Our beloved nation of Trinidad and Tobago is rich both in natural and human resources. In view of this wealth, our people must recognise the need to manage these resources not only for the benefit of our present citizens, but also for generations to come.
Our society must work for intergenerational justice whereby we think not only of our current needs, but also of the needs of future generations. Although intergenerational justice is a subset of social justice, it is an often-forgotten element in national discourse because it is easy to think only of our current needs, without any reference to the needs of future generations.
The very notion of intergenerational justice requires a paradigm shift in which we acknowledge our interconnection and interdependence with future generations.
The concept of intergenerational justice is particularly relevant in view of the current tension between trade unions, government and business organisations with respect to wage and salary negotiations. The demands made by trade unions and businesses for higher wages and profits respectively, although legitimate, may not always complement the idea of preserving resources for those coming after us.
The need to preserve and save resources for future generations has to be a guiding principle in our country today. In simple terms, we ought not think only of ourselves and our needs.
Economic decision-making in the short term must never be divorced from the long term. Amidst the present economic downturn in Trinidad and Tobago, we must never lose sight that policy decisions now, in order to satisfy wage demands by unions and/or profit increases for businesses, can have a devastating impact on our grandchildren.
Stakeholders—government, business and labour—must think of the future needs when making policy decisions. Intergenerational justice requires that we do not accumulate debt now for future generations to pay.
Ethically speaking, burdens and benefits of a policy decision must be distributed evenly. Policy decisions that seek to benefit the present generation while ignoring the burdens they are placing on future generations is a gross injustice.
In order to make the paradigm shift that would enable us to think of future needs, we must place less emphasis on profit maximisation and wealth accumulation. Over-emphasis on profit maximisation and wealth accumulation in the economy is detrimental to the society.
Attention must also be paid to society, namely, individuals and families. The society and individuals must be considered in our policy decisions. This is another principle that ensures intergenerational justice.
The health of the economy must never be separated from health of society. The economy must always be at the service of the society. We need to ask, not only how the economy is doing, but how people are doing as well.
Notwithstanding the proper relationship that should exist between economy and society, the society must so work for the health of the economy specifically, with regard to creativity and productivity.
Damaging the economy means damaging society.
Intergenerational justice requires the proper management of the economy so it could be at the service of the society. There is a delicate balance between the economy and society. There must never be an “over” or “under” emphasis of one over the other. The economy and society are complementary.
The stakeholders must work together to ensure the equilibrium between society and economy. The economy needs society as much as the society needs the economy. This balance must be carefully maintained and protected.