Opposition Senator Wade Mark. File photo/ Sureash Cholai
OPPOSITION Senator Wade Mark scoffed at Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s boast of high revenues for the State by saying these were not due to any efforts by the Government but were simply the fallout of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, speaking on Friday in the Senate debate on the Mid Year Review to supplement the 2022 budget by $3 billion.
Mark said that to describe the economy, Imbert should have cited real GDP, not nominal GDP, (the latter which is not adjusted for inflation.)
“The boost of revenue is due not to plans, not to strategy, not to any kind of economic activity dealing with new strains of revenue. It has nothing to do with the attraction of foreign direct investment by this Government,” Mark said.
“It has only to do with the war in Ukraine.
“So if it is anybody we should be thanking, it is maybe Vladimir Putin in Russia. “
Saying the ammonia world price had sky-rocketed from US$182 to US$1,200 per metric tonne, Mark said extra revenues now seen had nothing to do with the “intellectually-bankrupt Government.”
He argued his point by saying oil production had failed to meet projected levels of 83,000 barrels per day but now lagged at 60,000 bpd. Likewise, natural gas production was not at an anticipated rate of 3.3 billion cubic feet per day but only 3.0 bcf. Mark complained the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery was now in its fourth year of being down and was fast becoming scrap iron, while globally refineries were now “making money hand over fist.” Despite Imbert’s boast, citizens still can’t get even US$200 in foreign exchange, Mark charged.
Mark said if TT’s GDP was now so great, the Government should properly pay public sector workers.
Of the extra $3 billion in the Mid Term Review, Mark asked, “How will this percolate down to the ordinary citizen?”
He warned against living in a fool’s paradise.
“I gave you the assurance that if there is a peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia, we are back to square one. Let’s be real.
“This is a house of cards that can crash any time.”
Mark complained of a $100 million allocation to a proposed Secondary Roads Rehabilitation and Improvement Company which the Opposition had not found in a search of companies register. “They can’t approve $100 million to a company that does not exist. We want clarification from the Government.”
He urged the Government to act to ease the financial burden paid by people at the fuel pump and in buying food which he said has become more costly due to fuel-price hikes.
Mark said in 2020, TT had imported 2.4 billion litres of refined oil (premium, super and diesel) but had used only 1.1 billion litres. He suggested the difference, amounting to 1.3 billion litres, was being re-exported and asked the Government to say if such an amount was being sent to Venezuela in breach of international sanctions.
Minister of Public Administration Allyson West later chided Mark for his remark on Ukraine and Russia, viewing it as flippant and insensitive.
“Try to be more sensitive to suffering, not congratulate the leaders involved.”
However, opposition Senator Jearlean John defended Mark.
“Madam President, unfortunately I too would have felt exuberant and exude the kind of optimism coming from the Government’s bench, had it not been – and it has been spoken here – that this is as a result of this unfortunate war.
“I can’t say I heard Senator Mark particularly celebrating this. He was just stating a fact.”
John lamented that “something terrible happened” at children’s homes but more money was being allocated to them without accountability.
The Judith Jones report, recently laid in Parliament, revealed sexual, physical and emotional abuse of wards of children’s homes nationwide.
John said, “There seems to be no end to this totally unacceptable state of affairs. Children are starved, children are beaten, and even worse.
“It appears it might be better for them to go and sit down in Woodford Square – they might be safer.”
She lamented 800 non-working CCTV cameras, lamenting the recent kidnapping and rape of a 22 year old Venezuelan girl in the Heights of Aripo.
Urging the repaid of cameras, John said, “It will give young women a fighting chance. At least you will see a car number.”