Finance Minister Colm Imbert. (FILE)
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PORT OF SPAIN – Finance Minister Colm Imbert has reiterated that the Trinidad and Tobago economy is showing signs of improvement and again blasted “those naysayers’ whom he said were trying to paint a negative economic picture of the twin island republic.
Imbert, speaking at a public meeting of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) on Thursday night, said that those naysayers were equating the improved economic performance to the increase in the price of oil on the global market in recent months as he maintained his prediction of a brighter economic situation as he had done when he delivered the mid-year review to Parliament last month.
“For the first two years, every time I did a mid-year review things weren’t looking good. In 2016, I went and did a mid-year review and if we were to collect TT$25 billion by the middle of the year, we collect 15, if we were to spend TT$25 billion, we end up spending the same amount or a little less, so it did not look good,” Imbert said, adding “the income, the revenue we were expecting to get just wasn’t there”.
He said that even though oil prices were recovering “we were not getting the money from the oil companies and that’s another story,” brushing aside those who said the turnaround had nothing to do with the government’s policies.
“They say, oh that’s is just oil. The price of oil went up, it is nothing that you did. That’s no problem,” he said, telling supporters that other companies that are not involved in the oil and gas industry, were also recording increased revenue.
“So what does that tell you, (is that) the rest of the economy is picking up. Not the oil sector because the revenue we are getting from the rest of the economy…is much more than we expected,’ Imbert said, adding “when I go through the numbers in all of them things are beginning to look much better than we expected”.
Imbert reminded supporters that when the PNM came to power in late 2015, the price of oil was tumbling and that the country had seen a drastic decline in oil revenue.
He said in the last two years, the revenue stood at one billion dollars annually as against the 30 billion the last administration had enjoyed in the last two and a half years of their term in office.
But he said that the Keith Rowley administration had embarked upon a series of policies that were now bearing fruit, adding “what we expected to collect in what we call current taxes (namely) income tax, corporation tax, business levy, custom duty, value added tax, royalties…we expected to collect TT$21.9 billion by April and we ended up collecting TT$23.2 billion.”
Imbert said the projection from oil taxes for the period October to April had been estimated at TT$1.2 billion, “we got TT$1.15 billion.
“The taxes we were supposed to get from other companies, companies that are not oil and gas companies was projected to be TT$3.8 billion, but we get TT$4.8 billion. So what does that tell you, the rest of the economy is picking up.
“Not the oil sector because the revenue we are getting from the rest of the economy from other companies is much more than we expected to be and when I go through the numbers in all of them, things are looking much better than we expected,” Imbert said.
But he cautioned “we are not yet out of the woods,” adding “we still have a huge gap between this figure of current revenue and expenditure.
“We don’t earn 50 billion dollars, but we have to spend 50 billion dollars. So this year we had projected to earn about 45 billion dollars …and even though revenue from taxes are looking better we still have big challenge this year…”. (Reuters)