Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Carnegie Free Library & Surroundings

The beautiful Carnegie Free Library located at Library Corner in San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago shows sign of promise.  Repairs and restoration are underway as seen in the red galvanised fencing which has been placed on the upper portion of the walls  which enclose the  building in early April 2016. According to National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS) website, the building was  "established in 1919" and was managed by an Act which was repealed around that time, to allow for three of the main Libraries to be managed by one body. http://www.nalis.gov.tt/AboutUs/tabid/56/Default.aspx?PageContentID=5. However back to the physical condition of the Library.
On the second floor, there are pristine white frames around glass panes which contrast sharply with the dull red areas of the frame of the roof and the mountings on the top of the building. These mountings, lines of beauty and character appear to need cleaning prior to the building being reopened. Although a Library has been opened in another floor of a nearby building, the beauty, character and history of the "old" building may need to be retained so that, that piece of our past and what it means to us internationally may be shared with our youth and visitors. Here is an extract from an article in the Trinidad Guardian on the Carnegie Free Library which illustrates this point and see the link for  an article on the Library and a photo of the Library in its hey day. http://www.guardian.co.tt/news/2013-04-17/carnegie-free-library-built-just-%C2%A32500: "The library, after its official opening in March 1919, also became the storehouse for more than books. A captured German machine-gun was housed in the building in September 1919.
Some suggestions which may be used to bring this part of the city in line with the other areas  are:
1.      The placement of small trees and plants in troughs at intervals along the streets, surrounding the Library, the taxi stands and the various business places. These would add beauty to the streets and perhaps blend the old with the new. After all, plants and trees transform the air scientifically and would allow our past to meet our present and see us into the future as one.
2.      Add large signs around the Library and other historical places in the city with information on the history of the area, prominent persons and other bits of interest. This information would encourage others, especially visitors to explore the area and learn at their speed.
3.   Place directional signs, with information which is specific to the area, especially the sea. This information may be aimed at encouraging others to walk towards the sea!!! This would encourage exploration of the area in an economical way, as persons may choose to arrive in the area earlier, or visit the area and explore their surroundings!!!
4.       Source funding to develop the area near to the sea along the lines of eco-tourism or in the manner of the Board walk at Chaguaramas, if this is possible as I was not able to reach the sea during my visit.

5.   Consider adding this area to the route of the air conditioned bus, if this has not been done already!!! This would encourage persons to visit the area in comfort which would add to the revenue of the area, as persons may be able to bring their craft items either to display them or to sell them and others would purchase or add their advice on the topic.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

International Monetary Fund Annual Article IV Mission to Trinidad and Tobago - Mar 2016

Over the years, hearing the phrase International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called to mind:
  • Conversations on hardships, such as the 1980's in Trinidad when public servants lost their Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), 
  • Personal suspicion as to interactions with their persons,
  • Immediate changes in one's behavior such as, in Suriname in January  2011, when there was a  small devaluation  of the Surinamese dollar (SRD) against the US dollar and taxi fares within Paramaribo moved from Surinamese dollar  seven (SRD7) to SRD 14 and SRD 21 within one week. Hearing about how difficult it was for a person who was living on an income denominated in SRD and the impact on their ability to feed their children was heart wrenching.
To my surprise, quite recently, I realized that  there is a positive side to the IMF, in that aside from all of the harrowing results of their work, they provide assistance via consultants and  perform annual visits to countries.
More importantly, the reports on their annual visits are made available to the public via governmental websites  and it happens in a short time after the visit.  Sometimes the period in which they visit the country may be auspicious in that:
  • The work of the IMF re their "Annual Visit" was performed in March 2016 in Trinidad and Tobago when the country was heading to an end of the month which signaled that  half of the financial year had passed. At that time also  report  on the first six months in the financial year of the country from a new government was due to the public, the House of Representatives and the Senate in a short time after the end of the first quarter in the calendar year  of 2016. While this may not have been significant to many outside of Trinidad and Tobago and  what was known to the Trinidad public was that this was a newly elected government and  that in addition to the public, they were reporting to the party which was previously in power. Hence the anticipation which was building within the country.  
  • The country was also heading to an end of month (March 2016) where there were several public holidays, in that there was the  Easter long weekend which consisted of a Friday to Monday break, followed by a middle of the week public holiday in the next week of the month, which was on March 30, 2016. This mini holiday period was occurring in the first quarter of the  calendar year 2016  for persons and businesses who were operating in the country.  Also there are several types of taxes due for businesses, some of which are based on current sales and revenue such as Green Fund Levy and Business Levy. Business Levy which is paid on current figures, can be  offset against Corporation Tax for companies which are paying taxes in that quarter, hence there are additional calculations which are due at this time. With these taxes, there is the expectation of accuracy to ninety percent (90%) as it is expected that persons would keep track of their income and receipts  in a timely manner and avoid penalties and interest which arise from late payment of same. The conflicts between the desire to enjoy the public holidays and the need to be accurate in their financial reporting and part with hard earned cash may have contributed to an agonizing time for many an income earner and business man. See the  following link to the Tax Dates of 2016 for Trinidad and Tobago.  http://www.finance.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/TAX-DATES.pdf
  • In addition to the above, there were taxes on the prior year's earnings  which were due in the next month which was April 2016. There were some persons who elected to pay eighty percent of their income taxes in December of the preceding year and now had to pay the remaining twenty percent of same, almost a month later.  Thus  for these persons, they may not have known whether to grow their business or just stay afloat for that period.
Back to the IMF: In light of all of the above, the information which is provided by the IMF consultants attempts to be balanced in that they make a lot of effort to understand the workings of the country and overall the level of professional care which is displayed in the information which is provided is quite high.

While the phrasing  in the extract below may be based on the style and content that  those who perform audits of financial statements of multinational companies are accustomed to, when documenting responses to various types of risk, for some persons in light of our tendency to speak not favourably of the different parties and persons who reside in the political arena, either due to our habits or experiences, the information may be taken as a call to work on our welcoming attitude and responses so as to develop good tourism etiquette.
"The IMF has concluded that despite the great challenges posed by the need to adjust to low  prices, Trinidad and Tobago still has enormous strengths, including a well-educated work force and a stable political system."
Here are is another extract which may be food for thought in our way forward and may challenge us to support our country in one way or the other:
"The IMF noted that since assuming office six months ago, the new Government has already taken some difficult but necessary steps in the face of sharply lower energy revenues, such as widening the VAT base, reducing fuel subsidies, reducing the number of Ministries with a view to streamlining the civil service, as well as instituting spending cuts."
Here is the link to the media release which was made in March 2016. http://www.finance.gov.tt/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Media-Release-IMFAnnual-Article-IV-Mission-to-Trinidad-and-Tobago.pdf