Augustine: $4b THA budget request was ‘scaled back’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine talks to the media outside the Assembly Legislature, Scarborough on Monday. – Photo by Caswell Gordon

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said his $3.956 billion budget request to Central Government for October 2024-September 2025 shows that his administration is “scaling back” and being reasonable.

Last year the THA requested $4.5 billion but received $2.585 billion.

Speaking with the media outside the Legislature chamber in Scarborough, following the budget presentation on June 24, Augustine said the figure amounts to 5.8 per cent of what he expects to be a national $65.8 billion budget.

The request falls within the Dispute Resolution Commission’s (DRC) recommendation of within 4.03 to 6.9 per cent of the national pie, and Augustine remains hopeful it will be acceded to.

“I hope people will be logical.

“I sat, I did some introspection and I said, ‘Maybe, Farley, you all are asking for too much, maybe you’re being unreasonable despite the development needs of the island being gargantuan.’ I said, notwithstanding that, let me scale it back a bit; because remember our strategy is about being selective, being strategically selective in prioritising what we would do.”

He added: “Taking it back means that they’re several things that the island and people on the island say we want that we are going to say we can’t because we have no money. And in doing that, we are now saying to the central government, ‘Look here, we have brought a smaller portfolio for you, it is reasonable, it follows the same trend of thought as the DRC back in 2001, and so we hope that you can fund to that extent.’”

He believes his prediction of the national budget is accurate.

“To date, every budget I have given, I have been on point with estimating the national budget – very accurate; because with an election year coming up, we have to also consider how much of our reserves have been expended to date, what our debt-to-income ratio is.

“So considering all of those things, I think I gave a very measured prediction of what our budget would look like in October.”

He said if they are unable to get the 5.8 per cent, the next step would be to sit and reprioritise even further, cut back even further.

“Sometimes people don’t understand there is an opportunity cost to everything, so sometimes when you see people cuss and they complain, ‘Well, so long I want this retaining wall.’

“We have to sit and really ask ourselves: should I build this retaining wall now, should I fix this hole or patch this road or should I pay staff, because the development expenditure on staff is more than it is for actual development works.

“So all of these are questions that the government have to responsibly manage and ensure that staff go home with their pay cheques every fortnight and ensure that as much of the development works gets done as possible.”

Augustine said his administration will continue to expand its income portfolio, noting that he expects to see a lot more funding coming from the alternative revenue streams.