Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley.
PORT OF SPAIN – Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has hit out at commercial banks across the country for passing service charges on to customers and has urged the business community, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and customers of commercial banks to instead invest in the government’s National Investment Fund (NIF).
Rowley, during his contribution to the Corporation Tax Bill in Parliament on Tuesday said that he earned annual interest of only TT$7 on one of his bank accounts, said investing in the NIF will generate higher returns on investment.
Concerning the commercial banks, the Prime Minister said citizens owned $103 billion in cash.
“Mr Speaker, a small amount of that is mine. I have a small account in a bank . . . very small, but small enough that I expect to earn something on it. When I get my bank statement I see that on my substantial amount of money in the bank I earned $7 in interest.
I can’t even buy gas to go and collect the $7. I am sure there are many people who would be hearing me say this now . . . who have significant sums in the banks earning next to nothing,” the PM said.
Rowley, responding to opposition legislator Bhoe Tewarie, who said the fund would not create an appetite for investment – stressed that the establishment of the fund was not a “willy-nilly” decision since they obtained the best advice from experts.
The public offering was made by Finance Minister Colm Imbert recently in a bid to recover TT $16 billion still to be repaid to the Government by CL Financial, which collapsed in 2009.
The government bailed out the company to the tune of $23 billion. The assets of CL Financial are valued at $10 billion, while the fund is expected to generate $4 billion through the public offering.
“I have every confidence that the bonds that the Minister of Finance will make available in the coming weeks, that the people of this country will not be advised by others but will be advised by those who wish this country well and they will participate in this bond,” the Prime Minister noted
He said those who invest in the bonds will collect a return of 4.5 per cent over a five-year period without being taxed.
The 12-year bond, Rowley said, will guarantee 5.7 per cent return, while a 20-year investment will generate 6.6 per cent, saying there was a greater need for people to save and to contribute to the overall development of the twin island republic. (CMC)