Tancoo: Back pay is not a gift

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo – Courtesy TT Parliament

DAVENDRANATH TANCOO, Oropouche West MP, on Monday evening said back pay was not a gift but money already owed to public servants, speaking in the budget debate in the House of Representatives. He said the budget was “a con job” and “not worth the paper it was printed on.”

“Back pay is not a gift – it is what you have worked hard for and what you are owed!

“This is a government that withheld workers’ money for years, making them suffer to make ends meet, took them to court to force unions to accept four per cent, and then pretend that the debt they are grudgingly settling is somehow a PNM Christmas gift.”

Tancoo said the Government was offering $3 hike in the minimum wage, but will snatch back back thousands of dollars in property tax, higher electricity rates, water rates and fuel prices.

He accused the Government of “implementation paralysis” for infrastructure projects.

“But the fact is that our infrastructure did not just deteriorate overnight, to the abysmal level it is at today. Every year, the minister comes to the Parliament and gets hundreds of millions of dollars approved for these projects, and then does nothing.

“The projects are abandoned, the problems remain, the citizens get no relief and the minister returns the following years to make new promises he has no intention of keeping.”

He said Finance Minister Colm Imbert knew investment in infrastructure projects such as roads, drainage and building construction plays a pivotal role in economic growth, but had implemented nothing for eight years.

Tancoo did not think the budget figures added up.

“The minister told the country that he expects to spend $59.2 billion in fiscal year 2024.

“But according to the estimates of expenditure, the total expenditure for fiscal 2024 will actually be $71.4 billion. We already know it will be even higher than that, because of the minister’s promise to increase spending in the midyear review.”

Tancoo suggested the budget deficit would exceed the $5.2 billion cited by Imbert.

“Hidden in the estimates of revenue at page VI is a startling figure that the minister will actually be borrowing $13.2 billion, with $5 billion of that being foreign borrowing.”

Tancoo said individuals from all sectors were disappointed by the budget presentation.

“I am calling on the Minister of Finance: let us save the working-class people of this country by giving them a minimum wage of $25 per hour before we pass this budget.”

He urged Imbert to save small businesses by committing to pay the $4 billion in VAT repayments before December.

Tancoo wanted to help all families to put meals on the table this Christmas by reducing VAT on key items and reducing food import costs.

“I am calling on the Minister of Finance, end your fluff around the forex crisis. We need to stop small businesses from collapsing due to increased costs caused by the forex crisis.

“We need to protect the families who have to pay foreign tuition fees. We have to protect the families who have to pay foreign medical bills.”

He ended by quoting reggae star Buju Banton’s call to: “Cast away this curse!”

Tancoo declared, “It is time to cast away this PNM curse from our land.”