UNC: Don’t expect people-centred budget

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The UNC’s shadow finance minister and Oropouche West MP Dave Tancoo. FILE PHOTO –

THE Opposition is warning the nation, especially those families in the middle and lower income brackets, not to expect any relief from the Government in the 2022/2023 budget.

Insisting that the Spotlight on the Economy forum last Friday, staged by the Ministry of Finance at the Hyatt Regency, was nothing short of PR and gimmickry by the Government, the UNC says claims of TT’s improving economy will not be reflected in Finance Minister Colm Imbert’s budget, to be read in Parliament on September 26.

At its weekly Sunday press conference, at the Office of the Opposition Leader in Charles Street, Port of Spain, shadow finance minister and Oropouche West MP Davendranath Tancoo and Opposition Senator Taharqa Obika both described Imbert’s Spotlight on the Economy forum as, “a pappyshow.”

Tancoo said this minister “continues to gloss over the true state of the economy,” by basing the economic uptick on the recent windfall largely caused by the tripling of ammonia, urea and methanol global prices.

“If they don’t have a plan, then say so. All of his celebration at the spotlight last Friday as premised on this temporary windfall. The increased revenue was a result of world price hikes and had nothing to do with increased production.

“It had nothing to do with ease of doing business. It had nothing to do with any policy action by this government. More than that, this windfall is not sustainable,” Tancoo said.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert. FILE PHOTO –

He added, “Imbert clutched to this windfall like a drowning man clutching to a piece of straw. He is trying to convince the population that this was as a result of fiscal management, fiscal credibility (by government) when this is obviously not true.

“The PNM government has failed to present any plan to transform the economy away from over reliance on the dwindling and dying energy industry or in addressing any of the underlying issues of the economy.”

Tancoo said the Opposition, like so many people in society, just isn’t convinced that Imbert’s “continuous references to financial resilience” can be seen as a sign of hope for citizens.

He expects the government not to provide any incentives that would ease the burden of ever increasing food and gas prices, especially in the new fiscal year. He said, all one could do was hope the Government will inject resources into job creation, enterprise development, national security, education and health.

He accused Imbert of, “cherry-picking data to explain why the country has experienced sustained economic regression for the past seven years.

“The government has been blaming Kamla, covid19, and Russia in an attempt to distract people from the fact that they have been spending $153 million daily, for the past seven years, yet every single sector has gotten worse.”

Tancoo said the government’s inability to maintain its debt obligations, lower the unemployment rate and manage resources are all signs of an impending economic depression.

“The robust growth that the minister boasts about is heavily premised on higher prices in the energy sector, which is still the primary driver of this economy. But what will happen when prices revert to normal levels?

“Ironically, while the minister was stretching backward to pat himself on his back, he admitted that what was helping the economy was higher ammonia, urea and methanol prices, over the last two years which allowed for a short-term windfall. This had nothing at all to do with anything Imbert and his government did.”