Imbert: 2024 revenue may be $3b less than projected

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Colm Imbert –

FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert says the projected revenue which TT could receive this year may be $51 billion, $3 billion less than the figure which was projected when he presented the 2023/2024 budget in Parliament last October.

While this means government needs to be more prudent with its expenditure over the next one to two years, Imbert was confident the situation would improve between 2026 and 2027.

He made those comments on Friday when he opened debate on a motion in the House of Representatives to approve a report of the House’s Standing Finance Committee to supplement the budget by $2.3 billion.

Among the major supplementations the committee approved were $570,900,000; $155,677,500; $527,800,000; $495, 286, 000 and $144,200,000 for the ministries of Energy, Works and Transport, Public Utilities, Health and Education respectively.

The committee also approved a $50 million increase in funding for the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

Imbert reminded MPs that when the budget was presented last October, it was based on oil and natural gas prices of US$85 per barrel and US$5 per mmbtu respectively.

The budget’s projected revenue, expenditure and fiscal deficit at that time were $54.012 billion, $59.209 billion and $5.197 billion respectively.

He said between then to now, there have been fluctuations in the prices of oil and natural gas.

“When one looks at the adjustments that we have to make. We are now projecting a lower figure for the revenue because we have to be pragmatic.”

Imbert said, “We expect a decrease in revenue down to $51 billion because we have some one-off streams of revenue. A source of revenue that we are planning. We are not sitting back and just relaxing. We have other ways of raising revenue.”

But he added, “With this $2.3 billion supplementation, the net effect is $5.3 billion. So when you add the $5.3 (billion) to the original $5.2 (billion-deficit), we are looking at a deficit of somewhere over $9 billion for fiscal 2024.”

Imbert gave the assurance that “as has happened in many other years, the Ministry of Finance will continue to try and control expenditure within reason of course.”

Notwithstanding these issues, he continued, “We in this government believe that this reduction in revenue is not permanent.”

Imbert said because of “all the foreign policy initiatives and the foreign co-operation, both at the corporate level and at the country level, we expect that this situation will be reversed in or around 2026 to 2027, in terms of the volumes of natural gas that will become available to our processing plants here in TT.”

He added, “What it does mean, however, that for the next year or two, we have to be quite careful in how we manage our expenditure.”

Referring to the International Monetary Fund ‘s (IMF) country report issued on June 5, which said the TT economy was at its strongest level in a decade, Imbert said the country, under the PNM, had never dodged IMF Article IV consultations which all IMF members were obliged to undertake.

“We are not afraid. We are extremely transparent.”

Imbert told MPs that under the IMF’s Article 8 provisions, its member states must not maintain a fixed exchange rate.

Owing to TT having a managed exchange rate, Imbert said the country had not breached Article 8 unlike other countries in the region.

He repeated that government had no intention the intention to devalue the TT dollar as that would cause tremendous hardship for the poor people in the population “who have to buy food and other essentials.”

Imbert said many people were quietly hoarding US dollars in the hope that a devaluation happened.

“So for all those who are hoarding US dollars overseas and figure you could force this government to devalue the dollar, think again.”