Trinidad and Tobago is on a path of “unprecedented development” as the People’s Partnership Government has rescued the economy and implemented sound fiscal policies to achieve sustainable growth rates, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar boasted yesterday.
In her contribution to the debate on the 2013-2014 national budget, the Prime Minister pointed out that her Government was able to ensure four consecutive quarters of economic growth, from the third quarter 2012 to second quarter 2013.
She noted that when the People’s Partnership entered office in 2010, it inherited an economy on the decline, with misaligned polices driven by persons incapable of achieving success.
Persad-Bissessar said her Government worked towards changing this by expanding the economy, while holding stable inflationary conditions at 5.6 per cent and continuing to generate jobs, with an unemployment rate at around five per cent.
The fiscal deficit, she said, was being properly managed in accordance with its policy objectives and she was advised that Government was on course to bringing the fiscal accounts into balance.
She noted that the country’s balance of payments current account continues to be buoyant, with consistent surpluses, and foreign direct investment has increased from US$1.831 billion to US$2.527 billion in 2012.
The Prime Minister added that gross official reserves are estimated this year at US$9.4 billion, or 12 months of import cover, and the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund now amounts to US$5 billion, having consistently performed well.
She said that after going through a period of economic stress caused by the global situation and problems within the domestic energy sector, the economy has rebounded and is on the move again.
Persad-Bissessar said further that there has been significant increase in drilling activity in the energy sector, with some eight rigs to be in working mode by year-end, as compared to just one in mid-2010.
She said Government has signed six deep-water Production Sharing Contracts, as she pointed out that there was just one under the former PNM government, and that company pulled out due to heavy and burdensome bureaucracy.
The Prime Minister added that agricultural output was increased, which has led to a decrease in food inflation from 29 per cent in 2010 to nine per cent in 2013.
VAT, she said, was removed from more than 7,000 food items and further strategies would be put in place to further lower food prices.
This country, she said, has moved up in the index of Improvement in the “Ease of Doing Business” and was now ranked 69th, up from 76th in 2011.
She said any businessman can register a business online and get it done within a couple of days instead of weeks.
Persad-Bissessar noted that in 2010 the net asset value of the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund was reported as US$3.17 billion.
Today, she said, the fund currently has US$5 billion in savings—an increase of 58 per cent in the last three years.
“When we think development, we don’t see towers reaching to the sky taking up space in an overcrowded metropolis,” she said.
“We see beyond that and see development as a child getting access to the best education and healthcare; parents have homes and jobs; people living without fear; infrastructure that touches every community. When we think development, we think people because nothing we do now or in the future has any benefit unless it benefits the people—all of the people,” she added.