Imbert announces another surplus: Things looking good

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Finance Minister Colm Imbert at the PNM meeting at Signature Hall, Chaguanas on Tuesday. – Photo by Sureash Cholai

Finance Minister Colm Imbert says government intends to spend more money, over the next two years, on improving the lives of citizens as the economy is on an upward trajectory.

At the PNM public meeting in Chaguanas on Tuesday night, Imbert told the audience, “After seven years, we getting an ease-up. After seven years of hardship, we can now spend some money. We can now improve the standard of living of our people. We can now help those most in need.

“And that is what this PNM government intends to do over the next two and a half years.”

Initially, government believed TT had earned an additional $8.3 billion in revenue for the financial year 2022, which ended on September 30.

Predictions showed TT would earn $43.3 billion, but Imbert realised the country earned 51.6 billion when he looked at the estimates presented to him at the time, just before the 2022/2023 budget presentation. But, the outturn was better than expected: instead of $51.6 billion, the country collected $54.2 billion – an $11-billion difference.

He said government estimated $5.5 billion in revenue from oil companies but got $11.4 billion, and $6.5 billion from the rest of the economy, but got $11.4 billion there as well.

“TT’s economy is doing extremely well. It is not just oil and gas. It is the non-oil sector. And we’ve seen improvement in virtually every area in the non-oil sector.”

He said the overdraft as of Wednesday night stood at 39 per cent.

“When the overdraft is 39 per cent, it means there are things that we can do.”

This overdraft also means government has $6 billion readily available if an emergency arises.

He added TT’s debt-to-GDP ratio dropped from 90 to 70.

“One of the good things that has happened to us, because the economy has done so well, our GDP has moved from $140 billion in 2020 to $190 billion in 2022. We have an increase in our GDP of $50 billion in just two years…And since our GDP has increased that much, by $50 billion in two years, it means our debt-to-GDP ratio has gone down. We haven’t borrowed any money for central government since December of 2021.”

A chunk of that money will go towards constructing new housing units.

“We are providing the Ministry of Housing with $1.5 billion in cash between now and December. The ministry has already received $500 million. And that’s the kind of money that we need in this country to build houses.”

With this surplus, Imbert said, government could finance road repairs, road rehabilitation and community projects.

“And because we have what is called no fiscal space, because our debt-to-GDP ratio is now down at an acceptable level, we can borrow to finance state enterprise work, because that’s where we get the most efficiency. We also can use our own cash flow.”

He said once revenues continue to increase, government can pump more into the construction and capital development.

“That’s the fastest way to create jobs. So that’s one of the things we’re going to do with this extra money that we have received. Another thing we have to look very closely at – helping the poor and vulnerable.

“We’re not going to focus on make-work programmes. We need to give people permanent, long-term sustainable jobs. So that is what that extra money is going to be spent on.”

This benefit, he said, happened only through sacrifices and proper management of the economy.

“The only thing they (UNC) could see is that things are hard. Well, things are not going to be so hard in the very, very near future.”