Budget 2019 – the deception begins

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It may be a regular fixture of Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s approach to governance, but the TTWhistleblower is sure of one thing: the people of Trinidad and Tobago who have placed trust in you do not appreciate deception, and have the power to unseat you by the ballot box.

In recent statements, the Finance Minister has returned to the old refrain of the young PNM Government which took office in September 2015.

The Treasury was empty when we came in”…”the Central Bank overdraft was maxed”…”The People’s Partnership made promises of large payments to Public Servants” and a host of other deceptions which were to become their mantra to shield themselves from the truth of their incompetence.

A politician who misleads always needs to be cautious of his next word, and perhaps, yet another reminder of the FACTS will help to set Colm Imbert straight on those facts and the truth of the nation’s finances in 2015.

CHANGE OF ADMINISTRATION

By the time the Keith Rowley PNM Administration went to Parliament to deliver the 2016 budget, it very quickly became clear that a carefully scripted anti-Opposition campaign was being launched – both to sully the work of the People’s Partnership and also to shield the Government for a time from allegations of incompetence.

Such allegations have now become widespread belief – that the Rowley Administration has neither clue nor compass on how to manage the affairs of Trinidad and Tobago.

Despite the Anti-Opposition campaign, the truth always emerged for those who cared to read and understand.

That truth was that for the final quarter of the 2015, up to September:

·         Tax receipts in the order of $6B were due to be collected;

·         $1.5B was due for collection from the National Gas Limited initial public offering in October 2015;

·         Dividends from the National Gas Company in the order of $500M was due for collection by September 2015;

·         A loan repayment to the Government by Trinidad Generation Unlimited was due in the order of $3.5B, of which $2B was collected in October 2015.

·         Of great significance is the fact that the former Finance Minister, Larry Howai, set up a contingency plan in the order of a $1B loan from the First Citizens Bank, to offset the possibility of late payment and maintain fiscal stability, particularly in Government’s recurrent spending commitments.

Whether Colm Imbert claims to not have known of these extremely important dues for fiscal 2015, or knew and hid the facts – it is disgraceful that he would completely overturn the fact of billions of dollars which were to be collected in fiscal 2015, for the sake of politics by deception and fairy tales.

DUES TO PUBLICS SERVANTS

There is a very important point that is usually missed and speaking of issues of back pay to Public Servants.

While incoming Governments make promises of increases and settlements of outstanding payments, no decision to pay out large sums of money can be made by anyone else but the Chief Personnel Officer, who agrees or disagrees after consultations with the Labour Unions, the Labour Minister, and advisors who review estimates if increases are approved and indicate whether the Treasury can ably carry to strain of payouts.

Yes, pay increases are widely considered to be Government achievements, because of promises made and strategies for revenue generation which allow the economy to afford payouts, while considering how these payouts can be reintegrated into the financial system as investments – thereby giving a further boost to economic activity.

To claim Government irresponsibility, the Finance Minister clearly does not understand how the Public Service works despite his claims.

CENTRAL BANK OVERDRAFT

Given the fact that TT$11.5 billion was due for collection in the People’s Partnership fiscal 2015 period, supported by a contingency TT$1 billion loan in case of any payment short-falls, the claims of irresponsibility by the previous Government is one invented using bits and pieces of a badly written PR script.

Had the Rowley PNM Government been responsible enough to pursue the collections before the 2016 budget, rather than possibly try to drag those collections into their fiscal 2016, there would be no maxed out overdraft, nor would there have been an illusory cash crunch by the time Imbert delivered his first budget.

Perhaps it was Imbert’s penchant for drama, or the simple fact that on entry into Government, they realised that talk was not a plan for governance.

The pre-election talk, the change of administration talk and the responsibility of Government talk – all of which became empty rhetoric when Keith Rowley slammed himself into the driver’s seat.

As we now approach budget 2019, there is still no real, solid economic plan that will take Trinidad and Tobago away from the pleasures of random winds and put it firmly on a focused path to sustainable growth, job creation, business expansion and economic diversification.

The TTWhistleblower will soon present to readers a series on the current state of Trinidad and Tobago in social and economic terms based on what the Rowley PNM Administration has called “prudent” budgeting. 

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