Finance Minister Colm Imbert – File photo/Ayanna Kinsale
FINANCE Minister Colm Imbert rejected what he described as an attempt by the Opposition to mislead the population into thinking that the Government has answered none of their questions about the state of the economy.
Imbert directed this condemnation to the Opposition around 10.50 pm on Wednesday before the House of Representatives unanimously passed the Finance (Supplementation and Variation of Appropriation) Bill 2023.
The bill dealt with $3.8 billion in supplementary funding to the 2022/2023 budget which the House’s Standing Finance Committee approved on May 5.
Imbert said seven hours were spent on May 5 by Government in the committee answering all of the questions from the Opposition about the additional funding.
Another eight hours was spent earlier in the House on Wednesday, doing the same thing.
Imbert slammed Opposition MPs for pretending to themselves that “all of the questions that they have raised have not been addressed.”
Government MPs thumped their desks as Imbert said, “For 16 hours we have explained every single thing, it is a gross abuse of this House.”
He said, “That is a figment of their (UNC) imagination. It is an untruth. It is a diabolical untruth.”
Deputy Speaker Esmond Forde overruled complaints from Barataria/San Juan MP Saddam Hosein and Caroni Central MP Arnold Ram about Imbert’s comments.
Before the House passed an earlier motion to approve the $3.8 billion in supplementary funding to the budget, Imbert said once again Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar was confused about what was really happening in the economy.
He said that Persad-Bissessar as prime minister presided over five years of deficit budgets when the UNC-led People’s Partnership (PP) coalition was in office.
Imbert said the PNM intended to put some money into the economy, to stimulate the economy,
“For the first half of the year we are doing quite well.’
While a deficit of $800 million was projected in the budget, Imbert reported that the deficit at the end of March was approximately $560 million.
Imbert said all of the supplementations to the budget were absolutely essential.
He identified allocations of $62 million to the Children’s Authority, $100 million to purchase new vehicles for the police service and $600 million to maintain the fuel subsidy in these supplementations.
Imbert also rejected a claim from Pointe-a-Pierre MP that UWI economist Dr Roger Hosein worked for him at some time early in the PNM’s tenure in government.
He said Hosein was paid a contract of $ 2 million to do work for the Planning Ministry under the PP.