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Merchants, manufacturers must earn forex
Some letters to the editors encourage the average citizen to continue to believe that there are still many people who are concerned about the welfare of our slice of paradise. The concern expressed in one letter about the need to be careful not to sell our souls for the proverbial mess of pottage is an important example of the patriotism that is necessary in these times.
The letter writer was not one from whom one would expect such sentiments but it reassures us that simply belonging to the merchant class does not automatically blind one to the realities of the world, although you would not think so based on the outpourings of the vast majority of the comments from such persons.
The fact is that the companies involved in the construction of the platform previously built in Trinidad never sought to defend themselves nor give any response to the complaints levelled against them by the workers. There was also no evidence of any investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Authority to establish the merits or otherwise of the allegations.
It appears that workers are expected to expose themselves to hazardous and/or unsafe conditions simply because they should be grateful to have a job. When death or injury occurs there is the expected weeping and gnashing of teeth and promises that steps will be taken to prevent such occurrences in future. Meantime a life has been lost, a family distressed and we move on to the next tragedy.
We cannot continue to accept standards lower than the minimum for workers in such high risk jobs. It is well-known that the agencies set up to monitor these standards have never been able to get the job done, either because of the lack of equipment, personnel or will.
The need for the state to shift the focus from increasing revenues from oil and gas and reducing the overwhelming food import bill has been emphasised repeatedly by a variety of commentators but has apparently fallen on deaf ears.
By increasing tariffs on luxury items and giving a boost to local agriculture, the foreign exchange dilemma would be tremendously mitigated.
Merchants and manufacturers who need foreign currency should be encouraged to earn it, not simply make demands of the Central Bank.
It is an established fact that a significant amount of the foreign currency leaving the country goes into bank accounts abroad and that is the real reason for the foreign exchange crisis. If the government really wants to address this problem, attention must be given to reducing the flight of foreign currency.
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