Today’s press conference by the Minister of Finance was an eye-opening confession of the deep economic crisis the PNM government has created.
It is abundantly clear that the government gave the country false hope in their budget four months ago when they promised to “reset the economy for growth and innovation”.
Instead of pushing the reset button, the PNM has pushed the self-destruct button on our economy via their inept policies.
It was clear that all the Minister of Finance was seeking to do at this press conference was utilise old figures and graphs to hide the fact that this government overestimated revenues in the budget in an attempt to have the country believe that the economy was stable.
Shamefully, like General Election 2020, they have now returned to the “blame Covid” mantra when the fact is, our economy was already fragile given their failure to diversify, to secure the energy sector and to spur economic growth. The citizenry must not for one minute believe Imbert’s “sad stories” that our current predicament is due to Covid.
It is a clear indicator that our economy is reaching a crisis level given that we have lost out over 1 billion dollars in revenue in the first four months of the fiscal year.
Minister Imbert said government resorted to loan financing and making further withdrawals from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund to pay salaries and wages and pensions and to keep the health sector going. The Opposition contends that the country cannot continue to draw down on the HSF for recurrent expenditure without a plan for revenue generation. The government’s plan is unsustainable.
The drop in tax revenue across the board is a failure of this government to incentivise our economy in the non-Covid years which has led to massive turmoil now that we are operating in a pandemic.
It is even more ironic that the Minister of Finance would be shocked by this decrease in revenue from taxes when his government failed to institute any proper fiscal recovery or stimulus plan for businesses coming out of lockdown.
Their “Road to Recovery Plan” was just another political gimmick, including their major plan for revitalizing agriculture with a $500 million fund. When asked for an update on this fund Imbert could not even identify one single project almost a year after it was announced. Today we are experiencing an economic collapse due to this administration’s lack of vision, planning and proper policy.
Again, Minister Imbert provided no plans on how his Government plans to preserve jobs and provide relief for the thousands of citizens who have been affected by the poor economic climate. His only solution remains borrowing and taxes.
It was only a few months ago for the 2020 General Elections, Minister Imbert along with Keith Rowley told the population they had all the solutions and ideas to uplift our nation, but now is priming the population for more difficult times ahead.
As usual, in expected “Imbertian” style, everything else is to blame for the collapse of the Financial Sector except the Minister of Finance.
This is yet another example of the absolute failure of this PNM Government. They continue to fail in every possible sector and every additional day they remain in office, the worse off our nation becomes.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Opposition Leader of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
10 February 2021