Thank you, Madam Speaker and to this Honourable House for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the mid-term budget review of this government.
I came here today with hope. Yes, hope. I, like most of the country, wanted to hear what plans the Government had to improve our situation.
But what we heard was more deceit, more deflection, more incompetence.
Since this Government presented its first budget, and in every budget presentation and mid-year review that followed, we have witnessed a Government in free-fall.
After almost four years of this PNM administration, citizens are virtual hostages – trapped in their homes due to runaway crime.
More people are finding themselves without a job.
The humanitarian crisis in neighbouring Venezuela is beginning to impact us here, and is putting a strain on our fragile and failing economy.
Foreign exchange has all but dried up.
Foreign direct investment is drying up.
In the 2019 budget we discovered that the Petrotrin refinery was being shut down, now we learn that Atlantic LNG Train 1 may be mothballed just like the refinery – with more job losses likely.
And just recently the Government borrowed $700m from the Infrastructure Development Fund to pay Petrotrin retrenchment benefits.
Revenue is being redirected away from growth activity to recover from the “mothballing” of the refinery.
If we are witnessing what the Government calls a “turnaround” …. I call it a backtrack. A backtrack to failed PNM policies of the past with the same result – collapse of the economy.
In my response to the 2019 budget I asked several questions which I would like to ask again, because I don’t think the answers have changed.
- Do you feel safer today than 3 (now almost 4) years ago? No
- Do you feel secure in your job? No
- Has the economy improved? No
- Are you confident enough to open a business? No
- Has your purchasing power increased? No
- Are you getting better healthcare? No
- Are your children getting a better education? No
- Have they fixed or maintained your roads or improved your drainage? No
- Are you getting basic utilities, especially water? No
- Are you satisfied with the behaviour of the government? No
- Has your quality of life improved? No
- Do you have any hope, any semblance of hope, that this PNM Government will make your lives better? No
The presentation of the mid-term review proposes nothing to change the direction of the downward spiral we are experiencing in the country.
What we are witnessing today, is a government that thinks the politics of the past can help them as we move closer to elections.
They think that ignoring the needs of citizens while rewarding their friends, family and financiers – that it will work for them.
They think they can ride out their last year in their term by continuing to be a Government of announcements, but actually doing nothing. Announcements like we have witnessed here today, which never come to pass.
Announcements like Local Government Reform, which they promised during the last general and local government elections, but are only now about to scramble through the Parliament.
Announcements like jobs would be preserved at all costs, while thousands of people are being sent home, and no new jobs have been created.
Announcements like Dragon Gas Pipeline, San Fernando Waterfront Project and the HDC Housing Programme.
A Government cannot run a country based on announcements that never happen and then try to fool the population by saying that we are all in this together.
Here are the issues that the former Prime Minister spoke on:
- Atlantic LNG Train 1
- An economy in crisis
- The World Bank
- Fitch Solutions
- International Monetary Fund (IMF)
- Ease of doing business falling
- Conman Imbert
- The HERO COMPLEX
- Truth about Recovery
- People’s Partnership Performance – Revenue Generated Under the People’s Partnership
- No New Taxes
- Non-Tax Revenue
- Highest GDP
- Foreign Reserves Under the People’s Partnership
- Jobs Under the People’s Partnership
- Unemployment Under the People’s Partnership
- Capital Development Under the People’s Partnership
- Government Expenditure
- The IDF
- The Exchequer and Audit Act
- Foreign reserves
- VAT refunds and effect on businesses
- Joblessness Under PNM
- AV Drilling Lie
- The collapse of the “Game Changers”
- The NIF
- Petrotrin Restructuring
- Dry docking facilities in La Brea
- Revitalising the interisland sea bridge, including buying two new fast ferries
- The Road Ahead – Elections are coming Trinidad and Tobago.
- National Security
- NOVO CONTRACT
The UNC’s Plan 2020-2025
In spite of what those on the other side would like people to believe, highlighting the inadequacies and incompetence of this Government brings me no joy.
I, and the members of my team want to see our nation progress. This is why we spent our term in office investing in our people and in projects and programmes to improve their lives.
It pains me to see what this Government has done in almost four years.
But the party I lead is not disheartened, in fact we are energized. We have been working and continue to refine our National Economic Transformation Master Plan 2020-2025.
We are gearing up and getting ready to hit the ground running when we return to office, and put our economy back on a path of growth and sustainable development.
From Page 3 of the National Economic Transformation Masterplan 2020-2025:
Our National Economic Transformation Masterplan 2020-2025 lays out a wide-ranging suite of policy initiatives and programmes which we will pursue to get our people working again and working towards a better future. We will create 50,000 new jobs by 2025.
Our plan benefits from insightful views and informative consultations with key stakeholders and experts and is aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the international community endorsed as the policy framework for a world free of poverty.
Diversification is at the heart of our economic masterplan. For far too long, our country’s economic fortunes have been too closely linked to the energy sector. We will encourage strategic investments in niche non-energy sectors where we have strong competitive advantage, market opportunity and growth potential.
These bold steps must be made now. We will, of course, not ignore the energy sector, which will remain our economic engine for the time being.
Attached is a copy of the Opposition Leader’s Response to Mid Year Review 2019