During her Budget presentation earlier this week, PM Portia Simpson-Miller used the phrase “Balancing the books, while balancing people’s lives”. It’s haunted me ever since. I have a terrible habit of trying to understand what I hear or read.
When you have had nearly four decades of economic stagnation, rising prices, a rapidly depreciating exchange rate, inadequate public services, especially for basic needs like water, high taxes to cover a fiscal deficit reflecting severe economic mismanagement and wasted resources, what is ‘balance’? Standing on a tight rope, trying not to fall? Looking over a ledge that is a sheer drop to a rocky floor? It’s not standing with feet firmly planted and hands akimbo.
What does ‘balancing the books’ mean? Taxes, fees and levies to be paid out of frozen wages, for many people. Unpaid taxes by some who have wheedled their way out of obligations, leaving a burden for everyone else to bear. Watching public institutions hold on to functions that they perform badly with too many people, too few machines or other equipment, at a cost that we all have to bear.
Is this the picture that was being painted? Is this the road people are being asked to travel…still?