has the effect of restricting supply consequently decreasing the stock of homes available on the market. Prices are therefore forced upward because existing homes are more scarce and prices are bid up by prospective home purchasers. 

How many more homes and buildings could have been constructed were they not being held up by the snail's pace approval process? Not only is the country denied the increased stock of houses but it is denied  all the legitimate employment and commercial activity that would have followed i.e. construction employment, cement sales, steel, sand, aggregate, plumbing supplies, roofing, mortgage loans etc. Institutionalized bureaucracy places hidden but significant drag on housing supply.
  • Abolish the Housing Development Corporation (HDC)
According to news reports $227 billion would has been spent nationally from 2010 to 2015. Data provided by the HDC shows that from 2010 to present, the HDC has allocated 4,902 houses to new homeowners.

A simple calculation would indicate that each of the 4900 houses delivered many of which had design deficiencies and poor workmanship cost the taxpayer a staggering $46,000,000 per home. 

In fact given that the gov' t builds homes primarily on state lands with the typical modest home construction costing around $600.000 privately, the state should have delivered 378,000 homes for the price tag of $227 billion.

Of course; most of the money was siphoned away by the politically connected; even whilst housing applicants are lulled into a state of paralysis waiting for an illusive substandard home -instead of trying to acquire a home privately.
  • Completely DIsmantle CEPEP
The Community-Based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme (CEPEP) was established with the intention of providing employment opportunities to semi-skilled and  un-skilled workers; however CEPEP actually limits the employment opportunities of workers and traps the most vulnerable of T&T's citizens in a perpetual poverty and dependency vortex. It engenders no new-skills and breeds poor work ethic.
  • Strip all Priority Bus Route Passes from all Politicians and Political Appointees
They should be made to drive through the same communities they supposedly are being paid to represent. 
  • Mandate Customs and Excise Be Open for Business 24/7
Often overlooked are the limited hours of operation the two major maritime ports. Though operations can occur 24 hours a day, weekend and public holidays. Delivery and retrieval of cargo is subject to the availability of customs officials who operate between 7 am - 3 pm after which overtime rates are applicable. This results in most truckers, importer and exporters opting to arrange pick up and deliveries at peak traffic times. If transactions could be done freely after hours this would reduce the volume of traffic on the roadways during peak traffic times.
  • Begin the Decriminalization of Recreational Drug use. 
The fact remains that Trinidad & Tobago will never stop the production and consumption of marijuana, because despite the high price and legal consequences related to prosecution, persons still insist on buying and selling the herb. 

In fact the mere attempt to criminalize narcotics increases the prices and consequently benefits producers and serves as the incubator for crime, gang activity and corruption. 

Meanwhile persons intent on getting their hands on drugs for personal use, get it regardless and pose a threat to no one but themselves when consumed. If unfortunately they are caught, their lives are ruined because of their criminal record and they have no choice but to turn to a permanent life of crime to sustain themselves, creating a permanent criminal underclass.
  • Differentiate Oneself
Although not mainstream ideas, a brave and articulate politician seeking to differentiate oneself would be well advised to adopt some of these proposals, which are all in the best interest of Trinidad & Tobago.

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