Heritage Stabilization Fund

The GOVT’s disgraceful attempt to ‘own’ the HSF

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While it is becoming quite a challenge keeping up with the outright lies told by Keith Rowley’s PNM, it would be remiss of FuturoTT to allow the PNM’s pace of lying to outstrip this blog’s pace of exposing them.This post focuses only on one issue – the paternity and origins of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund (HSF).

Since taking office in 2015, the PNM has outdone itself, exceeding even previous records by the frequency of lies, distortions and fabricated scenarios they have brazenly and illegally put on Parliamentary and public records.

In fact, the lies identified in its budget, estimates and the Mid-Year Review have created serious questions about the integrity of the budget, and whether we even have a real objective, if everything we have been told by Rowley and Imbert are carefully distorted misrepresentations.

One of the issues raised repeatedly is the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund, which the PNM intends to use for political spending sprees ahead of the Local Government Election. The seeds of deceit and dishonesty are planted so deeply in the debauched PNM that they have even taken the stance that they can use from the HSF because they are the ones that put it there.

Today, the PNM’s weak-witted Lester Henry and goat-saving Clarence Rambharat expressed feigned consternation that the UNC would try to take ownership of sovereign savings and oppose the use of the Fund by the sticky fingered PNM leadership.

But here’s the truth.

The origins of the HSF came from the Interim Revenue Stabilisation Fund, established by the UNC Administration in its 2000 budget for the purpose of providing a buffer should global price shocks make it urgent for us to scale back Government spending.

The UNC Administration’s visionary course was to become a developed nation by 2010, with increased capital spending post-2000 aimed at creating new industries and ultimately creating a knowledge-based economy.

Having implemented the IRSF, the UNC’s intention was for the legislation to be brought to Parliament to formalise the Fund at a later date. The intention was also to institute a separate savings Fund for future generations.

And in the months between formation of the IRSF and the departure of the UNC from office over US$1.4 Billion was deposited. This fairly large deposit was made by a Government that at times had to manage on oil prices as low as US$9 per barrel.

In the HSF’s first annual report, it is stated categorically that: “The HSF was approved by Parliament on March 15, 2007, replacing the Interim Revenue Stabilisation Fund which was created in 2000.”

Yes, this is how shameless the PNM has become, that they would lie about the HSF, despite it being public information that they didn’t.

Even worse about the PNM trying to ‘own’ the HSF is the fact that from 2001, the Opposition called repeatedly for the PNM to bring the Bill to Parliament to create legislation that would govern the Fund. The PNM consistently refused, no doubt wanting to avoid having to put money in a fund that they could not unilaterally spend, mortgage and steal at will.

With a general election due, six years after they were called upon to formalise the Fund, the PNM finally hurried legislation to formalise the HSF and the balance left by the UNC (in excess of US$1.4 Billion) was brought forward as the HSF’s first balance. It should be noted that the PNM took six years, not to draft the Bill because it was already drafted. They took six years to table the Bill in Parliament.

But the story of concerted distortions of the facts doesn’t end there; the PNM was so devoid of any honour or integrity that they attempted to take ownership of the already deposited US$1.4 billion as well!

So not only does the PNM lack the decency to admit they had nothing to do with the advent of sovereign savings in Trinidad and Tobago, they also lack the integrity to admit that they postponed the legislation for this Fund for years, because they did not want to have to commit excess revenues to an account that they could not spend freely from.

The PNM took office at the end of 2001 and stayed in power until 2010. By the time they left office, the balance of the HSF was US$3.6 Billion. After almost a decade of oil price booms of up to US$130 per barrel oil, and overheating expenditure with budget increases by over 300%, they added just over US$2 Billion to the HSF.

Today, while the PNM continues to lie about their part in the creation of the Fund, they suddenly go quiet when told that in half the time the PNM spent in office, on lower oil and gas prices, and having to find ways to cover the $71 Billion in debts and liabilities they hanged on the neck of the nation, the UNC/People’s Partnership increased the fund by over US$2.1 Billion.

So that’s the truth – just as Integrity Legislation originated from the UNC, just as Freedom of Information legislation originated from the UNC, just as Public Procurement legislation originated from the UNC, and just as corruption fighting legislation originated from the UNC, the HSF also originated from the vision of the UNC for the sustainable development of Trinidad and Tobago.

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