Trinidad and Tobago
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Cudjoe slammed for claiming ‘no one willing to sacrifice’

Narissa Fraser Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe. File photo/David Reid
Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe. File photo/David Reid

Earlier this week, many shared their disappointment at the Prime Minister's saying Trinidad and Tobago's public sector is "not ready for a major work-from-home policy" owing to lack of discipline and infrastructure.

This time, it's Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe, who urged people to keep the younger generations in mind when making certain decisions.

Speaking at the opening of the Tacarigua Community Centre on Wednesday evening, Cudjoe said there are "difficult decisions we need to take not only for ourselves, but for the little children coming up among us."

She said all of this government's decisions are about putting people first, and the entire budget "is geared towards improving the lives of all Trinidadians and Tobagonians.

"You hear the cries of everybody want everything right now.

"What are we prepared to do? What kind of sacrifices are we prepared to make? What kind of investment are we prepared to make now so that the little children who are coming up among us will look forward to?"

She said this is something the public must take into consideration.

"Everybody wants everything for nothing. Everybody wants everything but (is) willing to give up nothing."

She said while everyone wants "good lives now," proper investment is needed.

"There are people among us right now who who don't have a proper savings for themself – far less a proper savings for their children to go to university. We as a government have to take that into consideration and make the necessary changes and do the necessary things we have to do now to allow a better future for the children who are coming up.

"We sit here healthy and strong, looking good, well-fed because somebody else had to sacrifice then so that we can have now.

"So then why is it so hard now for us to sacrifice for the young children who are coming up?"

She said many people are complaining about the 2023 budget: "There's a lot of negative rhetoric out there...'Oh, it's a bad budget,' 'Oh, we have to walk now.'

"When you compare the standard of living in TT and the kind of support offered to us as Trinbagonians and you compare it to what is happening in Barbados, what is happening in Jamaica...Chalk and cheese."

She added that several people benefit from social grants in this country and the government continues to invest in the less fortunate.

"Some of us never worked a day in our lives and we receive the pension. It's the truth. You have this grant, that grant, your foot hurting you, you get a grant...and no matter what happens, the social safety net has always been strong."

The public reacts

A Twitter user who preferred not to be named told Newsday the people of TT have been sacrificing for years.

"We pay for their (politicians') luxury cars, their salaries, their pensions, and the numerous perks they enjoy. But when have you ever seen a politician sacrifice their pride and admit that they can do more or listen to the people they serve?

"Trinidadians would have no problem sacrificing if we saw the benefit in our day-to-day lives.

"They live in luxury and are telling the poor man to make sacrifices. You first, Ms Cudjoe. What are you willing to sacrifice?"

A woman who asked only to be identified as Joseanne posted on Twitter: "We need to revoke these ministers' bus route passes, housing allowances, fuel/vehicle allowances, entertainment allowances, etc. What else they have that the ordinary citizens don't have access to? Take all away. Let them face the music like all of us."

Darnell, responding to Newsday, urged Cudjoe to "sacrifice the small talk.

He asked, "Can someone provide for younger ones when they can’t for themselves? (A) person (is) without a proper savings accounts – why? Cost of living. Majority of Caribbean countries have higher minimum wages than we do. The past has (passed), what y’all doing now?"

Nigel De Souza said, "The 'we' in this soliloquy is singular to the population as the minister and her colleagues (have) not given perk to join the sacrifice they ask the population to make."

Another person who preferred not to be named told Newsday Cudjoe's comment was "out of touch...But it reflects a manner of thinking that is common among our politicians.

"Many of them have forgotten that they work for us and they are answerable to us. Instead, they treat their office like they are doing the population a favour buy bearing the terrible weight of 'responsibility' and perks which have a cash value which far exceeds the average income.

"No politician has any right to ever lecture the population about sacrifices that they (politicians) don't make."

Another person told Newsday, "It sounds just like another condescending but vague platitude from a political class that's refusing to partake in any of the sacrifices they ask the electorate to endure."

UNC, MSJ also upset

"This Cabinet member simply does not understand the remit of her portfolio which is to uplift citizens who contribute to their communities, especially those who contribute freely, for no financial gain, but out of the goodness of their heart.

"Minister Cudjoe, there are people who would have contributed to knitting the fabric of this country together and would not have received any financial remuneration for it. They did it out of love for country. Does that mean their contribution is for nought? Does that mean in their golden years, their labour should be seen as a fledging thought?

"Then there are those, because of a myriad of circumstances, (who) may not have been able be formally employed, but they toiled in other ways to provide for their families."

She said Cudjoe was condescending and showed the government "looks down on those people who are not part of the formal sector."

Leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah said his party is "totally disgusted.

"From Prime Minister to Shamfa Cudjoe, their utterances are simply getting more and more people extremely angry.

"First it was the Prime Minister who, as usual, berated citizens for not making the right choice – of vehicle, the time to leave home so as to not be in traffic – and for not being disciplined enough to make work from home a real option to burning fuel to go to an office...then it was Minister Cudjoe’s time...'Why is it so hard to sacrifice?' she asked.

"What about the single mother who works as a security guard 12 hours a day with no overtime, and who has to hustle public transport very early in the morning to get to work for 6am because if she’s late, her pay will be deducted, and doesn’t get home till after 8pm. Are you saying that this worker, who hasn’t had a wage increase in years, is not making a sacrifice?

He also asked, "The MSJ, like so many people, asks: What have you sacrificed recently, Ms Cudjoe?"

Newsday tried to contact Cudjoe for a comment but all calls went unanswered.