A National Budget is basically a statement of a country’s Revenue and Expenditure over a period of a year with some indication of the government’s vision and intention behind both its financial allocations and revenue collection respectively. While it is accepted that a government can budget its financial resources, the deeper question is whether a government can budget for the personal responsibility that its citizens take for the collective good of the society.
A Minister of Finance can predict, in part, government revenue and expenditure but it is very difficult to predict an important part of the workings of an economy, that is, values such as honesty, integrity, civic mindedness and productivity. These are the post-budget resources of a country that a government cannot provide, or budget for, in its annual financial statement.
Instead, it is the citizens of a country who provide the values that would render a budget a ‘powerful’ or ‘powerless’ tool of national development. The success and failure of a government’s micro- and macro-economic policy is co-related to the responsibility that the average citizen takes for national development. This personal, social and civic responsibility cannot be legislated or forced. Citizens must freely take responsibility for development of their country.
A string of National Budgets cannot guarantee co-operation and compliance by business or labour. Budgets cannot guarantee obedience to law and policy implementation. Behind an economy are people, with their values – both positive and negative.
Trinidad and Tobago’s National Budget 2017/2018 has allocated huge sums to National Security, Education and Health. Notwithstanding these huge allocations, the success of these ministries in policy implementation and delivery of goods and services lies in the attitudes and productivity levels of these public servants. Behind government policy, processes and systems is the human person.
The government in the 2017/2018 budget has also projected revenue from increased taxation and new taxation measures. Again, the success of any taxation measure is dependent on basic honesty and integrity of business owners and ordinary citizens alike to be law-abiding and pay these taxes. The Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority will procure a revenue stream for the government only in so far as taxes are paid.
The 2017/2018 budget also contained plans to diversify the economy through agriculture and tourism. Unless attitudes change for the better with respect to the hospitality industry and towards farming, the incentives granted to these under-performing industries would go to waste. A positive change in attitude complements a budgetary allocation.
Every country has assets and liabilities. While people are not assets and liabilities in and of themselves, their attitudes, behaviours and values could be assets or liabilities for a government. Essentially, the responsibility that citizens take for the development of their country is its greatest asset. Civic and social responsibility for policy implementation and productivity must trump political partisanship.
Personal responsibility for development of Trinidad and Tobago cannot be budgeted by a government; it has to be freely given by her beloved citizens.