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Dr Anthony Gonsalves

Successive Governments have not taken the correct economic reforms to build the economy as they are afraid this could lead to social unrest similar to the 1990 attempted coup.

Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies (UWI) Dr Anthony Gonsalves gave this view while speaking at a post-budget online forum hosted by UWI’s Trade Department on Friday night.

Gonsalves, an economist, referred to Jamaat Al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr who died on Thursday night. Abu Bakr was the leader of an attempted coup that sought to topple the then government of ANR Robinson in 1990.

“I think to some extent the authorities are blinded by what occurred there that they tend to feel they would not be able to handle the instability that could result from some of these reforms.

“I remember in 2014, we were discussing the 2014 budget and I raised the question about reforms and I was told that we need to remember what happened to all political leaders who engaged in structural adjustments. There was ANR Robinson, there was Manning who lost the 1995 election.

“I am told there is a concern that the population is vulnerable and that they don’t endure social deprivation easily and they could easily turn against you. They feel if you remove energy subsidies so and so will happen,” Gonsalves said.

He urged political leaders who are in government to make the right economic decisions and explain to the population what needs to be done.

“Some of these best things are done when you have revenue. If we started much earlier we would not have the situation we have right now. Right now it is more difficult as we have waited so long. The second generation of reforms should have started after the year 2000. We would have built a larger Heritage and Stabilisation Fund.”

Former energy minister Kevin Ramnarine, who also spoke at the forum, said that the 1990 attempted coup came after years of no economic growth in the 1980s.

“Today (Friday) is the funeral of the leader of that attempted coup. So history comes full circle.”

Ramnarine also pointed out that T&T’s economy has had no economic growth for the last six years and after the economic depression of the 1980s this is the second worst downturn in T&T’s history.