Rowley: T&T budget deceitful
PORT-OF-SPAIN?– Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley has dismissed the TT$54.6 billion (US$9.1 billion) budget presented to the Parliament Monday by Finance Minister Winston Dookeran as “deceitful”.
Rowley, who is expected to deliver the Opposition’s response to the fiscal package later this week, told reporters he had never seen “a Minister of Finance struggle through a budget speech like this one”.
“The budget was deceitful and is short on information,” said Rowley, adding that the Kamla Persad Bissessar administration would need to explain the process by which TT$3 000 (US$500) pension payments would be made to National Insurance Board pensioners who previously collected TT$2 000 (US$333).
“The government attempted to provide some so-called goodies that raises more questions than answers.
“Is it that there will be an increase in the NIS contributions to allow those benefits to be paid?” asked Rowley, noting that the Finance Minister had indicated that people who were not subscribed to NIS would now be able to access it.
“The NIS is in fact a contributory pension system and here it is government will pass its responsibility for old age pension on to the NIS and the Minister of Finance is very careful not to point that out,” said Rowley, describing these developments as deceptive.
The Opposition Leader said that Dookeran during his presentation steered clear of addressing issues with respect to this nations revenue.
He noted that last year, Dookeran said the fiscal measures were aimed at turning the economy around but the reality was that there has been a decline in the economy.
“He (Dookeran) very quickly mentioned that the economy declined by 1.7 per cent . . . that means you promised a certain percentage growth, that didn’t happen.
“We have had a lot of untruths, a lot of hidden statements and a lot of unattended reports and finally the general feeling of the Opposition is that the government steered clear of reporting on the performance of last year’s budget and in fact nothing was changed because it is business as usual,” said Rowley.
Dookeran said while the economy remained resilient and the financial system strong “our national economy is still at risk and remains vulnerable to external shocks”.
He insisted that it was necessary for the oil-rich twin island republic to “stay on course in this time of uncertainty”.
He told legislators the budget was based on an oil price of US$75 per barrel and a gas price of US$2.75 per mmbtu and that the five-party People’s Partnership coalition estimated a real gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 1.7 per cent and an average inflation rate of seven per cent. (CMC)