Indo-Caribbean Hindus at World Hindu Conference 2023 Thailand
The ongoing opinion survey being conducted by pollster Dr. Vishnu Bisram of the North American Caribbean Teachers Association finds widespread disapproval of the 2022-23 budget as presented in parliament late last month. Virtually no one who was surveyed rated the budget very positively, putting the government on the back foot.
The good news for the government is the negative political impact of the budget on popular support for the ruling party is almost negligible. The political needle has not moved away from the ruling PNM to lose a seat in Trinidad to bring about a change in government whenever elections are held.
The survey finds that even with rising disenchantment and lack of support for the budget, unaligned, middle of the road, floating voters are not attracted to the opposition UNC. Thus, the PNM has a clear roadway to re-election in 2025 unless something drastic and dynamic happens between now and election date among the divided opposition forces.
The budget, based on the poll, finds wide dissatisfaction among the middle and lower classes and grass roots voters, even among those who traditionally support PNM. Only a mere 6% of 520 respondents find favor with the budget. It has not bolstered public confidence in government’s handling of the economy with 82% saying they are fearful for the country’s economic future.
The number one complaint by the public is the rise in fuel tax. This, respondents feel, would increase transportation costs which will impact on price of goods. The public said they are already reeling from rising costs of goods. They feel the rise in fuel tax would add to inflationary pressures. Respondents did express support for some initiatives such as the increase in personal allowance for income tax and the $1000 support grant for the vulnerable . But they feel these are not enough to raise standard of living.
Photo : Dr Vishnu Bisram
On the presentation of the budget, the public feels government MPs came across as too arrogant and out of touch with the economic burden being borne by the population. Respondents say some of them made presentations that came across as “ole talk”. The “coal pot” and “ride bicycle” remarks dominated conversations everywhere. There was more focus on Mr Scotland’s comments than on the actual budget, overriding positive features in the budget. Memes and jokes were made about him. Mr. Scotland’s apology or explanation did not help.
Not to be outdone, the response from the opposition UNC also received unsatisfactory ratings. The opposition response was rated as flat and coming across as feeble, disjointed, and ill-prepared, not finding favor among many, including among its own supporters. The public was turned off from the UNC response, suggesting it was not the message but the messenger that is rejected. The UNC will have to rethink about the faces of the party if it is to gain traction and be a formidable force in 2025.
The UNC is not even close to re-capturing government. Asked whether the budget would cause them to shift political support from PNM to UNC, there was hardly any shift in numbers. Of 520 voters interviewed, just over 1% said they would shift support from PNM to UNC. But virtually no one from the middle ground, critical to winning an election, in the marginal constituencies, said they are attracted to the UNC.
Overall, the overwhelming number of respondents in this latest survey are displeased with the budget as well as the responses to it from the government and opposition sides. Politically, the status quo remains.
Everyone interviewed said government should have greater consultation and hearings with the public, and civic society in particular, in the preparation and formulation of the budget.