Manning: Fuel price increase not to punish citizens

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Minister in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning. –

MINISTER in the Ministry of Finance Brian Manning rejected Opposition Senator Wade Mark’s claims that the April 19 increase in fuel prices was Government’s way of punishing the population.

Manning was responding to a matter raised by Mark on the adjournment of the Senate on Tuesday.

He told senators he had to chuckle when Mark claimed the former UNC-led People’s Partnership coalition government never put their hands into the pockets of poor people in Trinidad and Tobago.

“I guess (the) LifeSport (scandal) and SIS (Super Industrial Services) were just a figment of our imagination.”

Manning said, “This reduction in the fuel subsidy is not meant to be punitive. It is about shared responsibility.”

He reminded senators that TT and the rest of the world have weathered one of the sharpest economic downturns in its history as a result of the covid19 pandemic. This did not come without a cost.

“Tough decisions and sacrifices have to be made.”

Manning dispelled attempts by the UNC to place popularity ahead of responsibility in governing TT Being a finance minister, he continued, is not a popularity contest

“Sometimes the most effective economic medicine comes with a bitter taste.”

Manning said everything the Government does, is designed to protect the people’s best interests. “The Government empathises with the challenges that we all now face.”

He vowed Government will stand with citizens “as we chart a course out of these rough waters churned by the pandemic and other geopolitical issues.”

Describing subsidies as inherently inefficient and unsustainable, Manning said reducing the subsidy will ensure that taxpayers dollars previously devoted to maintaining it can be “spent in a more effective manner by strengthening our social safety net in food cards, grants, unemployment benefits, public transportation and other measures which are designed to protect the poorest amongst us.”

Contrary to allegations from the UNC and other people, Manning reminded the population that fuel and other subsidies are maintained by taxpayers’ dollars and not from the revenues of any existing or defunct state enterprise.

He observed this fact is not known by many people.

“I remind the population that because you are receiving something for free, it does not mean that it is not being paid for. It is just not being paid for by you.”

There is no basis to compare the cost of living in other Caricom countries to justify retention of the fuel subsidy..

Manning asked, “How do you compare an economy where almost everything is subsidised by the state with taxpayer dollars to economies where very little is subsidised?”

Even with increased fuel prices, Manning reiterated that TT has the lowest fuel prices in Caricom and one of the lowest fuel prices in the Western Hemisphere.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced the price increases in the House of Representatives on April 8.

Before April 19, the prices per litre, for premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel are $5.75, $4.97 and $3.41 respectively. The prices for premium gasoline, super gasoline and diesel are now $6.75, $5.97 and $3.91 per litre..